What is a translator?

It is not much easy to define the translation technically and accurately. Most of definitions introduced so far are often so general and theoretical that do not practically resolve the problems facing translators in the process of translation.

The definition of a translator faces the same problem. There are various definitions for a translator. The most common definition for a translator, however, is that a translator, actually a good translator, is someone who is competent both in the source language (the language translated from) and in the target language (the language translated into) and have adequate knowledge about the subject of the text that is translated. The translator should be able to find the most idiomatic and closest equivalent in the target language for the source text.

It is often very difficult to adhere to the style and register of the source text when translating. The translation is clearly the exchange of information by means of language; So, the message that the source text tries to say is very important and should be transferred to the target language as precise as possible. Whenever a translator cannot deliver the style and register of the source text to the target text, he/she had better to transfer only the right message of the source text, not to sacrifice the message for the sake of the style.

As a whole, a translator is defined as a bilingual agent establishing a communication between people from different language communities. The translator is, therefore, involved in a written communication.

What is the role of a translator?

A translator acts like a communicator though it differs from common communicators of a language in some ways. A translator is a communicator between two languages, whilst common communicators deal with only one language in most of cases and thus receive and send messages in the same language, and the message they receive is different from that they send.

A translator, however, should decode the message received in one language and re-encode it to another language; This means that he/she should transfer the same message, and the recipient could be different from the sender of the original message.

In the process of rendering one language to another language, however, translators face with differences between two given languages. The moat challenging difference might be the cultural one. As long as cultural differences between two languages are known and obvious to translators and also the recipients of translations, no serious problem may occur in the course of translating.

The major obstacle appears when translators confront with words or phrases that do not have any reference in the target language, that is, a phenomenon in the source language does not exist in the target language. Such words and phrases are culturally untranslatable. What should translators do in such cases? Should these words be translated, left as they are, or even eliminated?

A good translator trying to be loyal to the writer of the original text usually chooses to transfer the meaning of a culturally untranslatable word and find an appropriate equivalent, which may not be a single word. Of course, finding an equivalent for a seemingly untranslatable word is not easy in most of cases, because, the equivalent word should best describe the challenging word and be short as much as possible.