5 Things Being a Translator Teaches You about Life

April 8, 2015
5 Things Being a Translator Teaches You about Life

As a freelance translator, you may think that you don’t ‘fit-in’ to the normal societal roles of working life. However, working as a translator teaches you some unique life skills that perhaps take people in other professions longer to acquire.

In this article, we’ll discuss five different things that working as a translator teaches you about life. See if you can relate to any of them.

Life skill 1: relationship skills

After working as a translator for a short while, you’ll realize that words often fail to express the intended meaning behind them. This should give you the ability to reflect on something that’s been said when talking about something with another person, and you’ll find that the questions you ask yourself everyday when working on a translation (what did they actually mean to say? Did I interpret that incorrectly? etc.) will help you to become an excellent communicator in your personal relationships too.

Life skill 2: cultural awareness

Performing your job will require you to really get to know how different cultures operate and how cultural assumptions affect the communicative process. When conversing with someone from another culture, you may well discover that your familiarity with understanding different cultures allows you to communicate with them effectively.

When traveling, everyone loves to meet someone who understands their culture. And as a translator you have the natural skills at your disposal to become a very likeable person when you encounter people from different cultural backgrounds.

Life skill 3: the importance of integrity

When you’re translating a document, it’s absolutely vital that you respect the source document and the original author’s intention. Whilst it may be tempting to make small alterations to an argument or line of thought when producing your translation, this sort of alteration belongs to the realm of an editor.

Unless your client explicitly hires you to perform editorial duties in addition to your translation service (and remunerates you accordingly), then you need to develop the self-control to not make alterations to the original document. Cultivating this sort of self-control and respect for your client’s wishes will show you the importance of integrity in other areas of life too.

Life skill 4: the necessity of focusing on small details

As a translator you’ll probably be a naturally detail-orientated person anyway, but working on the subtleties and nuances of a translation will give you a new appreciation for how changing small details can produce a largely different result.

In life, there will be times when its crucial to pay attention to small details or suffer the consequences of overlooking them, and as a translator you’re in a better position to notice and take action on them.

Life skill 5: staying organized

When you began running your translation business, you no doubt quickly became aware of the fact that you had to stay incredibly organized to manage multiple client translations and all the other little necessities that go along with operating a business.

Generally speaking, people who exist in a system where they are told what to do don’t possess comparable organizational skills to an independent freelancer such as yourself. In life, you should find that your experience of running your translation business will help you stay on top and prevail over other complexities of life.

Final thoughts

Do you think that any of these life skills have come naturally to you because of your role as a freelance translator? Or perhaps you think there are other life skills that working as a translator endows you with? Please feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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