Signs You are a Translator (or Should Be)

In 2012 I created a list of signs you should be a translator, with the kind help of the members of the Agenda Translation Forum on Facebook. Here it is:

(You may have stumbled upon this list before, as the Norwegian-Hebrew translator Dana Caspi translated it into Norwegian for a workshop several months ago, and it got translated into other languages. At the end of this post you can find the German version, translated from Norwegian by Ebba D. Drolshagen.)  

  • You read any text you see, be it your milk carton or conditioner bottle.
  • Language mistakes give you the shivers.
  • You obsessively correct people’s grammar.
  • You also obsessively proofread every text you stumble upon (including those on the back of your cleaning products) and edit it too, while you’re at it.
  • You always help people find the words they’re looking for.
  • You always help tourists communicate with bus drivers and supermarket cashiers.
  • That moment when you’re reading a text in your source language for fun and suddenly realize you’re translating it in your head.
  • You’re also trying to decide if you want to translate it and if your target audience will like it.
  • People always ask you about word meanings.
  • You usually know the answer.
  • When people ask you a professional question, you usually ask for the context.
  • When you read a translated novel, you keep wondering what the source looked like.
  • Sometimes you realize the novel you’re reading is actually in its original language.
  • When you read a book with lots of word plays, you’re upset or frustrated because it’s untranslatable.
  • And then you feel sorry for the actual translator.
  • You know your text better than its author.
  • You won’t rest until you find the exact word you’re looking for.
  • That moment you wake up in the middle of the night with that word you were looking for yesterday.
  • You get mad when book reviews fail to mention the translator.
  • You get asked at least once a month what’s the use for translators when you’ve got Google.
  • The number of dictionaries you own is in the double-digits zone, and the digit in the tens place probably isn’t one.
  • Your happiest moment is when you stumble upon a word you don’t know and have to look it up.
  • You call limousine services to ask about vehicle lengths and their local names, not to mention jewelry-making supplies stores, lawyers, accountants, crane operators and rock band members – anyone who can help you find the correct term.
  • When looking for that elusive term, you also enter countless online professional forums and post questions that start with “hello, I’m a translator and I’m working on a text about…”


Can you think of other signs? Please post them in the comments.


Many thanks to the Agenda group members, and especially Linda Penias Ohana, Inbal Sagiv-Nakdimon, Liron Rubins, Sharona Guri, Lior Betzer, Nina Rimon DavisTami Eylon OrtalAda Lewinski, Anna Lein, Guy Herling, Mor Rosenfeld, Ora Dankner and Yifat Ben Yaakov.


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