Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Letters of Blood, by Göran Printz-Påhlson

Open Book Publishers has recently announced the forthcoming publication of Letters of Blood and other English Works. The book contains the English translations of selected poems by the major Swedish modernist poet and critic Göran Printz-Påhlson. As well as Letters of Blood, the collection includes the full text of his statement "The Words of the Tribe".

Göran Printz-Påhlson died in 2006. He was a critic, a poet, and a translator (he translated American, Irish and English poets into Swedish, and Swedish poets into English).

Open Book Publishers is an open-access non-profit publisher specializing in the Humanities and Social Sciences. They publish their books in paperback, hardback and digital format (pdf, epub, mobi), and include the full versions of all titles for free reading on Google Books.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why high-volume discounts seldom make sense

I'm sure you can all recognize an exchange such as the following:

“I'm sorry, we cannot accept your rate of $ 0.X/word. But if you accept $ 0.Y/word, instead, we can guarantee you plenty of work."

A problem, sometimes, is that the promised "plenty of work" never actually arrives but your new customer insists you have to bill them at the high-volume rate. The real problem, however, is if they keep their word and start to swamp you with plenty of big projects.

Yes, your income might appear to go up, and you'll feel the thrill of always being busy. Doubts will begin to creep in, however, when you find yourself turning down assignments from other prospects because you are always busy working for your high-volume customer - especially when you have to refuse higher-paying projects.

Also, if you are always busy working for your high-volume customer, the percentage of your work coming from them creeps up over time, which puts you in a risky situation: you are letting yourself become a hostage of a single customer.

If (but I think I should really say "when") your high-volume customer comes back to you demanding further discounts (maybe lamenting the difficult market situation, or whatever), and you have allowed yourself to rely on them for 80% of your income, you'll be hard pressed not to give in (not only that, but you'll have already showed them you are an easy mark - after all you already lowered your rates for them, didn't you?).

So, in short, if you give in to request for volume discounts:

  • Sometimes you will give the discount, but won't get the volume
  • When you do get the volume, you'll find yourself turning down higher paying jobs because you are so busy on the lower paying ones
  • And finally, you'll find yourself an easy target for further discount demands.

So tell me again: why did you think it was a good idea to agree to your customer's high-volume discount request?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Can translators ignore theory?

Being informed about translation theory is knowing what others have said and thought about translation: its purposes, how to judge whether a translation is accurate, successful, or well written. How to translate to achieve specific goals, what responsibilities translators have, and whether they are primarily responsible to the author, the original text, the reader, or the customer who commissioned a specific translation.

To be sure, without knowing or being aware of translation theory one can still translate. But translators who learned translation from teachers who reject theory out of hand and only emphasize learning by simply translating, are still following a translation theory of sorts. A theory, however, they are not aware of, and that they cannot, therefore, examine critically and tap for specific occasions or assignments.

Downplaying the importance of theory, while teaching translation through a series of commandments, as Mark Freehill seemingly does (from what could be seen in his presentation at the recent 52nd ATA Conference), is contradictory: his students will learn a confusing mishmash where on the one hand they are told that there are many different ways to translate a text (true, of course, as far as that goes), but on the other hand are taught absolute “commandments of interpretation” and “deadly sins of translation”.

Take the “deadly sin” of his that was most hotly debated during his presentation:

Never, never, never give in the temptation to improve the original. If the original is vague or clumsy or just plain wrong, then a good translation will faithfully reflect the flaws. After all, that was how the original author wrote it.

Stated in such stark terms, this is nonsense. Freehill referred, in his examples, to legal translations, saying that the reader of the translation has a right to know where the original went wrong. Fine (maybe) if the reader commissioned the translation precisely so as to find its weak points, perhaps to challenge them in court. But what if the customer is, instead, a foreign attorney who had his brief translated to file it in a US Court? Should a conscientious translator merrily translate the text “as is”, errors, warts and all, or should he point out to his customer unclear and wordy passages, suggesting suitable improvements? What about a translator commissioned to translated a hastily (and therefore badly) written press release. Shouldn’t he do his utmost to make the translated press release as smoothly flowing, well written and informative as possible in the target language?

During Freehill’s presentation Chris Durban remarked that by teaching his students never to improve on the original, he was condemning them to the bottom of the market. I agree. By limiting the choices available to his students, Mr. Freehill is depriving them of vital tools necessary to succeed in translation.


For an interesting discussion between a translation theorist and a professional translator, see Can Theory Help Translators? A Dialogue Between the Ivory Tower and the Wordface, by Andrew Chesterman and Emma Wagner (St. Jerome, 2002)

Monday, November 14, 2011

New landing page for Xbench training

I’ve changed the tab for my Xbench presentation, to convert it into a landing page. In the process, the web address for the page has changed, so if you had linked to it to access my presentation, the link no longer works.

To access the presentation you can either go to the tab here on top (now renamed “Xbench Training”), or go directly to http://aboutranslation.blogspot.com/p/xbench-training.html.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Attention to details

Attention_To_Details

I found this image in an instruction leaflet I was proofreading. Do you notice anything peculiar with this image?

It must have been flipped horizontally during DTP – otherwise this watch would seem to go counterclockwise!

Friday, November 11, 2011

My newest blog

I've just created a new blog (Riccardo Schiaffino, Italian Artist in Denver), to display some of my artwork. Little to do with translation - except I'm now trying to incorporate some classic translations into my artwork.

Original and Translations - acrylics on paper

It should be fairly easy to identify the original and the two classic translations in this work...



Saturday, November 05, 2011

“The Voice of Interpreters and Translators”

When the new ATA tagline (“The Voice of Interpreters and Translators”) was unveiled during the annual meeting of all voting members, I wrote in my notebook “consider me underwhelmed”.

According to the ATA October 2011 newsbrief, the tagline

would help both clients and the public understand what interpreters and translators do [...] In just six words, it sends the message that linguists are all about communication, about giving "voice" to information, ideas, and culture.

If that is the purpose of the tagline, it does not succeed: worded as it is, it says instead that the ATA speaks for translators and interpreters, but it gives to the public no information about what translators and interpreters actually do.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Blogging 101 and Xbench presentations now updated

I’ve just updated the Blogging and Xbench presentations available for download: they are now up to date as presented at the 52nd ATA Conference. You can download them from the tabs here above.

Open post on “Blogging 101”

As promised during the presentation, here is a post for questions and answers about our blogging presentation, or for other questions about blogging for translators.

Please feel free to ask any question by adding a comment to this post.


You can download the most up to date version of our presentation from this blog (to download the presentation, select the “Blogging 101” tab above, and then follow the link to the ppt file).

If you have a blog or will start one, write to Corinne or to me: we love to see new interesting blogs o translation and related subjects.