[https://www.all-languages.org.uk/student/become-a-language-teacher. Image accessed: 25 June 2018]
Do language teachers make good translators? Or perhaps the question should be, do translators and interpreters make good language teachers? Is the old adage of, ‘Those that can, do, those that can’t, teach’ really true in this context? Surely if you are a teacher of one or more modern languages then some translation on the side could prove to be a nice little earner?
The Essence of Teaching
At the heart of good and successful teaching lies the ability to convey often complex ideas and information to the recipient, at a level that will be understood and, most importantly, as part of an ongoing programme of development and education. Apply this principle to language learning and it would seem to suggest that translators hopping over the wall to teach a language may not be the best candidates for the job. They no doubt have extensive knowledge of grammar, syntax, readability and sentence structure but, like any expert in any subject, having a detailed knowledge of something still does not mean that you’re necessarily armed with the skills to impart that to someone else. Some people seem to find it easier to explain something that they understand and do, whereas others are not blessed with this gift. We can all remember teachers at school who were naturally brilliant at conveying the message of their subject, and those who most certainly were not.
A Matter of Personality?
Perhaps the journey is better conducted the other way around; that is, a language teacher might find the transition to interpreter or translator an easier route than someone heading in the opposite direction. Those individuals who perform both profess that they require very different skills and that you really do need to be taught to teach. Teaching comes more naturally to some people than others and this is where personality likely comes into play. There are always exceptions, but translators tend to be more solitary, particularly given that the process of translation is private and often isolated, whereas teaching normally lends itself to a more outgoing personality. The key for any language teacher is that they should have an innate desire to convey information, and that is perhaps the litmus test for any translator or interpreter who is aspiring towards a career change.