What are the roles of translators and interpreters in a highly globalized, multilingual, and interconnected world? When every second citizen in a big city claims to be fluent in more than one language, what can we (passionate language lovers and professional translators) offer? Globalization: is it a threat for many of us who rely on linguistic differences and communication barriers?
When you think of globalization, the first image that might pop into your head is a developed urban metropolis with unobstructed access to international media, education, contemporary culture and fashion. These industries offer a vibrant collage of words, terms, concepts that have conquered various continents and many hearts. As a result of this rapid spread of ideas, many of us know a phrase or two in a foreign language. However, the depths of our knowledge often ends with a refrain of a favourite song in Chinese or a business buzzword in a French newspaper.
Even if the number of multilingual speakers is increasing due to open access to information across the world, very rarely do they have a firm grasp of a foreign language. And only few of those who are, in fact, completely multilingual, can translate.
The art of translation – although rooted in the love for languages and communication – requires a unique set of skills and specialized knowledge to grow into profession. These skills are hard to master without a dedicated interest in translation studies.
How can translators benefit from a globalized world?
Quality over quantity. When everyone around you claims to speak more than one language, be someone who is flawlessly fluent, who chooses their words with care and consideration. Globalization did open doors to new concepts and ideas, but only to a fraction of them: oftentimes, we are only exposed to one variant of a foreign language, or, perhaps, one industry.
As a translator, strive to see the bigger picture of a language and enjoy its richness in full. Read voraciously and don’t shy away from new genres and authors to expand your expertise. A good way to get ahead of the curve is by exploring new emerging fields.
Let’s be analytical about it. Since the the end of the Second World War, globalization has evolved through many stages. What is it going to look like tomorrow? Coming to grips with globalization in its current state and knowing its features is key to pinpointing the social and language gaps we’ve been facing. Most importantly, if you’re aware of the current social and political environment, it will be easier to predict which direction your profession might take.
Match your skills with the demand. Globalization is not your enemy – make an effort to understand it and the multilingual friends around you. What services do they need? How can you help our globalized world communicate better? Taking advantage of globalization means that you might need to re-evaluate your translation skill set and pick up new skills that address today’s needs and prepare your for the translation gaps of tomorrow.