While I was watching it, the whole scene of stealing something valuable reminded me of the similarities there are with good translations and what translators do.
It may sound absurd.
What I find interesting is this – a thief, a really good thief, usually wants to get in, get what he or she is interested in getting, and then get out… without being noticed.
Now a high-level thief will want to make sure everything is untouched when they are finished. But because that thief is so good, it’ll usually leave behind some sort of business card or clue in the place of what was stolen, and only an expert will be able to recognize it. This will allow the detective or other type of expert to notice that it wasn’t just anybody, it was that particular thief.
So, where’s the similarity with translation?
The similarity lies in the fact that a good translator will make the translation invisible. It means that the translation will not read differently from something that is native. You won’t be able to notice that it’s a translation; you’ll think that you’re reading something that was originally written in that language. Like the thief who doesn’t leave visible evidence.
However, just because the translation should be invisible or transparent it doesn't mean that the translator must be invisible too.
There’s nothing stopping the translator from putting some sort of “evidence” that says, “Look, I did that”.
That way, anyone in the know will be able to understand the quality and the importance of all the work and the efforts made in creating that translation.
So, what do we get out of this?
The point is that an exceptional translation has to be invisible – but it doesn’t have to be the same for the translator.
It means that translators can market themselves.
It also means that they should go after great clients, people that understand the value of the work being done. Clients that will allow them to shine through their ability – the capacity to make a translation invisible. Something that doesn’t have any sort of “aftertaste” or “coloring” to it.
Basically a good translator will not only solve the problem of being able to communicate properly, what you’re saying, but they’ll also make every effort to get the person who’s reading your material to feel the same feelings that you intended to share, but in their language. You don’t want the reader to focus on the translation, but focus on your material – what you originally wrote.
You don’t want a translation where you think to yourself “Well, you know, that was a translation… it’s a very good translation, but you can tell it’s a translation”. That is definitely not what you want.
And no, translation programs are already out of the question.
If you can notice that it’s a translation, and it could be a very good translation, it’s not a superior translation.
It’s not invisible.
In the end, what makes a translator a superior translator, (and what you actually want) is for the translation to steal your heart… kind of like what the movie in the beginning was supposed to do.