We could be heroes ... translators with superpowers
Did you know that there are different types of translators all with their own special superpowers?
Like many in the translation profession, I don't always find it easy to explain what translators do. Part of the problem seems to be the diverse nature of our work – along with the fact that our specialised skills are difficult to quantify. When I had the chance to speak with fellow translators and interpreters at a translator conference earlier this year, I was reminded of the broad range of strengths and skills we have at our disposal, which I like to see as superpowers. So why not see ourselves as superheroes? Even though we need to act as a united force, just like the Avengers or the Justice League, who work together to conquer the forces of evil, I believe it is important to be proud of our individual strengths.
I thought it would be fun to come up with superhero personas that might make it easier describe the different types of translators and what they can offer. Which one would you call?
Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na …. Factman! Factman is similar to X-Men member Prodigy, who has the power to mimic the knowledge of any person he meets. He is a technical specialist who understands that to provide top-class translations, you need to be a subject matter expert in a particular field, whether car components, dental implants or the intricacies of a legal system. He usually has a background in one or two specialist fields and may be just the perfect fit for your translation project.
Captain Creative is a lot like the shrewd businessman Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. He has earned his stripes in the world of commerce and fully appreciates the role translators play in helping businesses achieve their goals. He is pragmatic, but can also draw on his creative powers to produce imaginative and expressive texts that make his clients shine as brightly as the bat signal across the skies of Gotham City. He sometimes partners up with Transcreation Boy, and together they are on a mission to promote the creative powers of translators.
Like Professor X from the X-Men, Academica has telepathic powers, which comes in very useful when deciphering the complex way academics think. Her own background in academia, along with her patience, inquisitiveness and resourcefulness, equip her for this arduous but fascinating work.
Multimediaman's command of technology, journalistic conventions and social media makes him a little like a modern-day Clark Kent. His ability to post regular witty and incisive comments about translation on a variety of platforms, to craft interesting blog posts and to understand the intricacies of SEO translation make him a force to be reckoned with.
The Scribbler is a hybrid superhero, part literary wizard and part translator. She's not that unlike Colossus from the X-Men, who has supreme physical strength and is also a talented artist. Her love of language encompasses a passion for reading and sometimes for crafting her own poems and prose. This most challenging and noble of pursuits requires extreme creativity and determination.
Just as there are different superheroes with their own special powers, there are also different types of translators. It is very important to find one with the right type of superpowers to take care of your translation requirements. If you want a medical report translating, you need to call a specialist technical translator, aka Factman. If you want a brochure, website or slogan translating, it is important to find a specialist marketing translator or transcreation expert, aka Captain Commercial.
A good way to find a specialist translator is through a Google search such as 'German to English marketing translator' or 'French to Spanish translator mechanical engineering'. You can also contact a reputable translation agency or access lists of qualified translators via translation association websites such as the ITI in the UK, the ATA in the US, the BDÜ in Germany and the SFT in France.
This article featured in the November-December 2019 edition of the ITI Bulletin, the journal of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.