A distinction is commonly made between speaking and listening to a foreign language, and between reading and actually writing the language. A distinction is traditionally made between translating a foreign language and interpreting it orally. This all comes down to having an excellent grasp of the foreign language. Yet there is a distinction that does need to be made in terms of accuracy and style: the distinction between writing into one’s native language and writing into the second language. Errors in translating meaning are a possibility in either direction, but it is in writing into the second language that errors tend to be noticeable in grammar and word usage.
Even when a team effort may have been involved in translation, and even though a translators will seek the input of informants where necessary, there is a strong argument that a final translation should be in the hand of a native speaker of the target language. At the same time the fact that a translator has produced a very readable translation into his or her own language may not in itself imply faithfulness to the original text. A logical conclusion for the production of accurate translation between a foreign language and English is the contribution of an native speaking translator of each language, with a final translation into English being written in the hand of the native speaker of English and a final translation into the other language written in the hand of a native speaker of that language This is the approach adopted in the work of my firm, Australian Resources Translation Pty Ltd, which translates from and into Chinese and Indonesian.
In translation, the structure of the original text and the choice of terminology often tend to be transferred to the translated result. However in oral interpreting, what the interpreter says in either language can vary in style from what he or she has heard in either language. The interpretation takes place in real time and—rather than the full detailed scope of the communication—the prime consideration tends to be faithfulness to the intent of the speaker together with ensuring that the interlocutor has understood what has been said.
Four extremely important factors may be identified in translation and interpretation:
• Accuracy: In written translation, good style is valuable, but the bottom line is that the translation says what the original text says. In interpreting, what is said should be understandable to the audience.
• Background information: The translator/interpreter needs a far as possible to be aware of the real world background to the text or conversation in question.
• Perspective and empathy: The translator/interpreter needs as far as practicable to take into account the political, economic or technological perspective of a text or conversation, and to reflect as appropriate the reasoning and emotional tone of what is said. Yet he or she must remain dispassionate in conveying the message of the writer or speaker. In Confucian terms, ‘the dealings of the noble person are limpid as water；the dealings of the small person are sweet as honey.’
• Confidentiality: The translator/interpreter must be discreet and observe the fundamental ethical principle of confidentiality.
The fact that interpreting does allow variation in spoken style has a very useful application when it comes to a situation where an English speaking officer knows the foreign language. To take Mandarin, where the officer is tasked with communicating information or discussing an issue with a Chinese interlocutor—a routine task for an Australian Embassy official in Beijing, or a Foreign Affairs desk officer in Canberra, for example—the emphasis will not primarily be on the words that may be used in formal communication in English. Rather, the officer is free to work to ensure that the Chinese interlocutor understands the implications of what is to be communicated and to clarify the Chinese response or at least gain feedback on background attitudes. The language barrier is effectively dismantled.
The preparation needed to ensure such simple and direct communication is not at all simple. It involves years of study and experience in using Chinese. Yet the ability of an officer to use Mandarin in a professional capacity will be readily apparent to Chinese officials. I have consistently seen the value of this direct communication over more than thirty years in China and Australia.
- 准确性: 笔译中，优雅的文体是很宝贵的，但底线是能够准确表达原文的意思。而口译是要确保听话的人明白讲话人要表达的意思。
- 背景信息: 笔译或口译人员需要对笔译或口译内容的背景信息了解得越多越好。
- 客观因素及换位思考: 笔译或口译人员应该尽最大可能考虑译文或会话的政治、经济或技术因素，尽可能反应出说话的逻辑和情绪，同时在传达作者和说话人的信息时保持中立。子曰：君子之交淡如水，小人之交甜如蜜。
- 保密: 笔译或口译人员必须谨慎，必须严守保密这一基本的职业伦理。