We’ve all heard this one before, probably more than once. But the most common misconception is that someone who knows a language can translate. Even into this foreign language. loud buzzer sound No, it really takes more than that to be a translator. Let alone a good one. And you should definitely only translate into your mother tongue; all the rest is beep. The bottom line: don’t translate into your passive languages. Nuh-uh!

“Why not?”

Well, because it’s just not natural, and a translation should always feel natural and read like an original. Or even improve on it – upon being told that a reader preferred the French translation of his book, a famous author once uttered the immortal phrase, “Yes, it does lose a little in the original.”

But we digress. Of course, someone could certainly convey the same meaning in a foreign language. But a good translation involves so much more than that. It’s about understanding phraseology, style and culture. For instance, in English everything is ‘you’, whereas in French you have ‘tu’ and ‘vous’, just like in a lot of other languages. So which should you use? A native speaker will always know, whereas someone translating into a language which isn’t his mother tongue might not. The brain just doesn’t work like that.

So yes, anyone who wants to work with Blue Lines will have to pass some tests. Pretty mean tests, they say. And yes, in exceptional cases we have allowed non-native speakers to take a test in the past.

“We can assure you, you won’t notice the difference, I’ve lived and worked here for over 20 years!”

Well, funnily enough our proofreaders did notice, time and time again.

“Look, the meaning is there, but it just doesn’t read naturally, something’s just not right. We’d never say it this way. Was that really a native speaker? Was he on medication, perhaps?”

If you think we’re making this up, trust us, we’re not. Life would be much easier for us too if people translated equally well into foreign languages.

So no, translators aren’t in booths and only native speakers make good translators. If they have what it takes.

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