What kind of person might naturally be a good translator? Maybe this seems like a silly question but I, having been exposed to linguistic diversity relatively late in my life, sometimes find myself envying those who have been exposed to greater linguistic diversity and have an apparent facility with language learning and, especially, the use of different languages, and I have thought that such facility would make someone a good translator. Upon greater reflection, however, the facility to use different languages is far from the only skill or characteristic important for translation. Another important characteristic is attentiveness or sensibility to audience and situation – that is, the facility to use different language appropriately in accordance with a particular audience and situation.
Might there be certain individuals or groups of individuals who naturally have a highly developed sensibility to audience and social situation, without having formal translation experience? The logical response as to who these individuals might be is those individuals who frequently have to adapt their speech or change their language for different audiences and contexts.
The first group of such people I can think of is politicians, who have developed the capacity to change not only their accent or register, but even their discourse. Politicians, however, are unlikely to begin translation careers. Another group I can think of, however, is bidialectal African-American English (AAE) (or Ebonics) speakers. Bidialectal African-American English (AAE) speakers, who naturally speak a minority social dialect, are especially aware of and used to choosing between AAE and SAE according to audience and situation. AAE speakers are especially attentive to audience and situation because their native tongue is generally stigmatized in the larger U.S. society, and the consequences of inattentiveness may be severe (unemployment, poverty, neglect, injustice). Since there is relatively little demand for AAE-SAE translation, these speakers would have to be proficient in another language, such as Spanish or Chinese, which has a lot of demand for translation to English – SAE English that is.
Any other “natural” translators??