7. A LITTLE BIT OF KNOWLEDGE CAN GO A LONG WAY
I've always felt that in conveying information - moving it from one language to another - it is essential to actually understand what it is you are conveying. In other words, the substance.
That's not to say that translating a text explaining the benefits of quantum mechanics for next-generation computers requires me to be at any kind of Hawking level. But I do need to know the terminology of quantum mechanics, the implications of the science and technology as well as the impact this is likely to have on future business and societal trends. It's why part of the CPLS raison d'être is based on the precept that 'everything starts with knowing the client's business. It is the key to anticipating their needs, to creating solutions and opportunities they may not find on their own.'
A managing director of a ball-bearing manufacturing company does not need to know all the technical ins and outs of ball-bearing manufacture - his or her job is to 'steer' the company in such a way that production is efficient, reliable and competitive and that sales are strong and profitable, and that workers are committed and happy. So while a good dollop of knowledge is essential, the engineering boffins are the ones that ensure that the CEO's story has solid technical backing. It's the same kind of knowledge that CPLS needs to acquire in order to translate or produce a ball-bearing sales brochure aimed at, say, the American market. Knowing which terminology is used and/or preferred, how much engineering information needs to be provided - the balance between insufficient and overkill - and, ultimately, how to convey the positive impact for the potential buyer or user.
Clearly, then, translating or copywriting is done within a context. CPLS assignments often involve a convergence of contexts: for example, technical or technological, cultural or marketing, wider societal or political. These are aspects that must be borne in mind, particularly with sensitive policy documents or communiqués concerning corporate reorganisations. Hence the need to work closely with our clients to understand the nature and purpose of their requirements.
But, of course, there are positive benefits for us, too. Our work is a good example of lifelong learning. I can quite confidently claim that every day I learn something new. Whether that's the latest developments in the energy transition or automotive software or innovation in healthcare. Not only is it fascinating and educational but it also adds substance and scope to our frame of reference as translators, editors and copywriters. We add muscle to our body. And it also means that we can perform more effectively and efficiently, getting better at what we do with every new assignment. And, most importantly, giving our clients the assurance that we indeed can anticipate their needs and help them create solutions and opportunities, in part from the knowledge we gain from them. Win-win, time and again.