Friday, April 03, 2009

What One Learns From Studying Translation

From another blog I follow:

Some lessons I have learned:
  • learning how to proofread a translation well is very important. I think that proofreading is a task that should be done very thoroughly.
  • sometimes you might think that a translation is never really finished, because you happen to think about ways in which you might improve it (for example, you realize that “y” sounds better than “x” in that context) every time you (proof)read it… but at a certain point you also have to realize you have come to a possible final version of the text.
  • I discovered a domain I would like to specialize in.
  • For technical terms, it is better to use parallel texts or online glossaries than to use a dictionary, because you might not find them there. Thank God for the Internet! It is a very precious resource for translators/interpreters.

Makes me smile nostalgically. 25 years ago, when I first started, the whole process was so much longer:

  • Read the book chapter through in SL, sort of sight-translating as you go along (I was translating mainly Marxist philosophy then)
  • Underline in pencil all the terms you cannot immediately come up with TL equivalents for.
  • Write down these terms as you come across them.
  • Put the terms in alphabetical order (there was no Excel - it was all pencil and paper)
  • Grab a few tons of specialized dictionaries and glossaries, watch your back. Find equivalents in SL.
  • Start translating, in pencil, the first draft.
  • Next day, re-read the draft and polish. Remember the eraser? I was perpetually covered in white gum shavings.
  • Type the polished manuscript.
  • Start next chapter.

I sort of miss that process now. There is no emotional connection to the keyboard, and you cannot proudly stack tens of notebooks of your manuscripts to show how much work you have done. It just doesn't feel the same.

I also note that I no longer remember new terms as I come across them. I don't really have to, as Wordfast is doing it for me. Blame technology for the fact that our memories are half as good as those of our grandparents and parents. Soon we will have none in the head, and all on hard drives.

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