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

It seems that different types of translation require different abilities and temperament. The interpreter must be able to concentrate: his task is to transmit the information in a maximum full form here and now. As a rule, he has no opportunity to consult dictionaries or ask an expert's advice. He must be able to cook a delicious beefsteak even is he has no beef at all.

Let's take a look, for instance, at famous Khrushchev's expression "kuzkina mat"(Russ.). Can you imagine how difficult it is to translate such locution on the spot? I don't know how did the interpreter of that historic Khrushchev's speech get out of such a difficult situation, but other interpreter in a less high-ranking situation said: "The speaker cracked a joke with the help of a completely untranslatable pun, and I think that he would be glad to hear you laughing." As you can guess, the desirable effect was achieved.


I have also heard about the interpreter from English who was employed to dub a movie during a road show. When the show began it turned out that the movie was on the Arabic language. The interpreter, who didn't know Arabic at all, hesitated for a moment and then began to comment the action to the extent of his intelligence, imitating the interpretation. The audience didn't notice the substitution and the people were absolutely satisfied, as they gained the complete insight into the movie. Isn't it the aim of interpretation?


These funny stories (though they are scarcely funny for the interpreters involved) show what features an interpreter should possess: quick wits, the ability of filling the gaps in his knowledge with the help of common sense and general erudition. Add here the artistic skill and the ability of transforming into a good speaker to carry all the information to the audience.


The belles-letters translator can have none of these skills. A translator can be a shy slowcoach, can be afraid of public speaking, can stammer and mumble. But at the same time he can really be a master of literary language, have an ability to imitate the style and manner of the source text. When the interpreter can use the same word many times, as it usually happens in oral speech, the translator will have to select a whole stack of synonyms: you must admit that it would be very strange while reading the description of, for example, a sunset to meet the word "beautiful" seven times in a row!


Qualified technical translators specialize in one rather narrow field of knowledge in most cases. Ads like "Can translate technical, legal, economic, medical, and any other types of texts" are doubtful and such translator would barely be able to do his work on a high quality level. It is as doubtful as the school teacher's ability to teach a foreign language, maths, geography, and drawing equally well. Of course, such people exist, but they are quite rare.


In most cases technical translators specialize in the field in which they are educated. That is, lawyers who speak a foreign language would translate legal texts, physicists – physical. Meanwhile, many people suppose that to become a good translator you just have to be good at the field of your specialization. The logical irrelevance of such conclusion can be perfectly illustrated with the help of the following anecdote:


- Doctor, tell me, please, will I play the violin after the operation?

- Of course you will.
- That's strange... I never could.

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