Working with a Translator

Published by Wreybies in the blog Ponderings of a Pachyderm. Views: 215

This is primarily directed at those whose native language is other than English, but most of this applies in all directions.

You all know what I do for a living because I talk about it endlessly in the forum. Mostly because it's a topic in which I feel sufficiently knowledgable that I'm not too worried about someone coming along and saying, "Jesus, could you be more wrong?...."

You know the feeling. ;)

Just a few words of wisdom from someone who does this sort of work on a daily basis.

1) Work with your translator if possible.

In the process of translation, some things don't come out on the other side as poetically or as concisely as you may have written in the original language. This is the nature of translation from any language to any language. It's always a dynamic to be dealt with. Working with your translator - if possible - let's you be in on the process of making decisions when something just doesn't translate as cleanly as you would like. You'll want to decide when the meaning of the original trumps the fluid grace with which it was executed, and vice versa.

2) Everything is translatable, just not always as prettily as you would like.

The internet is littered with silly articles about words in certain languages that have no translation into English. These articles are bullshit. Anything you can express in one language can be expressed in other languages. It's one of the rules under the umbrella of linguistics for what makes a true, natural language. So the saudade of Portuguese and the schadenfreude of German actually are perfectly translatable into English. What you cannot do is translate them with a single word in English. You're going to have to be more verbose to get your point across. Guess what, English has these words too that can't be expressed with just a single word in other languages, so if you're feeling precious about your little word in your native tongue, stop. This is a common dynamic of ALL languages. Again, working with your translator will be important when those amazingly nuanced, multilayered words in your native language need to be translated into English so you can decide if the more verbose translation is what you want or if you maybe want to tweak the wording a bit.

3) If you are resentful towards English, stop it already.

You've decided you want your book translated into English so you can get that Anglophone money. Good for you. If you harbor some resentment to the ubiquitous, ever encroaching presence of English, stop it. If you think English is a clumsy, strange language that hurts your ears, stop it. All these judgie sentiments are going to get in the way of a good translation. You need to focus on making sure your book comes across the way you want in the way English works, not sit there judging how English works (or doesn't work, if that's your opinion).

4) If your book is being translated into English, work with someone who is a native English speaker

It's a much easier to explain what a passage means in your native language to a native English speaking translator and get the translator to render it in the best possible version in English, than it is if you and your translator are both from your side of the linguistic wall trying to figure out the way to say it English. I work as a Spanish/English translator. English is my native language. My translations from Spanish to English are impeccable, benchmark. When I have to go in the other direction, it's much more taxing and the minor nuances of idiomatic speech, especially in speaking regions other than my own, are sometimes lost on me. I myself am a professional, certified, federal court interpreter for Spanish/English. The day I decide to translate my book into Spanish, I will hire a translator who is a native Spanish speaker because I want that person's innate idiomatic sense of how best to phrase something so it sounds the way I want it to sound
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