Monday, July 13, 2009

Essential definitions

There are some terms in constant use in this blog which need definitions.

1. Natural Translators
These are people who do translation of a simple kind without having had any training in translation, either formal or informal. They have been observed among very young children, though natural translation (NT) is by no means limited to them. The very young onset age of NT strongly suggests an element of innate capability, though we do not know what form that might take – specifically linguistic or some more general power of conversion. Such translators may be stimulated by real communication needs, as in the case of the immigrant children, called language brokers, who translate for their families; or they may translate spontaneously or even just for fun. They perform in everyday circumstances in which they are not out of their depth in what is being said. They have some awareness of what is a ‘good’ or 'correct' translation, but it's unsophisticated.

2. Native Translators
This are people who have had no formal training in translating but who have picked up its skills by observation and experience and acquired its socially accepted norms. The term was coined by Gideon Toury, who said that native translators learn to translate much as native speakers learn to speak their languages. Thanks to life in bilingual societies, translation exercises in language learning courses, reading translated literature, and so on, native translators can reach a standard equal to that of Trained Translators (see below). Indeed, despite the spread of higher education programmes in translation, the majority of Professional Translators (see below) are probably of this type.

3. Expert Translators and Trained Translators
Expert translators are people who have had training for it. The training may be academic, typically a university degree programme, or in the form of mentoring under a more experienced translator such as a reviser in a translation bureau. It is usually accredited by a degree or diploma in translation or by admission to one of the associations of professional translators and interpreters.

4. Professional Translators
These are the people who do translating for a living. More and more employers are requiring that they be accredited Trained Translators, but still many of them are advanced Native Translators. Since they are paid to do their work, the texts they are given to translate, the speeches and dialogues they are called on to interpret, are the more difficult, complex ones requiring Expert Translation.

Hope this is clear, and that the categories will be useful when considering the work of unprofessional translators.

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