Translation: An intellectual industry

In my many years working as a translator, there have been difficulties which cost me time. I have had to read and learn new things, the things that I was never taught when I was still a student. It was seemingly my destiny to take up translation as my occupation. Although graduated as a full-time student from University of Languages and International Studies – ULIS with a “red” degree, only until know do I become confident in my profession – being a translator.

What really is translation?

When I just graduated, I still thought of translation as the act of simply translating an English document handed by someone into Vietnamese. Actually, to translate is basically to do that. However, I have now come up with another definition for it.

Translation is the linguistic conversion of texts between different languages, while ensuring the translations retain the style, message and punctuation of source texts and, most importantly, comply with the requests of customers.

Is being a translator interesting?

The answer depends on each person’s view. To me it was at first NOT really interesting. When I first started out in professional translation, I was stressed out by a plethora of rules, requirements and criteria, and by the fact that I had to follow numerous procedures and get familiar with countless software tools. I had to reassure myself that “at first strange, now familiar”, if other people could do it, I could do it. And as a result, I now must say that it IS interesting. So in what ways is being a translator interesting?

  • I have helped many patients get access to new medications through accurate translations of clinical drug trials.
  • I have overcome the initial hurdles to become more confident in professional translation
  • I have helped many international businesses penetrate Vietnam’s market smoothly
  • I have good income and many opportunities to grow as well as to get hold of new knowledge

Is being a translator an intellectual occupation?

If you are asked to translate a medical document, are you confident that you are going to produce a good translation? The difficulty of translation lies in the peculiar complexity of each type of document. Today you may be asked to translate a medical document, but tommorrow you may be asked to translate an economic contract, and so on. The translator’s knowledge must be extensive and sometimes he or she is required to have intimate understanding of a certain field.

Use the appropriate style: You have to have good language skills and understand the styles of different types of texts to use the appropriate style.

Choose the correct word: Sometimes an English word can have a host of different meanings in Vietnamese and the translator’s task is to understand it and choose the suitable meaning in a given context. Moreover, there are many cases where a word can have a unique meaning dictated by the context and a translator must then improvise.

Convey the correct message: It’s a difficult task to convey the correct message when documents are usually coherently structured and many documents are highly complex such as academic, technical documents and documents containing new findings. In such cases, the translator must be experienced and have suitable knowledge.

Let me tell you a story:

When I first started my job, I was handed a short two-page labor contract to translate. I went about the job the way I was taught at university. Two hours later, I confidently gave my team leader the translation. The next day, what I received was something with tons of red and green markups and many parts crossed out and added along with a quality assessment form with the word “FAILED” written on it.

I was shocked, and then calmly sat down and read through it, while asking a female colleague who had been trained by the company about each error. I realized that I still had many things to work on, and I didn’t understand why it should’ve been translated that way and how to correct the green and red markups. I cannot tell you about the contents of the contract because of the confidentiality policy, but I can tell you that it really a memory and I will keep it as my first lesson.