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The translator’s linguistic competence and grammatical correctness.

nazarenko.JPG

The translating profession is quite topical at the beginning of the 21st century due to the growth of information space and expansion of socio-cultural and economic links connecting the representatives of different peoples.

However, unfortunately, very little attention is devoted to the requirements of general literacy of translators posed by the current conditions of numerous and continual changes in linguistic, stylistic and cultural norms.

At present very little research has been done into professional linguists in order to determine precise requirements relating to general literacy and grammatical correctness of translators. The only sources of such information are the qualification requirements set for members of professional translation organizations, such as the Union of Translators of Russia or the Association of Translators of Ukraine, or the qualification requirements for translators set by each concrete translation agency. However, the requirements established by the agencies are rather subjective insofar as those responsible for writing them are pursuing various objectives, some of which can be far removed from the task of providing a high-quality translation of a text.

This article is a general survey of the requirements set for translators by the professional translator associations of various countries and the justification for them based on examples from the practical experience of translation work by staff of our bureau.

Among the basic requirements, one can point to the following:

  • fundamental knowledge of the languages used in written translations and interpreting
  • a specialization in specific domains (can be several related fields) and knowledge of the respective terminology in these domains.

In addition, it is essential for the translator to know how to work with information sources and handbooks, starting with paper sources and ending with Internet resources. The translator must know the fundamentals of scientific and literary editing as well as know the grammar of both his/her own native language and the language of the source text. A translator’s having precisely this kind of knowledge allows us to get an impression about a company carrying on foreign economic activities and about a nation as a whole!

Let’s illustrate our statements using practical examples. There should be no grammatical or punctuation mistakes in translated texts intended for use by a target audience in a foreign language. On the one hand, the translator must not forget to use computer programs of spell-check and punctuation-check; on the other hand, there is the need to proofread the translated materials. Be he a Solomon, the translator’s first draft cannot be an ideal text in the grammatical, spelling and stylistic sense. Therefore, professional proofreading and revision of the text is one of the main ingredients for a high-quality translation; and this is not possible without a basic knowledge of all the peculiarities of one’s native language and the text’s source language. Lack of this kind of knowledge casts doubt on the professional qualifications of the translator.

Another essential factor in the translator’s professional qualifications is ability to present in the target language a text which matches the original source text in both style and content. Take an example from the investments field. Let’s suppose that the translator didn’t understand the term ‘bank transfer’ (virement bancaire) and translated it into French as ‘narration bancaire,’ which, roughly speaking, can be rendered as ‘bank’s retelling of the text.’ Or, without knowing about the existence of such international payment systems as Western Union or WebMoney, names which are not translated or are simply transliterated, this person made a word-for-word translation of the names. Such translation versions are unacceptable both from the standpoint of correctness of the translation and from the point of view of pragmatic considerations — i.e., how the final user has been directed, how on the basis of the quality of such texts the idea inevitably arises to use the services of such a company. But the company which ordered such a translation, in turn, will wonder why it has lost potential customers. The answer, sooner or later, will lead them back to the quality of the translation.

Drawing conclusions from the foregoing, you find that high-quality translation of a text and pragmatic adaptation are unachievable without fundamental knowledge of linguistic and stylistic norms of the source and target languages. Providing high-quality translated materials facilitates setting up productive business and cultural contacts between representatives of various peoples and nations. Therefore, the translator is the basic link in the process of international communications and the quality of his work determines their longevity and success. Consequently, failure to satisfy the main requirements of qualifications for the profession undermines the prestige of this profession in the eyes of customers.

Author — Mariana Nazarenko (photo)

Translator in the city of Lugansk (Ukraine).

Specialization — French