Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Dispelling the myths: Translation and minimalism

“You’re a what?” When I say to people “I’m a translator”, I often receive the same funny, incredulous, but also curious looks as when I say to them, “I’m a minimalist”. Myths and misconceptions about both translation and minimalism are very widespread.

Let me set the record straight: being a minimalist does not mean that I own just 100 things. This is perhaps the most widespread misconception about minimalism. There are, in fact, very few minimalists out there who do own just 100 things.

Minimalism is about reducing excess and living mindfully

There are so many aspects to minimalism that if I wanted to list them, I wouldn’t know where to begin. So I’ll give just a few examples: minimalism is about reducing excess in all its guises, reclaiming our time, pursuing our greatest passions, and living mindfully. Minimalism is all about efficiency, clarity and simplicity. It offers fantastic tips for decluttering our homes and offices, but it is also about “decluttering our minds”.

As for translation, note this: being a translator does not mean that I translate speech orally for parties who converse in different languages. Translation and interpreting are similar activities. However, they are also fundamentally different in that an interpreter handles the spoken word, whereas a translator works with the written word!

There are so many aspects to working as a translator and the complex matter of translation that I wouldn’t know where to begin if I had to list them. To give a basic definition: translation is about deciphering and understanding the meaning behind words in both general and specialised texts, and expressing it clearly in the target language.

And no, human translators have not been replaced by computers: it is actually looking more and more likely that they never will be. Human translators are very busy people. Only humans ultimately are capable of tackling the linguistic, grammar, research or cultural challenges that typically arise in translating for the professional world.

Misconceptions about both translation and minimalism abound. But there is indeed so much more to translation and minimalism than meets the eye! Hence my motivation to blog about translation and minimalism here.