Are you a Translator, or just a Speaker?

Are you a Translator, or just a Speaker?

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“I speak two languages, one is my mother tongue and the other worked on it through movies, songs, and some grammar books. I want to work as a translator, what can I do”, he asked.

That is a typical question of an amateur translator. Why? Because a translator is way far beyond just speaking two languages. Translation is not speaking two languages; it’s about mastering two languages. And here five skills a professional translator needs to master.


Just passed by a story published that goes like:

My first year in Campeche, Mexico, I was always complaining about the heat. The correct way to say this in Spanish is “Odio el calor.” I, however, kept making the verb reflexive: “Me odio.” This means “I hate myself.” Everyone must have thought I had a real self-esteem problem!
Having contemplated this situation, we will find that this person wasn’t really aware of the cultural context. It’s not necessary for something in your culture to mean the same in other cultures. That’s why you have to read more in this language history, culture, and contexts.


“To acquire knowledge, one must study;
but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”

Observation is one of the most aiding skills as it, by time, facilitates the translator’s work and gives his work quality.  Observing the speakers of the languages your translating from and to gives you mastery over your translation and phrasing. Observation helps granting nativity.


Having many levels in speech and communication depending on the addressee and the addresser makes it necessary to vary your style of writing. You can’t buy your groceries speaking Shakespearean language. Pragmatically, everyone will laugh at you thinking that you are saying a joke.

That would even, wrongly, signify the background of the speaker. Is he coming from the medieval ages through time machine? What if he is illiterate? What if he has come from a Proletarian descendants? Would he say the same idioms and proverbs as a sophisticated educated professor?
Each and every character will communicate the way that tells about him. That is, they will definitely use different structures, different vocabulary, and different use of words. Consequently, you will have to tailor your translation with the same meaning that transfers the message of the speech with its reflection to the character.


Lately, Oxford Dictionary has changed the word “light” to “lite”, and added the word “roasting” to mean “Online bullying”. It also has labeled the word “fool” as an archaic words.

Language is a living organism, as it always evolves, develops, dies, and gets reborn. And so, the translators must evolve with it; otherwise, they simply will retreat unconsciously because he couldn’t cope with the trends, and the changes in the language.

The world is going digital, you will also need to learn the new technology of translation, such as: CAT tools, machine translation and other helping aids. You need to cope with the fast evolving market. And don’t worry, we will address that in the coming post, stat tuned!

Time Management

If Procrastination was the flaw of Hamlet in the old age, then it has never died if it’s the translator’s. Burning time within your work-time will burn you out. One of the most needed skills that translator should master is time management; and Organization is its key.

While you have many tasks to do, prioritize them over one another: the most urgent to the least important. Start with what motivates you to keep achieving. Eliminate distractions, like social media notifications that keep getting you out of the mood of creating. Don’t forget to give yourself a five-minute break every hour. That would help you to keep your mind focused and refreshed.


Know one thing about everything, and know everything about one thing. That where POWER relies.
Having a field that you expert in is what makes you reliable as a “subject matter expert”, where you points of strength appear.

How many skills of these do you master? Share them with us in the comments. And if you have any special skills, don’t forget that “sharing is caring”.

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