The translator needs to develop knowledge and skills in certain areas to cope with the challenges that s/he is likely to encounter and use suitable techniques to overcome these difficulties. Therefore, translator competence is the knowledge and skills the translator needs to acquire. The translator’s credential may be one of the first aspects to indicate his/her competence. Having obtained a translator certification, course, training, qualification, experience, degree, etc. is a good way of establishing one’s own credibility and reliability. It proves that s/he is eligible and qualified. Also, a translator should be able to know how the translation market works. This includes understanding the tools of the trade, running a business, work ethics, quality assurance and control processes, project management, presentation and layout, etc. Based on my own experience, the following are required to determine a translator’s competence. The competence translator should be able to acquire:
- Linguistic Competence: knowledgeable in both the source and the target languages that s/he is working with. This includes knowledge of the phonological, morphological, lexical, syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, register, socio-linguistic, contextual, and discourse (cohesion in form and coherence in meaning to link the units of an utterance or text logically) aspects of a language like spelling, terminology and jargon, grammatical patterns and structures, stylistic features, language growth and development, word formation and choice, meaning change, neologisms, reading and writing skills, summarizing, drafting, editing and proofreading, etc.
- Cultural Competence: ability to mediate between both the source and the target cultures. Some texts may consist of culturally-bound items, i.e. vocabulary that is specific to a certain culture. The translator should be able to tackle and handle cultural discrepancies.
- Textual Competence: familiar with the type of text s/he is working with, i.e. level of difficulty, technicality, problems, genre, type, topic, requirements, purpose, intended audience, units, methods and strategies to be used, etc.
- Encyclopedic Competence: ability to deal with texts in more than just one area of knowledge or human endeavor. This can be acquired by understanding the technical vocabulary and writing style of such specialized texts to be able to translate accurately. Of course, it is impossible for a translator to be experienced in all fields of knowledge. However, the translator should be able to know how, when, and where to find any required information.
- Versatility Competence: is resourceful and know the texts, specializations, and languages s/he can accept and handle and those that are beyond his/her abilities and need to be politely rejected and declined. A translator is well-respected if s/he can refer to or recommend other colleagues when tasks are not within his/her capabilities. A good translator should complete the tasks s/he is assigned to do.
- Professional Competence: know own skills and abilities, schedule, and work habits well enough to make realistic rather than idealistic promises to clients regarding estimated delivery dates and times. Then, keep those promises accordingly, or if it is difficult to meet deadlines due to circumstances beyond one’s control or other duties and obligations, inform the client and suggest an alternative date and time or recommend someone else who can complete the work.
- Sensitivity to Needs Competence: listen closely to the client’s instructions, specifications, and guidelines regarding the type of translation desired. Then, understand these requirements quickly and fully to accomplish them flexibly and precisely.
- Confidentiality Competence: not share, disclose, or divulge confidential information to third parties.
- Communication Competence: ability to express clearly, establish understanding, form relationships, give and receive feedbacks, listen and question, observe and check understanding, network, share thoughts and ideas with colleagues, etc.
- Social Competence: understanding, responsive and friendly on the phone and in person, pleasant to speak to, offer useful thoughts and ideas as well as share helpful information and resources, flexible, willing to assist others, etc.
- Decision-Making Competence: ability to reflect, evaluate, assess, analyze, consult, make judgments, demonstrate discretion, etc.
- Transfer Competence: ability to render the source language accurately into the target language by using appropriate translation methods and procedures during the translation process to produce reliable texts. This includes Identifying problems, making wise and informed decisions and choices, correcting errors, knowing how to look for and finding solutions and information.
- Research Competence: willingness and ability to research whenever something is unknown to him/her by searching carefully and thoroughly in reference works and internet databases as well as through phone calls, faxes, or email inquiries rather than just guessing, using a vague word or phrase, inserting notes and comments, or adding a question mark.
- Attention to detail Competence: meticulous to contextual and collocation nuances of each word and phrase s/he uses and comes across.
- Checking Competence: check own work and/or that of others closely. In case of any doubt, have someone else check the work prior to delivering the final draft to the client. This phase also includes editing, revising, and proofreading.
- Reference Works Competence: possess or have access to the necessary reference works like dictionaries, encyclopedias, glossaries, databases, term banks, books, articles, websites, corpora, colleagues, blogs, forums, discussion groups, search engines, etc.
- Terminology Management Competence: ability to compile a list of terms or build up his/her own glossary to refer back to whenever needed. This eases the work of the translator and saves him/her a lot of time and effort of not having to look for a term elsewhere. It also keeps the translator up-to-date, achieves quality, and maintains consistency.
- Technology Tools Competence: familiar with the current electronic communications necessary to perform his/her task successfully. These include telephone, fax, printer, scanner, photocopier, computer, internet, email, word-processors, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, etc.
- Structure and Organization Competence: keep files, folders, reports, records, and other materials neatly in place to be easily accessible and readily available when needed.
Nouf Al-Khaja is a native Emirati of the United Arab Emirates. She has been practicing translation from English<>Arabic since 2009, where she has been working with texts in various fields ranging from business, legal, regulatory, telecommunications, literary, media and politics, social sciences and humanities, education, tourism and travel, etc. Nouf has obtained her Master’s Degree in Translation from the University of Sharjah, UAE and her Bachelor’s Degree in Education, concentration in English Language Studies from Zayed University in Dubai, UAE. Nouf has been freelancing and working with several organizations and individuals. Besides translation, Nouf handles other language-oriented tasks like writing, drafting, summarizing, editing, revising, proofreading, etc. Nouf is currently working as a translator for the legal and regulatory affairs in one of the leading telecommunications industry in her region.
Moreover, Nouf is currently actively involved in several professional development relevant to the translation field. She is an Associate Member of the American Translators’ Association, a Certified Member/Translator of the Arab Translators’ Network-Arab Professional Translators’ Society, and a Certified Translation Professional and a Member of the Advisory Council to the Global Translation Institute.
For more details about her, kindly view Nouf’s profile on Linkedin at the following link: http://www.linkedin.com/in/noufalkhaja