I remember the feeling I had when I had finished my first translation.
Interestingly, I don’t remember what I had translated. Perhaps, it was a vacuum cleaner manual or a company charter. What I do remember is the thought: “Someone will be reading this and thinking, ‘Wow, this guy did a really good job translating this!'”
How naïve I was. Or was I?
Our work as translators is so often neglected and invisibilized by others that we start seeming invisible to ourselves. We start thinking, “Hey, maybe they are right? Maybe our job is to take words from one language, find their equivalents in another, and put them together to form grammatically coherent sentences? Maybe there is nothing more to it than that?”
But it is not, and there is.
For all those who wander in the dark. For all those who reach the edges of their worlds. For all those who find themselves lost in a swarm of unknown words, sounds, symbols. We open their eyes and show them that there is light. That the edges are an illusion. That the swarm can be tamed—with our helping hand.
We make them see.
Maybe this is the fundamental reason we stay invisible in the process? If one can see the glass, it must be flawed. If one can see the light, they won’t see what it lights.
We are the light.
Like a myriad of photons, we pierce our way through linguistic obscurities, trying to find that delicate balance between particles of grammar and waves of emotion that would make them see, and never stopping to look at ourselves — or each other.
Now let us stop and look.
The literary translator working on an alternate history novel. The financial translator tackling an inconsistency between different accounting standards. The marketing transcreator trying to make a copy not read like a cheap 90s’ commercial. The technical, the scientific, the judicial translator. Heck, even this green guy rejoicing over a vacuum cleaner manual—
We are one. We are legion.
And even if we are invisible to the most, let us not be to each other. Let us thank each other and be there for one another. If we don’t stand for ourselves, no one will.
Happy International Translation Day, folks!
About the author
Hi, I’m Vladimir “Vova” Zakharov, the Head of Community at Smartcat.
Translation is my profession and my passion, and I’m excited to be able to share it with the amazing Smartcat community!
Questions? Suggestions? Our community forum is at your service!