top of page


An Idealization of the Translator

By Slavomir Belis, English <> Slovak Translator. Reproduced with permission.


Translators are language professionals. They are applied linguists, competent writers, diplomats, and educated amateurs. Like linguists, certified translators have to be capable of discerning subtleties and nuances in their languages, researching terminology and colloquialisms, and handling new developments in their languages. Like writers, translators have to be accustomed to working long hours alone on a subject that is usually specialized and with a language that few people around them know. Like diplomats, translators have to be sensitive to the cultural and social differences which exist in their languages and be capable of addressing these issues when translating. And like educated amateurs, translators have to know the basics and some of the details about the subjects they deal with. The above is an image that professional translators aspire to achieve with varying degrees of success. Not all translators need to overflow with these qualities. They must, however, have them in sufficient measure to be able to translate their material in a manner acceptable to their clients.

A good certified translator is by definition bilingual. However, the opposite is not necessarily true. A born and bred bilingual will still need several things to become a translator – will have to be able to read and understand the source language material thoroughly, have the skills and ability to write well in the target language, have knowledge of the field in which she/he will translate, have the ability to work with the latest word-processing and communications HW and SW. Good translators must be committed to honing and polishing their language skills throughout their professional life. In other words, professional translators are always learning.

A good translation requires the right skills, subject knowledge and experience, firm commitment & enthusiasm, great attention to detail, the right flair and superb fluency. If just one of these is missing, quality is the first casualty. The best translation is the one that no one recognizes as a translation. Word for word isn't good enough. It must read naturally, yet remain is faithful to the original without adding extraneous text. There can be no loss of precision and colour of the original text when translated as it must also maintain the integrity of the original message.

Editing (or revising) focuses on improving the translation in terms of stylistics, consistent tone of translation, use of terminology, correct grammar and punctuation, etc. The translation is checked against the source text for conformity and to ensure that it flows as if originally written in the language. It is essential that the general meaning is retained and that no important data is omitted.

There are two basic types of proofreadings...

... proofreading as part of the translation process means to proofread only the (target) language file and check for typos, misspellings, grammar and punctuation errors, wrong hyphenation and capitalization, typographical mistakes, and other language-specific issues. The source text in the case of a translation is not provided or used. Editorial changes are usually not allowed when proofreading a file. The proofreading stage is designed to ensure that the language content of a file is without any errors. If a text is to be published and made available to a wide audience, it makes sense to have the entire document proofread by an experienced and highly skilled independent linguist with a very meticulous approach and a great eye for detail who will ensure that all blemishes and inconsistencies are removed from the document before it reaches the publication stage.

... and proofreading as a separate step, usually of artwork produced from the final translated target document, often by a third party is quite different than the translation proofreading. The artwork or final target document is proofread against the original source language artwork for design flaws, transposition errors, formatting (bold, italics, links) and hyphenation errors, etc. For example, we usually do a full reading of the English final artwork to the French final artwork to ensure nothing has been missed or added, to check the formatting of fonts, (italics/bold), for transposition errors, etc. Occasionally once text is seen “in context”, there may be a change to the translation to improve it or for a better fit of the design.

bottom of page