In a world caught between reality and virtuality where is the place of the translator? Translators nowadays work in a space somewhere between the two, flitting from the real world to the virtual world. Modern professional translators are some of the most capable internet users around. Paper-based dictionaries have been joined by internet and electronic dictionaries. Soon we will be in a situation where the days of bound dictionaries will be a thing of the past. However, can we be sure that our reliance on everything that is electronic is well-founded?
Corpus work was discussed previously and this gives us an ideal stepping stone for additional commentary on electronic translation tools. Many translators do not rely on the corpus but spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the ether to find adequate translations and appropriate equivalents for words, phrases or sentences that they find particularly perplexing. In this there is no harm.
However, a misguided reliance on the internet may lead to serious translational damage. An example might be in order at this point. Excessive internet use brings on the belief that the world wide web is a fountain of knowledge, a reference tool which provides accurate data at the click of a mouse. This, unfortunately, is not the case. The internet by its very nature is perverted, warped and often idiosyncratic. Much of the reference work on the internet is user-created. Take, for instance, the marvellous Wikipedia which is one of the best reference pedias on the internet. However, this does not mean that it can be relied on by the translator. Wikipedia is user-maintained and the ideas, thoughts and concepts within the site are created by those who use it, not experts.
The internet is a good example of this. Take the Polish województwo and a veritable deluge of equivalents will rain down on the translator: voivodeship, province, palatinate, region, office and many others. Which is correct? Here the translator becomes interpreter. When striding between the world of dictionary definitions and language use, the translator needs to be able to interpret the data at his/her disposal and only then make his/her judgement and choice.