Better to write down something one time than to read something ten times

Japanese proverb

A frequently asked question by linguists is whether knowing two or more languages proficiently is enough to become a good translator.

Let’s demonstrate the answer on an example of an architect and construction workers working on a building.

An architect provides the plans and static calculations, whereas the construction workers assemble the building piece by piece based on the architect’s plans.

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Characteristics of a Great Translator |

Part 3: Experience

Characteristics of a Great Translator |

Part 2: Writing & Self-Expression

Characteristics of a Great Translator |

Part 1: Education & Qualification

A translator must be both an architect and a construction worker.

Knowing the target language perfectly is no guarantee that a translation would be perfect.

It requires the right words, expressions, phrases and fine details to be assembled in the right order and intonation.

That’s where an essential mastery of any proficient translator, writing and self-expression, comes in place.

It’s basically the ability to express ideas and thoughts – both own and foreign – in words.

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Characteristics of a Great Translator |

Language Background

Characteristics of a Great Translator |

Working Skills

Characteristics of a Great Translator |

Mental Attitudes

Some legal and technical documents, books and other contents might contain complex language structures.

The meaning of complex ideas and thoughts must often be first analysed, then broken into pieces, rearranged and finally put together to make sense in the target language.

It often requires the translator to be an architect – to diligently plan how to put together such structures like a puzzle –, but also a construction worker – to execute the task and write each word, expression, phrase and fine detail on the right place.


A great translator is both a good architect and a good construction worker.

They can be inventive and creative in transforming complex language structures into naturally sounding phrases and context.

Their writing skills make the difference in providing fluently readable and pleasant translations to the reader.

Contrary to that, an average translator with average self-expression skills might kill the reading flow with a too literal and confusing translation.

Since good linguists who are also good writers have better chances to be favoured by agencies and clients, they also more likely to be assigned to work on high-value translation projects.

Each individual main category and their individual characteristics can be read about on the Apollo Transolutions blog.

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