The Concept of Transmithing

Translating and interpreting is not a novel concept. In fact, it’s everywhere around you.

The clothes you wear, for example, were made in China, more than likely. Making those clothes required that, at some level during the whole manufacturing and delivery process, a certain set of instructions was translated (in written form) or interpreted (spoken word) into a Chinese language (notice that I am saying “a Chinese language”, not “the Chinese language”, because there’s no single Chinese language… but I digress). These were instructions for handling, or for shipping, or how the seamstresses had to handle the fabric.

You cannot escape the multilingual environment. In one way or another, you are touched by something that didn’t come pre-packaged in your native language.

This need for a cross-linguistic (and cross-cultural) understanding has turned the translation and interpretation industry into a massively growing behemoth. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor indicated in 2012 that the growth rate for translations was projected to be 46% between 2012-2022. Compared to the average growth rate for all occupations (11%), this means that translators and interpreters will be needed for some time to come.

(For the sake of brevity, I’ll talk about translating a lot, but I am encompassing interpretation, as well).

A lot of bilingual individuals (or multilingual, as yours truly) know that there’s a future in conveying information from one language into another. But rather than taking a straightforward literal translation approach (any machine-based program or system like Google Translate comes to mind), translation requires a customized approach. A deliberate approach. It requires the mindset of a professional working in his trade. So I figured I needed… inspiration.

Where do you get it?
Is it something I can go buy at Costco?

It turns out inspiration comes from the unlikeliest of places. For example, in one of my all-time favorite movies (Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven”), there’s a man working on a sword blade. Meticulously, deliberately, forcefully, he strikes the blade with his tools until it bends to his will. And that’s only a portion of his job. You probably know the name of this type of profession: a blacksmith.

A blacksmith’s trade is the perfect analogy for the new type of translator I envision. Case in point: shaping the metal blade to become its intended object by striking it deliberately and meticulously has a very specific name. It’s called forging. It’s a multilayered type of work. It requires several operations or techniques. And guess what? So does translations.

Blacksmiths do more than just forge cool objects like weapons. They produce a variety of objects such as light fixtures, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, among others. This is true of translations, as well. Their output isn’t tools or metal weapons, but through the deliberate manipulation of words to convey the same meaning into a “target” language, something new is created, something unique. I want, for example, a double-edged medieval sword with my family crest emblazoned on the hilt. Maybe I’ll add some text inscribed on the blade, too. My inner child would be delighted, indeed.

In future blog posts, I’ll cover each technique in detail, and how they relate to translations. Rest assured, it’s not going to be boring, dull reading. You’re going to see that translations can be as labor-intensive as any work produced by a blacksmith, though not as physical. I’m using this trade as a source of inspiration for the new type of translation/translator/process I envision.

I am calling it a Transmith.

Welcome to the future of translations!

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