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A Passion for Our Profession

Paul Leroux
(Language Update, Volume 5, Number 1, 2008, page 16)

Caught up in the hustle and bustle of a heavy workload and often very tight deadlines, we sometimes tend to lose sight of the reason and rhyme of our profession as translators. It’s good to step back now and then, to see beyond the daily grind, and think about what makes our work more than just a job.

We might ask ourselves, for instance, what prompted us to pursue this career to begin with. What is it about us that compelled us to become translators? Translators are not born but made. We often ask children what they want to be when they grow up. It never occurs to them that they might grow up to be translators. Our families and friends never mention translation as a possible option. So how do we end up choosing it as a career?

Our background certainly has something to do with it: our family, our social, political, and historical circumstances, the books we read, our studies, our travels, our life experiences. As Canadians, we find ourselves standing at the crossroads between two founding cultures. We are unusually sensitive to the differences in how people think and speak and how important it is to bridge the resulting gap.

On a more personal level, we may have come from families that placed great emphasis on learning, reading and culture. This may have made us more likely to cultivate our language skills, to appreciate the beauty of language and to encourage others to do the same. The words used to describe the world that surrounds us may have kindled our interest, our curiosity, our fascination—basic personality traits that may explain our choice of career.

We are also gifted with creativity and imagination, precious qualities that are not the sole preserve of novelists, playwrights and poets. We have a greater than average sensitivity to the sound, rhythm and music of words. We care about the clarity, simplicity and transparency of the spoken and written word. Like Alphonse Daudet, we believe ours is "the most beautiful language in the world, the clearest, the strongest." It is a safe bet that at least some of us are budding authors. There’s a writer deep inside us, yearning to breathe free.

We may have specialized in certain fields and studied them in depth, but we are also versatile and have several aces up our sleeves. Of course, we have mastered the abstract, intangible tools of grammar, vocabulary, punctuation and rhetoric. But we also make wise use of the more tactile and technical tools of our trade: hardware, software, search engines and the Internet.

Finally, we are gifted with interpersonal skills and a talent for teamwork. These qualities enable us to cooperate with our colleagues and thus to serve our clients effectively. We are dedicated and devoted to our task, but by no means are we all work and no play.

In short, we know that translation is more than just a job. It’s a profession, and indeed an art. We have spent years gaining experience, developing our skills and honing our craft. But, long before we ever translated a word, we already had a passion for our profession.