How to Make the Move Toward a Career in Translation/Localisation

Globalization has brought a lot of change to our lives. It has opened thousands of importing and exporting opportunities that allow a wide array of growth to occur. It has allowed small companies to reach customers across the globe, farmers to export crops beyond their regional community, and hundreds of new ideas to reach the ears of millions of people. 

It has also brought a great many things into our lives. One example of this is imported media and entertainment. Though Hollywood is still considered the global center of pop culture and entertainment production, globalization has allowed many countries to reach wider audiences with their content. Some have even broken into American markets and taken consumers by storm. 

With all of this transfer of ideas and entertainment products happening, the need for translators has never been higher. Translation services, especially in an entertainment setting, can help non-native speakers understand the intent and context of the product better. Their services can be critical in helping bridge the gap between some cultures. 

The Value of a Translator

The true value of a good translator is often highly underappreciated. These are the people that are helping to translate our favorite entertainment media into something we can better understand. They are the people helping to design and navigate massive international business deals. And maybe most importantly these are the people helping foreign leaders communicate and negotiate international policies.

Typically a translator is someone who will be translating something into their mother tongue. This gives them a deeper understanding of the nuances of the language as well as some context for certain phrases. A good translator can take local idiosyncrasies or linguistics and translate them accurately into a different language without missing the point.

Oftentimes the best translators have a specialty that they focus on. For instance, a translator working for an international technology company is not only well versed in the two languages they are communicating in but also in the detailed technological concepts they are communicating. This can make the difference between accurately translating information and describing something that doesn’t make any sense and losing a business deal.   

Poor Translations Miss the Point

The entertainment industry is a perfect example of many situations where a poor translation misses the point. Poor translations can lead to inaccurate statements, negative stereotypes, and a misunderstanding of the nuances of a particular language within a culture. Not only that, but it can often lead to being ridiculed for decades. 

There are plenty of examples of bad translations in the realm of video games. Use of direct translations rather than translations from a native speaker has led to numerous mess-ups once the game is produced. For instance, the NES game Ghosts and Goblins had a substantial number of direct translations that didn’t work very well in English such as “This room is an illusion and is a trap devised by Satan. Go ahead dauntlessly! Make rapid progress!” at the end of every level. 

A more recent example of poor translation comes from the Netflix series Squid Games. At this point, if you haven’t seen the South Korean show, you’ve probably heard of it. However, if you’re not fluent in Korean, you’ve probably noticed that the subtitles don’t always flow super well. Fluent Korean speakers say you’re missing a lot more than that — for instance metaphors, jokes, and tropes important to Korean culture don’t come across at all in the English translation. 

Becoming a Great Translator

Becoming a translator can at once be one of the simplest and most complex jobs in the world. After all, you're just taking what someone else is saying and repeating it in another language, right? Although this is the case on the surface, there is much more to it than that. For instance, how do you translate a joke or a play on words into another language and have it still be funny? How do you explain all of the decades of culture and lived experience that go behind a tongue-in-cheek phrase common in a region?

Many people believe that machine-based translation will eventually replace human translators. For example, apps like Talkao are designed to translate nearly 80 languages into English. However, many experts agree that it is unlikely machines are going to be able to pick up on inflections, cultural references, or jokes and translate them effectively any time soon. For now, becoming a translator can be a great career choice. 

There are many important aspects to consider when starting your own business, and translation skills are just another in the long list, especially if international work is planned. Translators play a critical role in helping to communicate across language and cultural barriers. They are the foundation from which cultures interact and begin to grow together. Translators are often unseen, but they are profoundly valuable. 

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