Article in THE STAR 3 October 2001 WORKING WONDERS WITH LANGUAGES Many years ago, my father bought his first car. He asked for a driver's licence. Then he went home to figure out how to drive the car. The fact that you can use two or more languages with some degree of skill does not mean that you can translate or interpret. You have the tools but you have to learn how to utilise them. Not everyone can translate. Translation is a profession. There are translators who will not attempt to interpret. Translators translate written texts. Interpreters of various kinds interpret the spoken word. To do this work, you need to be able to use those two languages very well and to be trained. The South African Translators’ Institute is not an agency. It is a non-profit, professional association that aims to promote the standards and ethics of translators and interpreters, to increase client and public awareness of the profession. It has a Code of Ethics and is a member of International Translators Federation. Members of the national and regional Gauteng chapters of the Institute are experienced, accredited, sworn, trained and experienced translators and interpreters in various language combinations. Accredited members have passed an examination in a language combination, proofreading or editing. A pamphlet issued by the Canadian government gives an apt description of the field: "Interpretation is a fascinating but little known area of translation. Interpreters must be able to listen to, and immediately transpose into another language, the words they have just heard. "The diversity and complexity of subjects interpreted and the conditions in which interpreters work, sometimes demand truly remarkable performances". Experienced and trained conference simultaneous interpreters in South Africa often interpret at international conferences, which is strenuous work. Interpreters work in teams. They need good, reliable equipment and technicians, as they must be able to hear clearly, and to get their version out as quickly and coherently as possible. Clients should look for the person who is best qualified, and not the lowest quotation, and should never economise on the translator, interpreter or the sound equipment. The quality of the translation or the interpretation is more important than the fee. Good translation is costly and time-consuming and will help to sell products and services. The cost involved should therefore be seen as a necessary marketing expense, not a time and money wasting exercise. A poor translation can be costly. One should not make the mistake of asking an amateur translator to assess the work of a professional translator. Machine translation cannot replace the finely nuanced work of a good human translator. Members of the Interpreters Chapter and recommended sound providers are prepared to demonstrate simultaneous interpreting by arrangement. These chapters provide free information and free advice. People who are in need of these services should ensure that they use interpreters and translators who are members of the institute and should ask for recommendations on providers of the right equipment. One should never economise on translators, interpreters and sound providers. Not using the best available person just because someone else is cheaper can lead to errors, which could prove to be even more costly in the long run. If you are interested in translation or interpretation services, or if you want to become a translator, visit the Interpreters and Gauteng Chapters' website at www.interpreters.org.za or www.interpreters.co.za. You can also call Joyce Trocki, chairman of these two chapters on (011) 485-2511 or 083-249-0010. She will advise you and/or refer you to an able translator or interpreter.