Translators do not always do what they say they are doing or, indeed, what they think they are doing

I spent a lot of time to try to catch correct meaning over the above sentence but just could not get it. Would anyone there can help on this? Thank you in advance for the kind help.

  • What aspect of the clear grammatical quote do you not understand?
    – AndyT
    Apr 24, 2019 at 11:38

1 Answer 1


I'll attempt to answer this question. Literally, the author is claiming that sometimes, translators do one thing, but claim they are doing another. Sometimes, they don't even know what they themselves are doing.

I think the author is saying that translators often cannot explain the process they are using. Even if they attempt to explain it, they will explain it incorrectly. Sometimes they aren't even aware of the process they're using.

Without more context I can't be sure, but I get the impression the author is saying that translation is a process that many people do "by feel"; they read in one language and write in the other based on what feels right. Perhaps the author believes this is a sign of the incompetence of many translators: they do not understand their own profession. On the other hand, perhaps the author believes this is a sign of the inherent difficulties of translation: translation is an art and any attempt to describe or explain it will inevitably fall flat.

  • I got the hint from your wordings. My further understanding, probably, is "translators are not always doing followed what they say, or, doing followed what they think". I guess this probably is 90% closely to the original. Thank you for your explanation!!
    – Arthur YMJ.
    Apr 24, 2019 at 5:54
  • @ArthurYMJ. "doing followed" doesn't make any sense.
    – Barmar
    Apr 24, 2019 at 7:19
  • Yes, he could be saying that translators don't practice what they preach. They have some theories about the principles of translation, but in practice they do something completely different.
    – sky
    Apr 24, 2019 at 10:09

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