Upon entering the work force, the decision needs to be made as to the language combination that will be used. This is the reason for which translators currently working into their native language represent a gross majority of the translation market as opposed to professionals translating into a foreign language. The question remains however, should translators work solely into their native tongue ?
Translators, whether they are still in training or have already received their educational qualifications, must make a choice sooner or later regarding their language combinations. This means choosing to translate solely into their native language, or rather into a foreign language.
Translation courses enable students to become more adept in the field while progressively becoming more familiar with a range of subject areas. Continuous translation practice, be it into a student’s native language or a foreign language, allows the students to better identify the type of author or translator that they are. Today, foreign languages and the field of translation go hand in hand. For this reason, it is indispensable to master at least one if not two foreign languages.
When learning to become a translator, different areas of specialisation may be presented in the texts that are studied. The reason for this is that a professional translator not only needs to master foreign languages, but also needs to have one or several areas of specialization, be it legal, business, or medical etc.
Over the course of their studies, certain courses and experiences help to adequately prepare translators for the professional world. Unfortunately however, an amateur translator may find themselves in an unfamiliar and potentially destabilising situation. This is why a professional translator must sometimes adapt to the diverse projects with which they are entrusted.
Working in translation requires decision-making. An agency might not have the budget necessary to hire translators for each target language and so may require that translators master several languages and be able to translate not only into their native language, but also into foreign languages. All this is a matter of having the means, but also a matter of the quality that is required. Generally, a translator who works only into their native language is able to produce a better quality translation than one who works into several languages.
Nevertheless, no matter the choice, a professional translator who works both from and into their native language will always have just as much a place on the market as one who translates only into their native language.
Advantages of Translating into One’s Native Language
According to the SFT (The French National Translators’ Union) :
“A ‘good’ professional translator is a true author […] But the most important thing is their aptitude in establishing the right parallels between two languages, in conveying the essence of the message in their own language, using the appropriate terminology and style.”
Indeed, a translation must not only be linguistically and grammatically correct, but it must also convey the original message. To do this, a translator needs to know the cultural and linguistic references of the country for which the message is intended.
A translator can use their native language and the various language styles (word play, expressions, nuances, synonyms, etc.) to be a source of inspiration, enabling them to then convey the initial message. The text that is produced can therefore bring a personal touch, while still staying true to the message and the quality of the original text. Even in the event of having a high proficiency in the target language, a native translator, having been immersed in the language and culture, is by default more able to feed off the riches of their mother tongue than one who is a non-native.
A Personal Choice
Following their translations studies, students will need to make some choices as it relates to their professional path. Quite often, the question of language choices and their willingness or lack thereof to translate only into their native language arises.
This often difficult decision should essentially be based on your abilities and your personal vision. It is therefore up to you to base your decision on your perception of the working world and make your way towards the path you wish to take. Whatever the case, no matter how different, each individual has a place in the translation sector.
Translated by Giselle Dunbar