If anyone was to ask me to briefly define what it takes to be a translator, I would definitely start by emphasising the fundamental importance of having knowledge of both source and target languages and cultures, and the need for up-to-date information about the fields of work. I would conclude by highlighting the indispensable sensitivity required to convey a text or concept from one language to another, without losing anything along the way. We therefore play the role of a bridge between two shores.
Those who think it´s always easy are mistaken. It´s not. We are often faced with nuances of language or concepts that require subtlety and astuteness to avoid transmitting the wrong message.
There is, as in all other areas, the risk of error of inaccuracy, or difficulty of interpretation.
In the realm of errors, we know today that certain errors are attributed to the use of machine translation. Yet this is nothing new, and they cannot be entirely associated to the use of such programmes. In the history of the world, there are diverse events where the work of a translator or interpreter has become known for the worst reasons, such as in 1977, when President Jimmy Carter visited Poland and spread a sense of bewilderment, on more than one occasion, by addressing the Polish people in a very inappropriate way. Another example that took place during the Cold War, involved a phrase by Nikita Khrushchov about the United States which was incorrectly translated, and gave rise to a global fear of armed conflict, not to mention the studies that outline several translation errors in the Bible.
The ill-advised would claim that they are only words. That´s right, they are just words. But they´re also words that bring us together, engage us, govern our lives, help shape the way we think, among many other things. In terms of translation, the end result links the translator to the client, for better or for worse, but these words are what make all the difference.