Translator Without Any Foreign Language Skills

Apparently it is possible to work as a translator without any knowledge of foreign languages. As absurd as it sounds there was a Chinese man who translated Western classics into Chinese without being able to understand the original texts. Although he spoke only Chinese, Lin Shu has managed to collect all the credits and honour of being a valued translator.

Lin Shu (1852—1924)

Lin Shu worked as a translator in China in early 20th century. Originally he was tricked to do translation work by his friends. Work was their way to distract his mind from grieving the death of his wife.

Lin Shu’s translation method was undeniable genius. He knew people who understood different languages and he let them interpret the foreign texts to him. Lin Shu just listened and wrote down what he had heard. This is really a great example of specialization and outsourcing. Lin Shu did what he knew best (Chinese) and others offered the key to understand the key messages of the original literature.

Lin Shu is said to be the one who introduced Western literature to the Chinese people. Not a bad title to a man who couldn’t read a word in any of the Western languages.

This case proves that an excellent translator needs more than just language and translator skills. Translator should be able to catch the core message into his or her text. A great translation is more than just a translation.