Myth 4: Translators and interpreters speak many different languages. This is simply untrue! Most translators and interpreters specialize: they translate from one language into another.
Translators and interpreters will tell you that the number one question they are asked is, “How many different languages can you speak?”
Quite often, translators are one-directional, meaning that they may be able to translate from Spanish into English but not necessarily in the reverse direction. While, there are translators that can produce quality work in both directions, the number of translators that can do so is quite small. Many translators have a dominant language, and they frequently translate into that language.
A language can be so complicated to fully understand, with Arabic, Cantonese, and Japanese being considered the most difficult to master. For professional translators and interpreters, it is best to have fluency in just two languages rather than basic-knowledge on a wide-scale of languages. The average person uses around 4,000-5,000 words a day. Many professionals such as doctors or lawyers use around 23,000 words a day. A translator specializing in the medical field would understand the jargon associated with that field in both languages that they speak. A translator who has an area of specialization is more valuable than a translator who has basic knowledge of a large number of languages.
Another reason why it’s very important for a translator to be fluent in just two languages is the use of idiomatic expressions. For example a translator who is working from English into Italian might come across the phrase “Good Luck!” An uninformed translator might translate this into “Buona Fortuna”, but many Italians consider this to be bad luck. In fact, in Italy an idiomatic expression is used for luck, “In bocca al Lupo!” which translates to “into the mouth of the wolf.”
Well, now you know that linguists are often bilingual as opposed to multilingual.
Coming Soon Myth 5 Debunked: Anyone can be a Translator or an Interpreter
The rest of the “Debunking 5 Myths of the Transltion Service Industry” Series
Debunking 5 Myths about the Translation Service Industry (part 1)
Debunking 5 Myths about the Translation Service Industry (part 2)
Debunking 5 Myths about the Translation Service Industry (part 3)
Debunking 5 Myths about the Translation Service Industry (part 4)
Debunking 5 Myths about the Translation Service Industry (part 5)