Translation as a Profession
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The purpose of this paper is to ask a fundamental question about the place of the translator (and interpreter) in society. Why is it that translators have such a low status when, without their skill as bilingual facilitators of information exchange across cultures, the world as we know it could not have come into being nor continue to exist? The answer to the question is, we suggest, deceptively simple but the implications profound. The word “translator” means radically different and, indeed, incompatible things to the translator and the user of the translation. Given that, it is no surprise that the relations between the two should be typified by misunderstanding and dissatisfaction and that the situation cannot be expected to improve until translators take action to present themselves in a more favourable light. How can this be done? By nothing short of a complete restructuring of the mental self image translators have of themselves so as to make clear what they really are and not what others think they are. This will entail, at the very least, reorienting the thinking and practice of translators away from focusing on the manipulation of text towards the nature of translation as a social and commercial activity and the redefinition of the translator’s role as that of a bilingual service provider satisfying the communicative needs of a client in a manner which reflects high ethical standards and international good practice.