Translations, the final frontier. This is a land where grammar rules and typos are the plague that affects the best of text editing software, a land that knows no spatial or temporal boundaries and whose dwellers tend to go “where no one has gone before” several times a day, depending on their moods and on the difficulty of their tasks at hand. These dwellers, true masters of words, silver tongues and decipherers of the cursive handwriting, seem to possess actual magical abilities that allow them to reshape communication in order to make it graspable by all intended parties.

Descendants of the dragomans of old, the “translators” (as they call themselves) may be encountered in all sort of places by the average person. They can be either hiding in plain sight, quietly judging everyone’s grammar, on their own or gathered in groups, or they may be making their presence known, usually in an organised arrangement in which they are required to bridge the inconvenient gap between two parties that wish to communicate with each other, but lack the means to do so. This kind of arrangement usually involves some sort of monetary compensation that either or both parties will attempt and fail to persuade the translator to lower as much as possible for the strangest of reasons.

When encountered in the wild, translators are evasive ninjas that can easily throw people off their trail by being able to talk about subjects ranging from world economics and vaccine statistics to the latest Kardashian scandal without any problems. They manage to emulate their environment perfectly and blend seamlessly into it. When domesticated, translators have often shown territorial behaviours, preferring one field of expertise over another and closely guarding their glossaries and other intellectual properties. They are able to do this with the help of very handy instruments, among which various software solutions and something called Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, a.k.a. the GDPR. But regardless of the environment, translators remain versatile hunters of terminological databases and visible text on poorly scanned documents. Their favourite treats are obscure references to genre literature and their favourite hobbies include paraphrasing and bickering about synonyms.

But even translators can have bad days and an under-the-weather translator can be spotted a mile away: they will either be frantically typing on their phone (probably arguing about fees) or loudly banging on their keyboard (most likely attempting to comply with an impossible deadline or beating some poor highly-specialised training manual into submission). Regardless of the case, it is safer to step back, give them their breathing space (remember, brainpower requires oxygen, so translators need about twice the intake of fresh air by comparison to non-linguists) and maybe delay that service request for at least a few more hours. However, even the worst of days in “Grammarlandia” can turn out for the best if the translators are provided with editable documents, legible scans, adequate references, acceptable deadlines and actually working tools. Projects that manage to combine all these resources are like planetary alignments: they happen every one thousand years, but everything falls into place beautifully and everyone comes out better off.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about this knowledgeable folk is that they should not be seen as interchangeable with any language software solutions. Despite the fact that we live in a fast-pacing world that seems to admire automation above all else, we must understand the scope of the work that these translators do and we must grasp that the beneficial connection between translators and their computer-based tools is not, cannot be and will probably never become a mutually exclusive one. At least not while the cerebral cortex maintains its place as the most efficient computer to have ever existed. As soon as you understand this, you will be able to form the closest of bonds with your friendly neighbourhood translators and gain a wealth of knowledge just by having access to their magical abilities of making the unknown comprehensible.

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