Who can do good translations?
The job of translator has become very fashionable over recent years. Unfortunately, few of those who dream of a career in translating are aware of the difficulties involved. In order to produce good translations it is not enough just to have good knowledge of a foreign language or a language degree. Few future translators realize how important it is to have a wide range of knowledge from a variety of fields. Good translations can only be done by someone who, apart from good linguistic knowledge, also possesses consolidated knowledge in a range of fields.
How to produce good translations
The key to producing a good translation is to understand the original text. Even the most experienced translator cannot be a specialist in every field. For that reason, every translator should make use of specialistic resources in his or her work. It is practically impossible to prepare a good translation without consulting encyclopaedias.
Language experts and specialist translations
All specialist translations, including technical ones, are best done by people who combine language knowledge with expert knowledge and understanding in the field to which the translation relates. This means that the ideal translator will be a graduate in both a technical subject and in modern languages, or both a linguist and a lawyer, for example.
However, this does not mean that language graduates are unable to carry out specialist translations. Because university language courses do not provide the knowledge required to do translations in technical fields, those interested in doing such work need to acquire that knowledge by their own efforts. The abilities to seek information and to think analytically are almost as essential to the translator as language knowledge. It will not be possible to make a good translation of an instruction manual for some device if the translator does not understand the principles by which the device operates.