Career Diary: Who is more apt: A professional with a degree in linguistics or a technician who is a specialist in the subject?

By Paulo Macedo, Sworn Translator and Technical director of Flash Traduções.
What are the main qualities of a translator? The answer, of course, isn’t simple
and, certainly, there are controversies. Undoubtedly, a translator must be
passionate about languages, an avid reader and a perfectionist. But, an old
debate, and that, as far as I know, did not lead to any conclusion, concerns who
would be best suited to translate: a professional with a degree in linguistics or a
technician who is a specialist in the subject to be translated? A text in the field of
medicine, for example, would be better translated by a translator with a degree in
Letters or by a physician who knew the language? Generally speaking, the
agencies end up using both professionals, one to translate and the other to review.
People often ignore another relevant aspect for those who want to be a translator:
more than the foreign language, it is essential to dominate Portuguese. Usually,
with honorable exceptions, the translator is asked to translate for his native
language. We can even find Brazilian professionals translating from Portuguese
into other languages, but, as said before, this is rare. Certain international
organizations, such as The United Nations (UN), for example, does not even
consider hiring a Brazilian to translate into any language other than Portuguese.
There is also the question related to the translator's remuneration. Jobs are
usually charged according to the number of “laudas”. In fact, “lauda” is a
Brazilian invention, because it does not exist anywhere else. What is a “lauda”?
During the age of the typewriter, the “lauda” could be justified, the page was
tabulated and the number of typed words practically repeated from page to page.
Nowadays, with the computer, that’s not justified.
We have the sworn “lauda”, the journalistic “lauda”, the literary “lauda” and so
on. The whole world charges by the number of words, and that’s a fairly
reasonable criterion, as long as you don't translate into German. In this case, you
charge by the number of characters, because the words can be super extensive.
At the other end is the client, who usually has no idea of the translation process
and delivers a text with twenty thousand words and expects the translation ready
and revised on the same day. Another example is when the client explains on the
phone that the document that needs to be translated is very easy and has only two
pages. The total of words contained in two pages can vary greatly.

Just think of the work that one would have to translate two pages of the Bible or
the Official Gazette (DOU). This is a question that affects the freelancers. At the
beginning of the career, my suggestion is that the less experienced translator
seeks translation agencies. But, the main differences between the work of a
freelancer and that of an agency translator will be discussed on the next post.