Translation and Training – comrades or adversaries?

How different are the two professions of teaching and translating? Sofia, a teacher at our government language centre and a qualified Translator and Interpreter shares her insights and explores whether there is a link between them that helps in successful delivery of one or the other. 


Passionate beginnings

I always had a strong interest in language and literature while living in Spain, but that became deeper when I came to England and had to live with two languages. I steered my career towards translation because I was curious as to how to render the many linguistic nuances encountered in the English language into accurate and precise meaning in Spanish. None of this had been taught in Spain at all! For instance, the different meanings the word “quite” could have according to intonation, its place in a sentence, context…the list goes on. And how do we translate “compromise” when we hardly ever compromise in Spain?



We must not forget our cultural background, so, we learn not only what to say, but also when and how to express such information without offending or being offended.

This is an important aspect of the language I try to convey when teaching. Having in mind different ways of saying something, and the importance of context, has been useful when teaching C1 students. The easiest way to commit a word to your long-term memory is to learn it as part of a short sentence, for example instead of learning “Dog = Perro” I would use a simple sentence such as “my dog is big”. Thus, when I prepare a lesson, I keep this option in mind so that my students can not only visualise the meaning of a word but can better recall it by summoning the picture of a `big dog´.

However, context is also important when translating. For instance, as a translator and more so, as an interpreter, you must learn endless lists of vocabulary in the same way as any language student has to.  



Back to your language roots

I find it fascinating to see language from both sides rather than just one. If you look at English sentence construction from a Spanish point of view, and vice versa, then you become more aware of the peculiarities of each. In that sense you start to “wake up” to your own language, noticing how it is put together, rather than just speaking automatically. And then you are really on the right path to becoming a linguist.

I also found that my own enthusiasm for the quirks of language, learnt during translation training, can be communicated to students by pointing out little oddities like the multi-use “quite”- which sometimes can be translated as  “claro” but which in turn has many meanings including… “unclear”! 


Translator’s toolkit

When you work on a translation project, you can specialize in an area such as legal, medical or technical translation. I specialise in legal documents, so the use of any common CAT tools may not be possible. Documents are normally confidential, plus they tend to be in formats that are difficult to transfer directly to CAT. It often takes longer to work on the formatting than translate it from scratch. I never use a word-for-word translation approach as it would lead to a stiff, unnatural sounding text in the target language, however, accuracy and consistency are paramount.

Being able to specialise in a field gives a deeper understanding of the subject matter and a wider knowledge of terms in both languages so a CAT tool is not essential. To achieve the level of accuracy required, your brain is your best friend, alongside any specialised dictionaries and research on legal systems in both countries.



The human touch

CAT tools become very useful when translating documents in other fields - such as technology - when the Term Memory comes handy. Nowadays, some translation jobs involve editing machine-translated documents for context and culture. One typical problem are homonyms such as “crane”. It is necessary to adapt a text from the source language to the target language and even more so, be aware of the differences of language use according to the country (localization). There will be terms in Spanish from Spain that a person from Argentina will never use, for instance. We’ll always need a human brain at the end of a translation for accuracy and quality. In my opinion, this is not going to change any time soon.  


 PLS are always looking for talented language teachers. We teach all world languages and have an ever-growing base of clients looking for face to face and online lessons. Get in touch today to explore the opportunity of helping our learners meet their language goals!

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