Don’t drink and translate

dangerous drinking

Translation from a neuropsychological perspective

As anyone who has tried it knows, translation requires a great deal of concentration and focus. In order to be able to translate, we must first gain an understanding of the text (generally in a language that is not our own) and later formulate it in another language (which, generally speaking, is our own).

Much is said about the quality management systems (ISO, UNE) in place for translators’ diplomas and qualifications, which is great, because, as I always say: a bad translator will never be able to do a good translation. But this doesn’t take into account the most important factor, which explains why the best translators may do a bad (or even terrible) translation. The golden rule for translators should be something like “don’t drink and translate”, or in other words: if you have reduced brain function, from tiredness, drugs (alcohol, medication, etc.) or maybe because your cat has died, do not try to translate. [Naturally, if you don’t know how to drive (i.e. you don’t have a perfect command of the language), better that you don’t take control of the vehicle (do the translation).]

I noticed that this “don’t drink and translate” rule has neuropsychological backing while reading “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman (a book that will no doubt feature in a future entry). It seems that the brain carries out two kinds of thought process; one is quick and almost automatic, and the other is slower and requires concentration and focus.

From what I understand, translation is a perfect mixture of both kinds of process. Once we reach a certain level and have gained enough experience in another language, these fast processes mean that words and phrases come to us with ease, almost automatically, when we’re translating. Meanwhile other processes, which allow us to understand the text first and later check that what we’ve written is correct and well-formulated, occur more slowly. The speed and intensity of these processes vary according to the knowledge and experience of the translator.

Anyway, in summary, some advice for our customers and project managers: the next time you send a text to be translated, remind the translator that if they’ve been drinking, not to translate.

And, if you were wondering, we at Mondo Agit already have it under control ;-).


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