Saturday, March 10, 2012

A master translator speaks

From Worldcrunch, a brief but interesting article on Josée Kamoun, the French translator of Philip Roth, John Irving and Jonathan Coe: Why Philip Roth Sounds So Good In French: The Method Of A Master Translator

“The translator dances the tango with the text. When the text leads with the left foot, the translator steps back with the right. It is an extremely tight embrace, and, if possible, graceful...”

Friday, March 09, 2012

I wonder if they are going to pay him in lettuce: rabbit signed up as court interpreter by ALS

From the Birmingham Mail: Jajo the Rabbit 'hired' as translator at Birmingham courts

Money quote:
"[The owner] successfully filled in an online application for carrot-chomping Jajo with Applied Language Solutions, which supplies linguists to West Midlands police and local courts.
The rabbit [...]  later received emails from the firm welcoming him aboard as a translator – and inviting him to an online seminar to learn more about his role."
Guess they are not kidding when they say the ALS contract has been somewhat problematic for court interpreting in the UK.


And now Jajo, the interpreter rabbit, has his own Twitter account:

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Some advice on how to prepare for a translation school entrance exam

I’ve recently written some advice for a high-school student who was asking how best to prepare the entrance exam for the School of Interpreters and Translators of Trieste University. After writing my answer, I realized it could interest others, so here it is:
  • Do translation exercises to train for your exam. But, mostly, read a lot: both in your native language and in the foreign languages you are going to study. Read novels, read non fiction, read the news. Read magazines: for English, The Economist or The Atlantic are always good choices (and many translation tests are taken from them). Read grammar books as if they were absorbing novels. Read books, in your native language and in your foreign ones,  on how to write. Remember: a translator is first of all a writer, and all writers are readers first.
  • Don’t be overly impressed by other students who arrive at the entrance exam boasting perfect knowledge of three, four or more foreign languages. Strangely enough, such prodigies usually won’t be seen, once the exams’ result are out.
  • The evening before the exam, listen to music, relax, do something fun. Above all, don’t cram. You should arrive rested, not fatigued.
  • If you can (depends on your character), try to be relaxed at the exam; don’t get stressed out. Think that if you don’t pass, it isn’t the end of the world: you can always try again.
  • During the exam, write quickly a first draft, so as to have enough time to edit yourself thoroughly. Writing is re-writing.
  • Once you have completed your translation, set aside the source text and don’t look at it. Read your translation as if were an original. Correct it and change it to improve your writing, how it flows and reads.
  • Only after you have completed this first edit, look again at the source text and compare it to your revised translation. Check sentence by sentence, making sure you didn’t omit (or add) anything, and that you have conveyed correctly the full meaning of the source.
  • Don’t rely overmuch on dictionaries, especially bilingual ones. If you are well prepared you should already know all that you need to pass the exam. If you don’t know your languages (including your native tongue) well enough, dictionaries will be of little help.
Some of this is based on my experience as a student, so many years ago. The rest is lessons I’ve learned since, both as a translator and as a teacher.

A last bit of advice: if you do get in Translation School, take full advantage of it: you’ll gain an invaluable experience, and an excellent preparation for our profession.

But don’t forget to also study what most translation schools don’t teach: the business side of translation - what an invoice is and how to prepare one, how to draft an estimate, how to keep accounting, how much you should charge to earn a comfortable living, how to write a résumé and a cover letter, how to contact customers and how to keep them happy. Some good books to get started on the business side of translation are, for example, Corinne McKay’s How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator and Judy and Dagmar Jenner’s The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation.

Best of luck with your exam!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Tip for translators from English: i.e./e.g.

There is a good reason why many style guides recommend against using "i.e." (id est = "that is") and "e.g." (exempli gratia = "for example"): too many native speakers do not know how to distinguish between the two, and whereas they would not say "that is" when they mean "for example", they often do use "i.e." instead of "e.g.".

So, as translators, whenever we see one of these abbreviations, we should make sure from the context what the author actually meant: these abbreviations are too often used incorrectly.