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Who Has a Gift to Foresee: Topical Problems and Prospects of Translation Industry

- Can you play the violin?
- I don't know, I have never tried, but I have seen it many times and I think that I can.

Everybody is laughing for some reason at the ambition of a would-be violinist, but if we replace the art of music to the art of translation (like, "I have read many translations and I think that I can be a translator") then the statement will become more realistic. It seems that many people don't consider translation as art. Let me explain why I think otherwise.

Language barriers didn't exist in ancient times because people were mainly communicating with their nearest neighbors. As navigation, as well as other means of traveling, was developing, appeared the necessity to develop new means of communication, to communicate with speakers of other languages, to read the works of foreign literature, etc. Thus demand for translators appeared and then appeared the first translators.

According to the form of activity all the people working with translation can be divided, first of all, into interpreters and translators. The first group, in turn, is divided into consecutive interpreters and simultaneous interpreters, the second – into technical translators and belles-letters translators. Ordinary people tend to think that every bilingual person can work as a translator and that every translator can translate everything.

Actually, everything is much more complicated. First of all, the opinion that everyone who knows two languages can translate from one of them into the other is as wide of the truth as the assertion that everyone who can write can be a writer. In reality, to transmit a message received in one language by means of some other, one has to, firstly, understand this information and, secondly, to be able to set forth his understanding. It's rather obvious that neither skill comes automatically with gaining language skills. Not everyone can clearly understand a report of a mathematician, chemist or philosopher even in his native language. And the skill of a coherent statement of information isn't given to everybody. It is known that, for instance, many eminent scientists were terrible lecturers, and some of them even had to invite co-authors to state their results in writing.

Another myth is the idea of interchangeability of interpreters and translators, belles-letters translators and technical ones. One can't also say that translations from one category are knowingly easier than translations of the other, and that everyone who can make translations of one type would cope with some other. Ranking translators is as pointless as ranking physicians of different specialization. One will scarcely claim that neurologists are more qualified physicians than urologists. A cardiologist would be bewildered by the request of filling a root canal in exactly the same way as Pasternak would be, when asked to translate a textbook on radio electronics. At the same time, an expert in engineering translation probably wouldn't be able to translate "Hamlet". And if simultaneous interpreters are often astonished at the consecutive translators' skill of keeping in their memory a five-minute fragment from the speech so as to set forth the same fragment in other language, then the simultaneous interpreters' skill of talking simultaneously with the speaker is obviously surprising for everyone else.

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