There are a number of myths and understatements about the translation industry, though this profession is by no means exceptional in this regard. Obviously, customers do not have to know, and often do not know, the realities of this profession. The situation gets complicated, however, when misunderstandings in this regard affect the quality of cooperation, result in losing contracts or, which is even worse, confidence in those doing the profession in question. Below, we have presented the most common myths about translation and interpreting services and translators and interpreters themselves.
• Translation and interpreting services account for a small part of the overall services market
The LSP (language service providers) industry worldwide generates revenues of as much as USD 40 billion per annum. The Polish translation services market generates annual revenues of around PLN 1 billion. In Poland, translation services are provided by approx. 60,000 operators, often self-employed translators and interpreters. Still, this is a rapidly growing industry. A great deal of translation agencies do not limit their offer to translation and interpreting – they offer also localization and DTP services, as well as transcription of recordings. According to statistics, customers need most often translations; the top five includes also interpreting, software and www sites internationalization and localization, as well as DTP services.
• Anyone who knows a foreign language can be a translator/interpreter
This is perhaps the most common myth relating to this profession, and a very harmful one for professional translators/interpreters. People are often not aware of how demanding this profession is; how much sacrifice, preparations, as well as general and sector-specific knowledge and skills it requires. This can be the reason why the translator’s/interpreter’s work happens not to be appreciated by the customer.
The truth is that the translator/interpreter not only needs to know perfectly two languages, but also has to have editing skills, be precise and have above-average knowledge of punctuation, spelling and know the rules governing the use of a given language.
This myth is also related to the belief that a native speaker of a given language will be in all cases a better choice than a person who is a translator/interpreter by profession. As has already been mentioned, translation and interpreting require certain skills which can hardly be expected from someone who has never had anything to do with translation or interpreting. The mere knowledge of two languages is not sufficient to be able to work as a translator or interpreter.
• Translation and interpreting can be done by the same person
There are, obviously, individuals who are equally good at both translation and interpreting, but they account for a smaller proportion of the overall number of those dealing with translation and interpreting. Usually, a person who wants to work in the industry concerned chooses either translation or interpreting, and develops their competence accordingly. We should note that interpreting requires completely different skills than translation. An interpreter needs to be a very good speaker who is able to respond quickly while being resilient to stress. Moreover, such a person needs to have a very useful ability to immediately adjust to the interlocutor, situation and the topic which is being discussed.
• Every translator can translate a text on any topic
An experienced translator who is not familiar with the issues covered by a given text will not attempt to translate it. Expertise and experience are of a great importance in the work of translators, therefore they often take up one or several interrelated areas and specialize in them. Choosing a translator to render a specialist text (related to marketing, medicine, law, IT, technology or finance) we should be guided by his/her experience in a given area, as by cooperating with a person having the right substantive knowledge we can expect to be provided with services of a really high quality.
• It makes no difference to the translator/interpreter whether he/she translates/interprets from or into a given language (e.g. from English into Polish or from Polish into English)
Many people do not realize that the course of translating/interpreting from English into Polish is quite different than when doing it the other way out. And this is not only about the very process of translation/interpreting, but also the skills and competence of individual translators/interpreters as regards rendition into both languages within a given language pair. Not every translator/interpreter dealing with rendition into Polish will feel at ease rendering into English, and vice versa. This is due to very individual predispositions and skills. A person who treats their profession seriously will not take up a job, unless they know that they are able to do it well.
• The translation market is shrinking, machine translation will replace translation done by humans, and in the near future such services will be completely free of charge
The digitization process affects virtually all professions, including the translation industry. Given the significant developments which have taken place in recent years as regards tools such as Google Translate, we increasingly more often reflect on the future of the translation profession. Will technological development – not only with respect to generally available machine translators such as Google Translate, but also original tools developed by some translation agencies – result in decreased demand for translations done by humans?
We should not arrive at too hasty conclusions – CAT tools or web translators may facilitate the translation process and be of help to people, but still for a long time they will certainly not substitute the important role performed by humans in the entire translation process. The translator’s experience combined with his or her substantive knowledge in the area concerned results in using the vocabulary, register or expression which are suitable in a given context. Language and cultural nuances which may often affect the quality of the entire translation can be captured only by professionals.