Palma: “If translation be an art, it is no easy one.” I read this quote a while back, sadly I don’t remember who it is by, but it summarises to perfection the art of translation. First, let’s just rewind a little in time. The art of translation spans back thousands of years, and translation services were already very common in ancient societies of the Middle East. Due to multiple kingdoms and languages, they were in dire need of translators and interpreters to attain a mutual understanding.
In modern history, the translation from Latin to German of the Bible by scholar Martin Luther can be seen as an impactful landmark. On one side, Luther made the Bible approachable for the normal people, thus taking power away from the clerical community, who were the only ones able to read the old Hebrew or Latin scriptures. On the other side, it marks an important point of inflection since he chose to paraphrase (rewording of something) instead of choosing to metaphrase (carrying out a literal translation “word by word”).
Nowadays, due to globalisation, translation and interpretation are more and more important to create consensus and comprehension between the different cultures. Further, I think it’s also important to point out the difference between translation, which is in written form, and interpretation, which is in spoken word.
Both are usually used in the same sense, though they represent two different specialisations. Today, automatic translation has a big effect, having people consider that this would be enough, though language represents many connotations which a machine can’t grasp to its full extent.
My journey as a translator:
From a young age, I always liked to immerse myself into new languages, even if it was just to imitate the sound of these. Later, I added English and Spanish whilst living abroad to my native German language. After studying theatre and economics, I ended up working in a law firm. I dedicated a major part of my time to the translation of legal documents and letters, as well as interpreting in meetings and court cases.
To deepen my understanding and knowledge, I decided to obtain a degree in translation and interpretation. These studies gave me techniques to be a better professional because speaking various languages doesn’t directly make you a good translator.
The main difficulty in translation and interpretation lies in analysing who the source text is for and deciding how and if to metaphrase or paraphrase. On the whole, as stated in the beginning, a good translation is an art form, which I intend to conquer and work hard for every day. Happy International Translation Day!
(The writer has been translating German, Spanish, and English for 10 years)