Who Has a Gift to Foresee: Topical Problems and Prospects of Translation Industry
One of my customers, a Taiwanese company, develops software which prints questions on the screen and waits for answers. Questions, variants of answer and different messages have to be translated into all the other world languages to provide other nations with the use of this software. So the company e-mails me texts in English to translate them into Russian. I always have a problem when I need to translate a message like "Not defined" into Russian. I must know what exactly is not defined: a function, a parameter or a value. A Russian reader will understand that my choice of equivalent depends on lots of aspects: categories of gender, number, case, etc. I've sent long linguistic explanations to Taiwanese to explain the importance of the problem. Though I always have different questions. For instance, I want to know if a word "Display" is a verb or a noun because it will define the translation. Because neither my client nor I am a native English speaker, statement of such confusing questions and receiving answers takes a lot of time and efforts.
And when I was translating a book with a great number of real people's names, the problem was to get the decipher of the initials. "What's the middle name of this John C. Brown?" - I asked. "I don't know, nobody uses it," - was the author's answer. The idea that Clifford and Charles should be differently marked in the Russian variant was completely alien to him.
By the way, let's talk about Charleses! Do you know how the name of a hapless Prince Charles will sound in Russian after his coronation? He'll become "Karl Tretyi"! This is a typical situation when some words while traveling around the world metamorphose into other words. Not all the Englishmen can easily name the river on the bank of which the Kremlin is situated. They know that the Kremlin is in Moscow but they don't remember the name of the river. Why? Because in Russian the city and the river are named identically – Moskva, and in English the city is Moscow and the river is Moskva.
So I recur to my hypothesis about the common translators' character traits: it's quite possible, I thought, that translators (on average, of course) are more tolerant, easy-going and sensitive than people of other professions. On and on translators have to accommodate, to accept some other points of view, to look at the situation from the other side. No wonder that it affects their personality.
However, my theory about a specific inner structure of translators has seemed to fail the practice test. The matter is that modern technologies, especially Internet give us the unique opportunity to found international clubs that can unite fishermen, football experts, or virtuoso violinists. Such clubs are called discussion groups, forums or mailing lists. Of course, translators have their own forums. One of them, Lantra, unites over a thousand of translators all over the world, that's why this mini-society can be observed as a kind of a testing area when checking different theories. The thing is that while observing its members I began to doubt in my hypothesis.
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