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Re: Do Translators Make Better Writers?

Community Guru
Ronald T Member Since: Sep 14, 2009
1 of 19

Noticing the impeccable use of the English language in the written form offered by translators of the English language, I wonder if searching for translators instead of writers results in locating the best writers.

Maybe this is why a lot of invitations sent to translators and others engaged in higher-levels of work get invitations for simpler writing jobs.

What are your thoughts?

Community Guru
William H Member Since: Dec 2, 2013
2 of 19

Hi Ronald,

As a translator who was not formally trained in translation (I'm a political scientist by training), I think that helps, and it might even be a huge plus.

 

Personally, I have been a university professor and have corrected/edited 1000s of papers, so know what is good and what is bad.

 

I have been a research associate, so have corrected/edited hundreds of formal publications, so know what leading publishers/journals are looking for in the way of content, style and communications.

 

I have been published in leading journals/publishing houses (including Cambridge University Press), so know how to write for these audiences.

 

I have played politics (ran a couple of times at the federal level in Canada), so know how to write speeches and use words to convince.

 

You can't play politics if you don't know the ins and outs of marketing/communications, so I know how to sell things with words.

 

I have written 100s of op-ed pieces for newspapers, so know how to be both parsimonious and convincing.

 

So yeah, you're point is very well taken - I would not be a great translator if it was not for all my previous experience in writing.

 

Cheers,

William

Community Guru
Ronald T Member Since: Sep 14, 2009
3 of 19

Hi William! (Kudos) WOW! Your Upwork freelancer profile shows an outstanding job history as a translator.

Do you ever receive client invitations for simpler writing related jobs? Would you ever accept those simpler jobs if paid commensurate with your skills as an expert in the field of translation?

I ask because if I were in need of writers as I had been in the past, as a client I would search out translators instead of those engaged in simpler forms of writing. Of course, for quality one would need to pay more than typical writers normally get. No offense to anyone....

Highlighted
Community Guru
William H Member Since: Dec 2, 2013
4 of 19

Hi Ronald,

In answer to your question, yes, I write content, but no, I don't get invites to do so (or if I do, I usually refuse).

 

Why do I refuse?

 

Because it takes more time to write content than to translate. I usually charge .05-.10/word for translations, and can translate roughly 1000-1200 words/hour. If you get my meaning, I'm not writing content, I'm interpreting content into another language and adding a bit of flare. Half the job is already done, yet I'm paid the full price.

 

I can't write 1000 words of content in an hour and provide good content with flare (well, depends on the topic - you want me to talk about wine, politics, sports, travel - sure. Anything else, meh)...

 

Cheers,

William

Community Guru
Ela K Member Since: Feb 9, 2015
5 of 19

@William H wrote:

 

I can't write 1000 words of content in an hour and provide good content with flare (well, depends on the topic - you want me to talk about wine, politics, sports, travel - sure. Anything else, meh)...

 

Cheers,

William


I used to work as a researcher and writer for financial and legal publishers in the UK - it was expected to generate 1000-1500 words of printable editorial per day (before editing). The research period included reading and assessing endless documents, interviewing C-level staff and senior partners etc. So, writing takes a lot longer than translating. Of course it also depends on the topic. I could pen a 2000 words article on hiking in Switzerland or sailing in a day - but other subjects are much more demanding.

 

I offer translation services as well - but I am much slower than you are Smiley Wink

 

 

Community Guru
Krisztina U Member Since: Aug 7, 2009
BEST ANSWER
6 of 19

Wow, William - I didn't know we had a local celebrity amongst us. Smiley Very Happy Very impressive bio!

 

As a trained and certified translator, I do not believe that translators make better writers. Writing and translating, though related, are two entirely separate skill sets for me. I am a terrible writer, but I think I am a pretty decent interpreter. To go with an analogy, the writer is the composer, and the translator is the dancer or singer (whichever you prefer). They both appreciate and feed off of each other and they share the love for music. Some are gifted with being excellent at both, but most often, a dancer can not compose and a composer can't sing. It's no different for writing and translating.

 

I do think it's safe to say that both professions have a deep appreciation for language in common, tough! Smiley Happy

 

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
7 of 19

Do translators make better writers?

 

Well, a GOOD translator is more likely to be able to write well than somebody who is a BAD translator.

 

A GOOD translator is more likely to be able to write well than somebody who is NOT a good translator, but is a GOOD painter, or a GOOD baseball player.

 

Generally speaking, a smart, conscientious, diligent person no matter what their training will be a better writer than somebody who is less intelligent, less conscientious, less diligent.

 

Obviously translation and writing are related, but they ARE different things.

 

Given the fact that there are many people who want to work as writers, and many people who want to work as translators, I don't see the point in trying to hire somebody to do something that they're not even offering to do, when they want to do something else.

 

If I was a client looking for the best results, I would want to hire a translator who DOES NOT offer writing services or photography services or programming services. I would want to hire a translator who focuses on translation.

Community Guru
Stephen B Member Since: Dec 4, 2012
8 of 19

"I don't see the point in trying to hire somebody to do something that they're not even offering to do, when they want to do something else."

 

That's the bottom line, Preston. I (and several other editors) are tortured having to spend our day refusing writing jobs. Yes, I can write, but I don't want to. I write for myself, and when I do I do it very well. And when I'm editing I improve writing for peole who don't write so well.

 

Another analogy - the sportsperson and the coach. there are some superb coaches who are past their sporting best, but shine as coaches helping to bring out the best in others.

 

(I like the music analogy  as well.)

Community Guru
Natasha R Member Since: Aug 2, 2010
9 of 19

I agree with this:

 

Skillfulness is always due to nurture and not nature. Knowledge and practice are the prerequisites of all skills, which applies to translation and writing as well. Although practice is of undeniable importance, the value of knowledge should not be taken for granted. There are quite a few translators who have become translators through experience. They cannot, however, be compared as to skillfulness with the educated ones in the knowledge and competencies they have, the strategies they use, etc. It doesn't matter how you gain that knowledge, as long as you acquire it and do not merely rely on practice and experience. So, if you are willing to become a skilled writer, you need to consider these two factors as well, for which taking some courses may come to help.

 

Leila Ahmadi

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
10 of 19

re: "Skillfulness is always due to nurture and not nature."

 

Presumably you are separating "skillfullness" from "talent," then.

 

Because obviously there are people who are naturally talented at things.

 

I can guarantee you that there are things which come quite naturally to you, which my inability to do would probably shock you.

 

And there are things you exerted a great deal of time and effort to learn how to do, which I picked up easily, without giving it much thought.