Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

196. Translators

Some jobs needs more than what they mean.
Look at the translators; for example.
Apparently it is about a set of skills but it is also about what kind of human being you are.

People have different ideas - not  only about others but also about themselves.
The personality exhibits salient features more in certain professions.
And I have come to believe that "translation" is one such profession.

Being born and brought up and working in a multi-lingual society like India has its advantages. However it also means that most of the times I have to depend on translators. I have done "translation" tasks a number of times and know how difficult it is. I keep on wondering why translators think that 'knowing two languages makes them automatically eligible for the job of translation."

Once I had a translator who had opinion on each and everything under the sky. Each time he would translate very briefly what other person had said and elaborate on how he disagreed with that opinion. I had hard time in separating his opinions and the opinions of the people. I had to assure him that I would interview him later and at length.

There was another translator who made it look so easy for himself. The tribal women spoke for about ten minutes and he translated it in one minute. When I protested that the woman had spoken many points, he shrugged shoulders and bravely said that he was helping me by filtering the talk. I had to remind him that it was for these tribal women that I had come so far.

Once I was asking few questions and the translator kept on answering those without consulting local people. When I reminded her that I needed to get those answers from local communities, she simple said, "Oh! But I know those answers. What is there to ask? In fact you should be thankful that I am saving lot of your time."

One translator always forgot to translate the response. After listening to the response, she would keep on asking her own questions (totally irrelevant and misleading the whole process) until my interference.

Once I provided an example of how the lack of quality assurance destroyed the enterprise of one Self Help Group of women. The idea was that the participants should pay more attention to quality assurance. What I spoke for five minutes, the translator told them in one sentence. I asked  what he had told them. He had plainly told that "don't go into this enterprise, you will fail."

Do you see a pattern? Translation is not only about skills, they are highly important. It is also about what kind of person you are. Are you ready to hide yourself? Are you ready to forget your likes and dislikes for a little time? Are you ready to treat yourself insignificant in the whole process? Are you ready to communicate what you have been told without adding spice in it? Are you ready to help others? Are you willing to learn?

We need good translators; not only linguistic translators but also those who can translate ideas into actions.
For that one needs to treat her/himself as an instrument - are we ready for that?

I look back at my experience and realize that half of the work gets spoiled due to bad translators!
Both idea-action translators and language translators.


12 comments:

  1. Lost in translation....!Well expressed Savita.

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  2. translator should be like a bridge to send one thought from one end to the other,

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    1. Well said cifar! I do agree with you.

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  3. Being translator by education, couldn't agree more! :)

    Even with a good translator, so much is lost ... my professor used to say, it is like pouring fragrance from one bottle into another. Be as careful as you can, still some of the fragrance will be lost!

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    1. Fragrance .. ah! Such a good word to use in the apparently 'dry' topic of 'translation'.

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  4. This makes me look back and evaluate my translation tasks....
    Now I will have to think all over again, if I did a good job or not!
    I was not conscious of all the points you have mentioned. But hopefully I DID help to convey the point across....
    Running translations also showed me a huge huge gap of communication that good translators can help to "bridge".... at times it is more essential to "translate" more valuable thoughts by others than offering my little egotist opinions....So true.

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    1. Anu, forgetting over-selves is a trick .. one needs see the joyful side of it! Alas, many people don't see it.

      And I am sure, you must have been and would be a good translator.

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  5. It sounds like you really have to handle more than needed, work and PEOPLE...there are all difficult kinds of people, specially Indians have too much individual views, and people take the liberty to give unasked free advise!

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    1. Thanks Megha! It is not quantity of work but about the how the quality of work deteriorates due to bad translations! Yes, we have opinions about each and everything in life!

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  6. I agree with what you saying about the translators...it is a really tough job.

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  7. translator should be like a bridge to send one thought from one side to
    another side......

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