I recently answered a poll at the popular site Proz. The question was Would you recommend translation as a career to future generations? There were over a dozen comments by the participants.
Understandably, some translators are concerned about finding direct clients or retaining the ones they got. Others doubt because technologies may replace our craft. Here’s my answer:
Absolutely, a resounding YES
I’ve been a full-time translator, often freelancing, sometimes inhousing, for the last 19+ years in America (oh, sorry, the U.S.A.) –I was born in Argentina.
I am not afraid of new technologies, Google, artificial intelligence or other tools because I don’t confuse excellent writing with so-called productivity. Translators who write very well are hardly in danger of being replaced by technology (how unimaginative!) or low-cost translators in third- and fourth-world countries.
Translation requires passion as do other professions and crafts, but excelling at writing in your own mother tongue is so germane to our occupation that you can’t be a good or successful translator unless you write very, but very well.
Our profession also requires an understanding and command of translation techniques and strategies, something you learn from translation theory. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about ivory-tower, only-for-academics theory. But it is required to understand why some texts can be translated in one way and other texts in another.
Finally, excellent translators know how to read and why (this reminds me of a Harold Bloom book I just purchased and that I am impatient to start reading!). My best friends are books (sorry, human best friends!). They’re always there, they help me reflect on what is said and how it is said.
Loving languages or being a polyglot are not enough to become a prosperous translator (I am using ‘prosperous’ here with liberty). You have to love to write, and write well. Anything else is secondary.
The poll and comments can be found here.