We think of translations as art (and translators as artists) because there are multiple ways to express equivalent meaning in a language. Translators select the optimal approach in their judgment and reflect this in the translations they produce.
The artistry of a translation is applied though not typically as a personal expression for the sake of the translator, but with the client’s objective in mind. So there are appropriate boundaries to the artistry knowing that the translation creation will be valuable to the client to the extent it effectively fulfills the client’s requirement.
We think of translation as art, but as art with a purpose.
Client requirements may be things such as:
- introducing a product or service to a new market
- formalizing a contractual understanding
- teaching a target audience a new skill (and many other things)
So characterizing translation as art does not give free rein to translators to take liberties inconsistent with helping clients meet their objectives. We think of translation as art, but as art with a purpose.