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Daniel Gouadec, Translation as a Profession. (Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2007). Pp. 399. ISBN 978 90 272 1681 6.

Maria-Teodora Creangă

Lucian Blaga University, Sibiu

It is a pleasure to welcome the publication of a book dealing with the most intimate aspects of translation as a profession and addressing an ever-increasing minority of intellectuals, novices and experts alike. Unfortunately, with the exception of extensive literature dealing with translation at theoretical level, the public has all too often been refused a glimpse into the process behind the final product. While globalization has been a crucial factor in the appraisal and the development of the translation industry worldwide, it has also, ironically, turned professional translators into direct competitors, which may account, to a certain extent, for the more or less ethical ‘silence’ behind the scene.

The author, an academic with the University in Rouen and an experienced translator, translation theorist and translator trainer himself, scrutinizes the multiple aspects which make up the puzzle of this complex profession, establishing clear boundaries between translation as a profession and translation as a type of class or individual practice meant to develop and improve certain skills in prospective translators:


…professional translation has nothing to do with the academic exercise of ‘translation’ as practiced in traditional language courses…. Nor does it have any relation to “translating for pleasure”, which is translation carried out in relaxed circumstances, just ‘for fun’. If professional translators get satisfaction from their work, they certainly do not translate for the sheer pleasure of translating. They mean business. (3)


Although it may be true that such linguistic exercise in an institutional environment is hardly comparable to real life experience, it is the latter that serves as a model in translation-oriented academic programmes.

Whether they are freelancers or employees in a translation company, the top practitioners in the field follow a well-established set of guidelines and principles. These concern aspects ranging from their status, time and quality management and remuneration, to job profiles and professional ethics. General issues, such as the nature of translation, and specific problems like translator certification or assisted-translation tools are given equal attention in this book, which the author has divided into six distinctive sections: Translation, The translating profession, Becoming a translator, Being a translator – Current (permanent) issues, Evolutions and revolutions, Training translators.

The first section is an introduction to the professional translator’s activity proper. Unlike in theory-oriented studies, some of which are often over-prescriptive and elusive in terms of describing practical experience, this part focuses exclusively on aspects depicted from a professional translator’s activity rather than from an exercise performed by a student in an academic environment. Thus, translation is presented as a type of intellectual activity that consists of a number of tasks – most of them obscure to the novice – which are grouped into three distinct stages: ‘pre-translation’ (the gathering of all information and of the proper translation kit proper that is relevant to a specific source material), ‘transfer’ (the translation work proper which also includes self-checks and proof-reading), and ‘post-translation’ (the tasks carried out after the material has been translated and checked: editing, testing the final product, etc.).

Sections two and four, The translating profession and Being a translator – Current (permanent) issues, are closely interrelated as they look into the translation business from two opposite, yet complementary perspectives. The former is an in-depth analysis of the pool of translation professionals, their personality, statuses, types of services they offer, degrees of specialization, etc. It also contains a description of other translation-related jobs such as specialist operator, project manager, technical writer, multilingual multimedia communication engineer, most of which are largely unknown to the prospective translator. The latter section examines aspects related to market pressures on and competition among professionals in the field such as remuneration, quality management, deadlines, interaction with other work-partners (translators and non-translators alike), professional ethics and certification. Whereas it may be argued that the above-mentioned issues do not concern directly the activity of translating directly, they have already become part of this working environment dominated by fierce competition.

            Becoming a translator is a step-by-step guide for aspirants in the field who are looking for employment and whose expectations are often deceived when it comes to meeting the proper criteria for a particular job in the field. In this respect, they are offered an inside out perspective on recruitment policies, which maximizes their chances of identifying, applying for and eventually obtaining the most suitable position.

Section five may be regarded as the descriptive inventory of the communication and working equipment which turns out to be of vital importance for professional translators inasmuch as it constitutes the umbilical cord that ultimately links them to the outside world. In an ever-shrinking world, the translator is first and foremost a communicator. Implicitly, such abilities as exchanging information rapidly and effectively as well as using MT and CAT facilities have become skills that his/her very survival as a professional may often depend on.

            In the last section of the book, the emphasis shifts on the troubling issue of training translators. So far, research in this respect has focused almost obsessively on the trainer, on whether he himself is a (certified) translator or not and, therefore, competent enough to carry out such a delicate and demanding activity. Instead, the focus in this final chapter is on the quality of the training provided by the trainer as well as on the skills that the trainees should develop within a limited interval of time in order to maximize their chances of becoming professionals. The author addresses several specific issues such as course objectives and profiles, course components, course validation, the training process, assessment, etc., all of which are analysed with direct reference to the real world profession and the latest technology used in the field.

            To conclude, the book is highly recommended to specialists as well as to novices in translation. Not only is it very well-documented and highly comprehensive in terms of the amount of information offered, but it is also interesting and accessible to anyone who has developed an interest in this type of activity. It is possibly the best account of a widely debated-upon field yet written, which makes it a reference book in translation studies that bridges the gap between theory and everyday practice.


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