Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Let’s begin with what is obvious and fundamental: a translator or a student at the Translation Department should know at least one foreign language and their native language. This statement may seem a banality, but the truth is that students or novice translators are often not fully aware of what this really means and can make two mistakes: 1. they will think that they will learn at the university the language from which they want to translate and, worst of all, 2. they forget that knowing your mother tongue very well is just as important as having a good command of the language in question.

As far as the first point is concerned, we must be very clear that translation studies are not a course for learning English, French, Spanish or German; its primary objective is to teach students to translate, which means they must already have knowledge in that language. Years of study help the student to improve their working language, not to teach it from scratch. Exception makes C language, which can be an exotic one, and can be learned from scratch.

As for the second point, translating (well) means knowing how to write perfectly in your mother tongue. If you are not good at writing, if you do not know your mother tongue in-depth, you will not get a quality target text, no matter how well you understand the original text.

This is related to other qualities that a good student should have in translation field or a professional translator: curiosity and self-learning ability. Informatics, sales and communication techniques, finance, medicine or other specialties: the areas in which a translator can and must be formed to improve his skills and services are almost limitless. Continuous consultation with bilingual dictionaries, encyclopedias, glossaries, forums, etc. Words have different meanings under different circumstances, and therefore you will need to perform a repetitive exercise to get to know the meaning in a specific situation.

In conclusion, this profession requires:

1. Independent, persevering, patient, and disciplined persons.

2. Decoding capacity: A good translator must be able to read the original text and find the obvious message that the author transmits to him, in turn, to transmit it by translation.

3. General culture: Science, law, tourism, marketing, literature, history, mathematics, etc. The translator needs to be familiar with any field and if he does not know it, he investigates. You cannot translate something without having the slightest idea of ​​the subject.

4. Quick hands and great view: It is not easy to write and watch all day at a computer.

5. Tin worker and painter: When the original text has no beginning and end, a good translator will know to give the text meaning, functionality and beauty.

6. Ability to lose contact with the outside world for days, maybe weeks or months.

If you need someone to tell you what to do or get discouraged at the first obstacle, if you dare not interact with your guild colleagues, your translation career probably does not fit you.

If you want to find out about the qualities of a good interpreter, check out our article on this topic: What are the qualities of a good interpreter?

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