Who Has a Gift to Foresee: Topical Problems and Prospects of Translation Industry
Generally, difference between cultures issues a serious challenge for a translator. Though, if we have at least general idea of formal norms difference (for instance, everyone knows that on entering an Orthodox Christian church a man should take his hat off and on entering a Muslim mosque he should unshoe), then we won't think about emotional or ethical differences much. The burst of an extreme indignation of a reserved Englishmen may be considered as a friendly commentary by an effusive Italian. A compliment which will make a Russian woman happy, may insult an American, and in Saudi Arabia one can even be imprisoned for it.
Or take, for example, translation of strong language. Why is a standard American swearword "Shit!" usually translated as "Tchort!" (literally, "Devil!") into Russian? Some people may say, for decency reasons. It may be right. But personally I think that the word "tchort", diverging from the word "shit" in meaning, does correspond to it in emotional aspect. At last, it should be clear that literal translation of strong language is pointless. More important is to understand the emotions of the speaker and try to find an adequate expression of the same emotional state in other language.
To sum up, we can say that the most important aspect of translator's work is life at the border of two or more cultures. Constantly facing the features of these cultures he should clearly understand their differences and be able to transmit the information most precisely from the representatives of one culture to the representatives of the other. This is the peculiarity of translator's profession.
It's known that many occupations leave their stamps on a person. It's difficult to imagine a negligent archivist or a driver with delayed reaction. If in the first case a person just can be fired, then the second case causes much more serious danger. That's why the matter is not in how the occupation can affect the person, but is in what kind of people's characters are fit for this or that job. This is a kind of natural selection, which in some cases (as with drivers) can be understood literally.
I formed a hypothesis that heightened sensitiveness could be the common quality of all the translators, because people who are professionally engaged in selection of equivalent words, notions and expressions of the one language in other, are unconsciously filled with the idea of possibility of diverse approaches to the same phenomenon.
For instance, all the Russians know that a knife is a masculine noun and knife fallen off a table is a sign of a forthcoming male guest. Laying aside superstitions, we should understand that the idea of connection between a knife and a male is alien to, for example, a German person, because German word "Messer" ("knife") has neuter gender. Such facts can be really new and astonishing for the speakers of other language.
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