Keeping Up Two Languages: Skills for Successful Translators

Keeping Up Two Languages: Skills for Successful Translators

One of the biggest challenges that professional translators can face is maintaining an adequate level of proficiency in both their source and target languages. Most translators translate into their native language, meaning the language that they are most familiar with—the one that they grew up speaking and using on a regular basis. Often the translator lives in a region where that language is spoken. They are familiar with the common usage and the cultural nuances that surround the language, making them qualified to make the linguistic and contextual decisions that have to be made while translating.

However, keeping up a source language is often not quite as easy. While some translators may have had the advantage of growing up in a bilingual home, many learned their second language in school or as the result of a move later in life. As most translators will testify, long-term exposure to the ins and outs of the language is essential to acquiring it well enough to be able to translate. Most translators have lived for an extended period of time in an area where their second language is spoken. Total immersion is the best and often the only way to truly master a second language well enough to translate from it.

Once proficiency in a second language is established, translators are then tasked with the challenge of maintaining both their languages at a professional level. Some choose to live where their second language is spoken, since they feel their native language will be easier to maintain. Others live in the region of their target language and spend time daily keeping up their source language via television, online reading, radio, etc. The jury is still out on whether a translator should live in the place of their native language or their second language. However, the most important consideration for a translator is ensuring that they are keeping up their language skills, regardless of where they live and what language they use to communicate on a daily basis. Language proficiency is essential for accurate translation, and translators must ensure they take the steps necessary to maintain that proficiency.

For more information, see the original post at the Translators Family Blog.

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