Lesson 120: Personality and translation: navigating the profession between analysts, diplomats, sentinels and explorers.

Lesson 120: Personality and translation: navigating the profession between analysts, diplomats, sentinels and explorers.

Personality and translation is the topic for me this month. Following my last week’s post on introverts and extraverts, I wanted to explore the aspect of personalities a bit more. Based on MBTI, several tests and theories have developed underlining the dichotomies between four factors: extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perception.

One of the theories that I find most interesting, as described in 16personalities, categorises these dichotomies into four roles (the inner layer: goals, interests and preferred activities): analysts, diplomats, sentinels and explorers. Let’s see how personality and translation could be analysed together.

Personality and translation: different personality types


Analysts “embrace rationality and impartiality, excel in intellectual debates and scientific or technological fields.” Analysts engage in strategic thinking and try to find solutions that work for everybody (at the cost of social and romantic pursuits, apparently). Analysts work great in terms of systems thinking, that is seeing the situation as a whole. When comes to the translation industry, my theory is that analysts quickly turn into consultants that help companies implement or improve their existing language management processes, or if they stay translators, they take on jobs that require analysing the situation as a whole and suggesting the most appropriate course of action – perhaps transcreation?

Diplomats apparently “focus on empathy and cooperation, shining in diplomacy and counselling.” They take active roles harmonising workplaces and social circles, but may struggle to incorporate cold rationality into their thinking and make tough choices. Without a surprise, I think that the majority of diplomats take on leading roles in our industry and become chairs or presidents of associations or set up local meetups.

Sentinels “are cooperative and highly practical, embracing and creating order, security and stability wherever they go.” Must be those who organise translation conferences, since they’re also great in logistical and administrative tasks. It seems to me that there aren’t that many sentinels in our industry, at least I didn’t come across many of them.

Explorers seem to be on the opposite end of the scale from me. They’re most spontaneous and adapt quickly with ability to react. They’re the ones who start using new tools straight away and know how to act in crisis. They’re great at selling. In my opinion, we do have a strong group of explorers in our industry, people who always welcome new tools and try them out before anybody else. The daredevils, if you like, often becoming tool vendors or trainers.

I agree that this is a very rough division and based on such an intangible thing as personality, but I found it an interesting exploration. Do you agree with my suggestions? Do you think there’s a link between personality and translation?


  1. Alina Cincan , on Feb 15, 2015 at 08:34 Reply

    ” It seems to me that there aren’t that many sentinels in our industry”… Well, it seems I am one, at least according to the test you linked to in the previous article (ISFJ type to me more precise). The truth is that I am indeed very organised and good at admin tasks. If you wake me up in the middle of the night to ask me where a certain document is, I can tell you without much effort.

    I really like how you applied these to the translation industry, I think it’s pretty much spot on.

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Feb 20, 2015 at 17:46 Reply

      Your rare profile should make creating USPs a bit easier 😉 Thank you!

  2. Anastasia , on Feb 27, 2015 at 19:45 Reply

    Is there a place in this classification for simple hard workers? Looks like not, but not all the soldiers want to be generals. In which psychological category (may be according to another classification) would you put the majority of translators? I think most translators have an analytical mind, because they deal with conventional symbols and signs (the language)

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Feb 27, 2015 at 20:28 Reply

      I would hesitate before putting translators in one major category – as the comments suggest, we have many different qualities that make us good translators. It’s just a question of using them to our advantage!

  3. Jadwiga Ruchlewska , on Feb 27, 2015 at 19:53 Reply

    Actually, I am an ISFJ – turbulent variant 🙂

  4. Joanna , on Mar 1, 2015 at 15:08 Reply

    Dear Marta,
    thank you for this extremely interesting article! Recently I have conducted a professional MBTI test, which revealed that I’m also an ISFJ type, which is, in my humble opinion, an immensely profitable collection of features with regard to the profession of a translator (or an interpreter). Personally, I tend to be more and more extrovert than I used to be in the past, and therefore I can imagine myself working in these both professions (for the time being I am a student of applied linguistics, who aspires to become a professional interpreter one day).
    I wonder, what your own MBTI type is… could you give it away? 🙂
    I gather, you would be interested in another typology related to our personality, namely ‘the enneagram’ (even though the name sounds quite mysterious and perhaps even a bit unreliable, believe me, it’s just the first impression!).

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Mar 2, 2015 at 08:52 Reply

      Apparently, I’m an INTJ, but I wouldn’t make any conclusions based on an online test 🙂

  5. Pablo Bouvier , on Mar 2, 2015 at 16:34 Reply

    I think most of us are introverts analysts. This is why is it so hard to be our own sellers.

  6. Paulinho Fonseca , on Mar 3, 2015 at 00:39 Reply

    Dear Marta,

    I am a Sentinel according to the test.

    The professional translator is in most cases working alone, but that is very important to keep in touch with colleagues and learn from them. In our case, the learning process is a constant process.
    One thing that does not apply to me is ‘Must be those who organise translation conferences’. I tend to be a afraid of speaking for large audiences, especially if the audience is composed by experts/professionals.
    Interpreting is one of my favorite task. i feel very comfortable with it wherever I am.
    Paulinho Fonseca

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