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Seriously, do guides and translators really have something in common?

Well, let me explain you in 6 points!


Guiding and translating are two real jobs

You can’t improvise! However, guiding and translating are not ruled in France which means that anybody has the right to guide or to translate. But really, can you?

There is an exception for guides though: to be allowed to guide inside a national monument or a national museum, you must be a licensed guide otherwise you are an outlaw. It is important to repeat it occasionally because it seems to be unclear for some. Translators with no diploma may also have bigger difficulties to find a job or at least to work with some companies.

We both have the sense of punctuality

Punctuality is a basic requirement for guides and translators. Imagine your guide is late, the group is waiting, the programme is delayed, the people get angry because they think they won’t get all what they paid for.

A translator who delivers the job after the due time makes the work of the client more difficult. Indeed, a translation is (normally) part of a whole process, so you need to stick to your promises if you want the project to work. That’s the least you can do. After all, your reputation is at stake and being considered unreliable is not exactly your ambition.

We like to split hairs

Guides and translators look for accuracy. It can get close to obsession for translators. You can’t imagine how many questions we ask ourselves before we make choices. A translator needs to find the right term, check the terminology, and decide according to the context. A guide makes searches and verifications to say true stories and give accurate facts.

You know what? A guide is not a walking encyclopaedia, and a translator is not an alive dictionary. We know things because of the work we have done of searching and finding. I have a scoop for you: we are not omniscient! In fact, we both are inquisitive persons, and this helps to achieve our goals and enjoy what we do.

We like to serve and help

We offer services. While a guide accompanies a group, helps learning new stuff, it is not done in an impersonal manner. The guide adapts to the audience so that they understand, remember, and have enjoyment. The guide is not there to show off! The mission might seem unnecessary but, in my opinion, it is not that superfluous to be able to point out things that people hadn’t even noticed and open their eyes on new things.

A translator doesn’t translate for himself or herself (by the way, 80% of translators are female, just like guides). We don’t do that for our own satisfaction. When you translate, you translate for someone, to deliver a message that is adapted to the right audience. You are part of an economy; you help a business or a cause with your qualifications and skills and even sometimes your advice.

We have the sense of communication

Guides and translators are communicators. One speaks, the other writes. We both like to share our knowledge and the results of our investigations. You might think that a translator is far more isolated than a guide. You are right in a way even if the translator is not alone in a closed world, blind to what is going on outside.

We like to interconnect with other people, exchange ideas, debate, justify.Translators do that behind their screens but enjoy a great network with other translators. There are wonderful platforms where you can find advice or help from others! Guides meet many people every day, thousands of people in a year, but outside their job, they can feel isolated and alone even if they have nice colleagues on which they can rely.

We love foreign languages and our own language too

Finally, we both like languages. Guides talk, translators write. Speaking fluently a language and being able to guide in several foreign languages doesn’t mean that you can translate all of them. One important point that should always be reminded is that translators work from a foreign language to their mother tongue because you know your native language better, all the subtility, all the nuances it has. Think of the idiomatic expressions, for instance.

So here we are, as you can see, they are more similar points between a guide and a translator than you would have expected. As far as I am concerned, the common denominator is tourism (travel, hospitality, culture, heritage, history, architecture, arts) because it has been my universe for more than 20 years now (may I say 25?). And I am not about to give up so soon!