First off, your heart alone can answer that. I can only map
out a few questions and considerations for the two of you to meditate.
The next few paragraphs may amount to a tall order to someone straight out of
university as well as to non-grads with all the right ingredients but give
yourself a break because, if you’ve gotten this far, your heart headed you here
and when you really want something and start doing something about getting
there, you find allies along the way, along the same way that gives you time to
fill in the blanks somehow or other.
Discard concern about conforming to a one-size-fits-all profile. Good
translators may come in any size, shape and color: neurotic but idealistic
language teachers, laid-off factory workers, ex-army commandos in from the
cold, sharp disbarred lawyers, retired physicians and poetic alcoholics. We are
all human. We all have both failings and the strengths that flourish from them:
you are one of us to at least some extent.
Next, mercilessly strangle any noble aspirations you may have of translating
enough true literature in the near term to pay bills regularly: the royalties
are small change unless you do dimestore novels and better literature largely
goes to academics with connections, doctorates, tenures and bibliographies of
Amazonian length and Pacific depth.
Most translations are intended for extremely narrow readerships, e.g. user
manuals for lens polishing machines, sale contracts & commercial leases,
government tenders, depositions, spec sheets and things of the like. So this
begs the question of how innately curious you are. Innate curiosity is easy to
measure: if you see someone in his 70s walking backwards along a park path around
a lawn, do you see a loony and give him wide berth or do you feel like asking
him why he’s doing that?
The Holy Trinity of Translation is Language Proficiency, Specialization and
Writing Skills and the ideal translator is a seriously bilingual and bicultural
lad or lass with several years of work experience in absolutely any one field
who writes great emails and loves crosswords, anagrams and the like.
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