Tuesday, 29 May, 2018 - 09:54

Behind every translator lurks a frustrated author. Or so it is said. What however does this say about the profession itself? That translation belongs to the realm of art? That we are all wordsmiths looking for a way out of the straightjacket foisted on us by the tyranny of the source text? That the moment will come where the words will fly freely off the page setting out succinctly the innermost thoughts and wisdom we each possess. Possibly. But then again what is it that permits the worm to enter our minds that a translator could possibly be a distant, but poor cousin of the writer?

I use the word ‘writer’ loosely. Whether you are a hack for the Tooting Bec Bugle, an avid blogger on gardening tips, a copy editor for Paris Match or a translator for Husqvarna instruction manuals you are still engaged in the act of writing, no matter how restricted that might be. Now though unlike William Blake, most of us do not manage to ‘see a world in a grain of sand’, even less so in a balance sheet, there is evidently some virtue for the would-be ‘author’ in that very exercise. Without it being inevitably the springboard for ‘greater things’, the very exercise of conveying onto the written page precisely and completely the features of a company trademark is a feat of no little skill. A skill in fact directly transferable to many other domains where accuracy and pithiness reign. Enough said.

When the pressure of deadlines and the sheer variety of language styles and registers required from clients are put in to the mix – a sine qua non for the translator - it becomes evident that the translator’s humble craft contains within it all the tools of many other forms of writing. But don’t give up the day job yet.