September 22, 2009

Translate 'Peace'

Why do I want to be a translator? Most people look at me, anti-social English Major, and they assume I'm going to graduate school to become a writer or a professor. Nope, not even close.

Translating, different from interpreting, requires the knowledge of a native language (English for me) and fluency in at least one other, called a passive language. Interpreting requires this too, but interpreting is verbally, whereas translating involves text-to-text, as in translating books, magazines, and websites. In reality, native English-speakers have the best chance at being successful translators. English is the most common language throughout the world, often being called the "universal tongue". Not very many native English-speakers are translators or interpreters, unfortunately.

It's the thrill of a challenge that attracts me. How many languages can I learn before I'm senile? I don't know, and I can't wait to find out! The greatest thing about translating/interpreting is that it never stops. You can never know everything about a language, not even your native one (I should know, English grammar is a bitch!). You can keep learning, and get paid for it. Then, when I can't learn anymore, I can sit back and retire to watch my children grow into multi-lingual influences of the modern world (because I will pass down this knowledge, it would be a waste otherwise).

In addition, it allows you the option to travel. 旅行したい!(I want to travel) Travel = LOTS of good food. Yes, I love food. Trying different dishes that are prepared in awesome, and sometimes strange, ways is my dream! Meeting new people is second. It's always good to make connections, even more so for a translator. You never know when a good friend who happens to run a grocery store in Japan will call you up and offer you a job translating their advertisements into English.

According to the Occupation Outlook Handbook, 22-percent of translators are self-employed. Yes, a way to free myself of bureaucracy, politics, and minimum wage in a single career! I'll tell you this now, my best job has been delivering newspapers to twenty-six people during the week and forty people on Sunday. Even though I only got $60 a week, I was my own boss. Translating allows you to pick and choose assignments, creating your own schedule around other duties of personal or serious nature.

It can be part-time. If I do choose to be a professor, or a writer, sometime in the future, I can still translate on the side. You can travel and submit a manuscript through e-mail. Online is the future. In result, one can hold two jobs much more easily.

So, why go through all the trouble with getting an English Major before learning other languages? Because I want to translate books, full-length novels. Translating novels is different from translating pamphlets or advertisements, or anything of the informational sort. It requires both creativity, ingenuity, and understanding beyond the two languages involved. Literary devices like voice, sentence length, "flow", point-of-view, all have to be transcribed, or in some cases rewritten. To make a good book that is written in Japanese into a good book written in English, one must know how to write a good English book. It's very difficult. Most often, a translator has to meet with the original author many times before they can agree on what approach to take. Not everything will be verbatim. You might have to add background information so that Americans can understand the setting and the characters more. In the end, you might end up with a book that is twice as large and very unique from the original. However, translators, the good ones, always try to keep the original intent of the author intact. Or else they won't get paid.

It's a fascinating career, and I hope to be one of the best. Right now, I am beginning with Japanese, and's up to fate. Languages often take one by surprise. I got a glimpse of Arabic for the first time last year, and it's absolutely beautiful. That's what catches my fancy; the beauty of the words. On the other hand, the sounds of languages, if they are hard, gutteral, or nasaly, dissuades me. I don't want to learn German or French. I'm sorry. They are wonderful and intricate in their own way, but not what I would study for four years. Chinese, Hawaiian, Spanish, Japanese, and Arabic are intriguing. Of those, I will probably learn only two before I run out of time.

Or maybe not.

We are often 'called' to do something. A nun is called to serve and preach God, a professor to teach, and a writer to write. I thought I was called to write, I thought I was called to teach, but I have found, through grueling English courses and numerous instances where children are enigmas to me, that I am called to translate.

Language, the Tower of Babel. Do I dare undo what God did? We were separated, according to the Bible, because we attempted to build a tower to the Heavens, not in praise for the Lord, but to challenge Him. Then, our one language became many and we were scattered about the Earth to dwell in eternal confusion.

I do not want to be confused anymore. My biggest pet peeve is when I'm watching a show or movie and the whole plot unravels from a miscommunication of some sort. George thought Henrietta said Louise got drunk that night, but she really said LUIS got drunk that night. Then George gets mad because he thought Louise was home sick, and wondered why she didn't just tell him she didn't want to go out with him... Blah blah. Unnecessary drama. All of it could be avoided if they understood each other.


That's it. I want to translate books so that Americans can read something other than dead English writers. Something other than the modern American Movement, or the past civil-rights movement. Something new, and something foreign. Too long America has been reputed for being ignorant, ignorant of others, and even ignorant of ourselves. We need to learn to look beyond and understand that the world does not center on us. In fact, we soon will be shoved out of the limelight. Learning through others and acknowledging that we are, essentially, all human, is the biggest step towards world peace.

Yes, world peace. Something lost now in this cyclical warring world. However, soon the world will be Internet. Soon the world will be global, if it's not already happened. Soon, translators and interpreters will be needed to translate your songs, your stories, and your heart into words other people from different walks of life, different ends of the Earth, can understand. Understanding. Forgiving. Peace. An abstract ideology, but mine.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it's surprising, no? Even though I write so much, I really want to be a translator. Why? To have SOME money! Writing is a passion, but not realistic in the scheme of things, especially when I look and find that a majority of the people around me don't like reading or don't see the use in a good book. A sad truth.