If Bruce Wayne (that’s Batman for those of you who’ve been living under a rock) had been a translator, would he still be a super hero? I know it is a weird question, but let me tell you that the answer is yes! Bruce would have founded a company named Wayne Translation Corp., TransWayne Inc. or even Gotham Translations Inc., all part of the Wayne Enterprises Group. He probably would have started out in his manor with a super computer, a whole library room full of dictionaries and Alfred serving him coffee every 30 minutes so he could get the legal translations done before the deadline for Gotham’s District Court. He also would have had to drive his Translationmobile to a Notary Public to get his translations certified and then find out that it’s going to be a very long night because Alfred called him to let him know he just got another translation job that is due at 7 a.m. the next day. Poor Bruce, I know! However, in the end it wouldn’t have mattered if he was a billionaire ninja dressed in a bat-themed suit or a graduate from Gotham’s School of Languages, he would still be a hero who people know exists but nobody ever notices. Because that’s what translators are!
Translators spend their days —weekdays and weekends— immersed in dictionaries, staring at a monitor, reading and researching, and proofreading their work even though they’re too tired to even read it because they just spent hours translating thousands of words. They spend oodles of time doing administrative work, explaining to their clients why they chose to use a term instead of another, sending invoices, getting the translations notarized if need be, and finally, sending out translations to the client hoping that it doesn’t come back with mistakes because they just put their heart and soul in making sure that it was perfect! Sadly, most people watch TV, read print or digital magazines and books, browse the Internet, look at billboards, fill out applications, follow the instructions in manuals, check the labels and ingredients on food packaging, enjoy reading the storyline in a video game written in their native language, and even submit paperwork and documents for very serious and important matters without ever stopping to think that none of those actions, whether necessities or not, would have been possible without a translator.
Translation, as a profession, is far more important than it gets credit for. Translators are intelectual architects and engineers that build bridges not only for communication but also to keep the gears of any society working like a Swiss watch. Remember that translated texts have been accumulating in the libraries and universities of the majority of cultures for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years. Therefore, without translation, most doctors around the world wouldn’t even have been able to be taught how to be doctors, lots of engineers wouldn’t have been able to invent new machines helpful to us nowadays, many lawyers wouldn’t be able to advocate for their clients in the best and fairest way possible, a large amount of companies wouldn’t be able to market their products and services to other cultures, millions of consumers would have a hard time even knowing what they just bought (if they even buy it in the first place), and for most countries in the world, education wouldn’t be as comprehensive as it is now. Without translation, we would all be limited in knowledge to our own culture. Without translation, the world we live in wouldn’t be one single social continent but a set of alienated islands drifting far from each other in an endless ocean. Translation is a fundamental part of society that allows us to make progress. Translation gives our society a chance to be greater than we ever were.
Without translation, the world we live in wouldn’t be one single social continent but a set of alienated islands drifting far from each other in an endless ocean.
That is why, when you sit down and translate something for a client, think about whose hero or heroin you are. But keep in mind that whomever hero you are to, they probably will never know or even think whether you exist or not. You work in the shadows, you’re quiet and move silently, yet you probably helped save someone’s life today or took part in building something of great value to society. You are more than just languages and text. You are stronger than a keyboard and a dictionary. You are more valuable than gold and power. You are education, knowledge, happiness, and progress. You are invisible and humble yet indispensable… You are a hero! Our society needs us and we must always answer to their call!
To all those heroes and heroines out there, I would love to hear your stories. Some might be sad, some might be uplifting, but they’re all meaningful in the end!