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Cameroon-Basil Takwa: “It Is Wrong to Think Being Bilingual is Being a Translator”

Celebrating world translation day last September 30 under the theme, ‘A world without barriers, the senior translator appreciates the practice of this growing activity in Cameroon.


How can you define translation?

To translate is to reproduce in the receptor’s language the closest natural equivalence of the source language message; that is re-expressing the message in the text the translator is manipulating such that the target audience has the same understanding as the first reader bearing in mind the cultural aspect and factor of the two languages.


Does the fact of using two languages, French and English for example, grant one the title of the translator?

To be able or use two languages is to be bilingual. Translation is a science on its own. Bilingualism is just what you need to be able to be a translator; there are many other aspects to it. I am talking about being granted the title of the translator. Translators are certified. You can call yourself a translator if you are certified as a translator, otherwise, if you translate and then, you are successful in it, you are a translator. But, it is wrong to think that to be bilingual is to be a translator.


How can we understand this year’s theme of International translation day: A world without barriers?

This year’s theme fits very well with our line of work, and our field because, that is what we spend our life doing; ensuring that we breach the cultural gap as we are cultural mediators. We ensure that there are no barriers between cultures; making sure that there is successful cultural intercourse.

People can now interact and communicate through a translator. So, intercultural communication is possible across cultural borders with the help of a translator that is what we make sure we do, that there is no barrier in communication all around the world. That is our role and what the theme can justify.


What are some of the challenges translators face in Cameroon?

Two or three translators may not have the same challenges. Challenges may be varied with translators. I will mention the general ones, particularly in our Cameroon context.
The first major challenge is the fact that people do not see the clear-cut between a bilingual and a translator. That makes our work a little bit difficult; they think it is so difficult to do maybe a sister or a brother who did bilingual letters can do that. It is until it fails at that level before they bring the work to a translator. It affects our work, particularly because since they think it is that easy, it plays on the remuneration.

Secondly, many people try the machine that is using Google translate thinking that they can replace a translator with those things. They only resort to a translator when it fails to.


It has been barely a few years since the Government implemented a recruitment and integration policy regarding translators. Can we say that we are witnessing the emergence of this profession?

When the government launched the recruitment of 500 translators in Cameroon, it was a good start. The government is beginning to recognize the role of a translator in the country.

The government had translators in the past but, most of them were just bilingual; they did not understand the science of translation and this has led to poor translation causing misunderstanding in communication.

So, I think it is a good thing but I will like to highlight the point that translators already know that it is not by working with the government that their profession will emerge.

The whole world is our marketplace; we are freelance translators even if we work with the government or in-house, we are first of all freelance translators. The world is our market place whether the Cameroonians recognize the place of a translator or not, the translator remains the key player in intercultural communication.


What role can this profession play in the country’s development?

Translation plays a key role in our country’s development because for the development to be realized, there must be peace and peace must be achieved through mutual understanding as one must understand the other speaker and given that our two official languages are English and French.

When a writer writes in English, it should be translated for the other person to read in french to promote mutual understanding which is a key aspect of peace and development so, we can not overrule the role of translation in the development of Cameroon.


What are the opportunities that this profession brings?

A translator is like a crossroad as it interacts with decision-makers. He works across sub-fields; he masters various domains as he translates; because to translate is to work in the process as at the end of it, you have encyclopedic knowledge that is you master almost all the sub-fields you have had to work in meaning you are an expert in many so many different domains that expands or increases your potential to work all round.

Published on 05.05.2023

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