To be a professional translator it is not enough to be bilingual or to ‘love words’. Translating is all about meaning and context, and not simply finding or repeating dictionary definitions of individual terms. Words alone do not convey all meaning: things like grammar, style, register, and discourse conventions also shape the way a text (or spoken utterance) is perceived and received. As no lesser authority than Virginia Woolf once put it, “[…] a word is not a single and separate entity, but part of other words. Indeed it is not a word until it is part of a sentence […] words do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind”.
That awareness, and knowing how to apply it, marks a key distinction between a trained translator and an untrained bilingual (or a machine translation program for that matter). The experience I have gained and the technological aids I use are all directed at one goal: to fully comprehend the source material, and make it fully comprehensible (in all its dimensions) in the target language.