Whatever you may thing of the FBI and its activities otherwise, it can teach the world quite a bit about professional, high-quality translation and interpretation.
As Marie Brotnov wrote in her recent blog post The X-Factor on «Translation Wordshop«, the FBI had to learn the hard way that not just anyone who happens to know a bit about another language can be a translator or interpreter, let alone a good one.
The central statement:
The traditional assumption had been that the only requirements for translation were reading comprehension in the source language and writing ability in the target language. However, they found that this was not actually the case. Analysis showed that reading comprehension and writing ability were necessary but not sufficient […]
The «x-factor» good translators and interpreters need to have?
[…] “the ability to choose equivalent expressions in the target language that best match the meaning intended in the source language.”
You’d think this was obvious, but as those with experience in the field (both on the supplier side and the client side) know, too often translation is treated like a game of exchanging words in one language with words in another language. But communication is so much more than just words, and without understanding the meaning of it, impossible.
So take heart, my fellow linguists, if even the FBI is now on our side when it comes to vetting out good translators and interpreters, there is hope yet!