Becoming a translator specializing in Greek and Polish is not easy. This article will summarize the difficulties an aspiring translator meets in regard to education and market needs in Poland and Greece.
Polish and Greek belong to the Indo-European family of languages, which is split into several divisions. Polish belongs to the Slavic division, whereas Greek is in a separate branch on its own. Although both languages have many similarities, like how they describe the world in words, there are many differences in grammar, punctuation, word order, and so on.
From a linguistic point of view, communication between Poland and Greece is quite challenging. Professionally trained translators are therefore needed to create a bridge between these two countries.
The profession of a translator in Poland is regulated by law. Translators enjoy recognition after having passed an official examination giving them the status of a sworn translator. Until 2016, there were less than 10 sworn translators (4 more joined before the end of 2016) who could provide an official translation from or into Greek.
In Greece, translators do not have such recognition. Anyone can claim to be a translator and provide translations. This is especially true for rare language pairs like Greek and Polish. In Greece, there are three entities providing official translations: the Translation Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, translators who are members of the Panhellenic Association of Professional Translation Graduates of the Ionian University (PEEMPIP), and lawyers who can certify that they have a good knowledge of the languages involved in the translation.
The problem is that PEEMPIP members can only provide official translations in three languages (English, French and German) combined with Greek, whereas lawyers usually outsource their translations to anyone who claims to be a translator and then stamp it as official translation they did themselves.
Due to this uncontrolled situation with certified translations, clients usually receive texts of poor quality. Another contributing factor is the lack of formal education for translators in Greek and Polish.
Translators working with Greek and Polish are mainly Greeks who have lived in Poland for many years and who translate mainly into Greek, or Poles who speak Greek after having lived for some years in Greece or who have acquired it due to personal interests.
As far as formal education is concerned, there are two universities in Poland that offer extensive Ancient and Modern Greek language and literature courses. However, none of these courses focus on training translators. So, to obtain a translation degree, a student has to take any translation-related course or choose to study translation from English into Polish or from English into Greek.
Until recently, there was no market need for translations in such a rare language pair, so no institution was interested in providing help to aspiring translators. As mentioned, the Polish Ministry of Justice awards translators who have successfully passed the exams with the title of sworn translator. Translators may translate and interpret both ways in the languages in which they were examined. The difficulty for Greek-Polish translators is that there are no textbooks or dictionaries for future sworn translators in this language pair.
With market needs changing, there may soon be some steps taken toward the creation of training materials. The University of Warsaw has already undertaken writing a comprehensive Greek-Polish dictionary, which is expected to run to several volumes.
Since there are no Polish-Greek dictionaries today, except for small dictionaries with phrases for tourists, and no corpora of translated texts, translators are often forced to use a pivot language in their research. Frequently, the third language is English, which provides a broad range of solutions.
Fortunately, the situation has been slowly changing since 2004, when Polish became one of the official languages of the European Union. Translators can now use the multilingual search engine of the European Union, where the main source language is English, but the results can be displayed in three different languages side by side for easier comparison. However, these translations need to be used with caution as sometimes they are done by unqualified translators and contain many errors.
The documents most often translated from Polish into Greek and the other way around are birth certificates, diplomas, powers of attorney, court proceedings and other legal documents. There is no need to create translation memories as most of the documents are scanned PDFs or images that cannot be reused. Every translator keeps a private archive of the translated documents to help with the future projects.
Recently there has been a noticeable increase in business contacts between Poland and Greece. More and more companies in Greece are interested in exporting their products to Poland, and there is a need for professional translations of websites, product descriptions, manuals, contracts, and other related documents. Companies are starting to recognize the need for providing information in their client’s language.
What still needs to change, however, is the perception that translations can be done by whoever speaks two languages – a perception that is the source of bad and wrong translations. This is especially important for translators of rare language pairs, where the client most often cannot verify the correctness of the translation and must rely completely on the translator’s abilities.
Aspiring translators who would like to work professionally with Greek and Polish can only depend on their own intuition and on the knowledge of colleagues in the same language pair. There are no courses designed for translators with Greek and Polish, nor textbooks to study to become a sworn translator. To acquire formal education, a student must earn a degree in translation and then apply that knowledge to Greek and Polish. There is a big gap in training specifically designed for translators of rare languages – a situation that may soon change to meet emerging market needs.
Zaneta Barska is an accredited Polish translator with experience in Greece, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. She has studied English and Greek Philology at the University of Athens with a focus on language and linguistics issues and translation. She holds a Translation MA from the University of Surrey with specialization in Greek and Polish translations. She has contributed to “The legacy of the Greek language” an innovative study which examines the influence of Greek on other languages around the world. Currently she lives and works as a translator and writer in London.