If, for J-E Translators

If you can render prose in real English idiom
While all about you
Cling rigidly to translation word-for-word;
If you can stand by natural wording
Though clients claim they know better,
But respect their sensibilities as far as conscience can;
If you can grapple with obscurantism
And articulate it in clear expository style;
Or, being left with ambiguity, not perpetuate ambiguity,
Or, given insider codes, not let cryptic phrases win the day.
And yet not fear small expedients,
Nor over-rate the laws of English logic.

If you can empathize—but not let passion transcend fact;
If you can interpret—but not let interpretation go too far;
If you can balance profit and professionalism
And recognize their value just the same;
If you can bear to see your phrases taken out of context
Twisted by egotists to serve their selfish aims
Or watch the work you’ve toiled over vanish from the computer,
And sit down and type it out by hand or written scrawl.

If you can rally hard-won talents for worthy causes
And pour them into work that makes a difference,
And though unheeded and unheard, not abandon your convictions
And not turn bitter, petulant, or glum;
If you can keep your eyes, and hands, and back
Healthy, over days and hours before the screen and keyboard
And concentrate despite the lure of sleep or simpler tasks,
Knowing that a deadline really has to be respected.

If you can consort with jargon, slang, and hype
Yet keep standard English as your guide,
Or deal with perfectionists—nor ignore the changeful nature of language;
If neither overwork nor endless difficulty can defeat you;
If all customers count with you, but impossible jobs be turned down;
If you can produce enough work without sacrificing quality
In the time you have in each week’s working day
Yours is the world of professional translation
And what is more, a vocation and endless challenge.

with apologies to Rudyard Kipling
© 2022 Lynne E. Riggs