Launched in June 2013, Linguistic Alchemy’s blog has recently reached the milestone of 100 followers! Thank you to all my loyal readers. It makes the time and effort to write these posts all the more worthwhile. As work and life seem to have accelerated for me in the past year, the blog has gone fairly quiet, but I still hope to add to it on occasion, so do stay tuned!
We all know the hackneyed expression “lost in translation”. Yet, some seem to expect translation to work like an exact science.
I was recently working on an exhibition catalogue and one of the texts, written by a German artist, had been translated into English for me to translate into French. Not having been offered to see the German text, and my German being limited anyway, I had to Continue reading
If your translation project consists of multiple small documents, it may make sense to you to send these small pieces as they are to your translator, but bear in mind that it will take longer and incur a project management fee.
As we all know, switching between tasks increases the time it takes to complete them all. Consequently, Continue reading
ISO certifications have become a trend amongst translation agencies. Such a certification undoubtedly sounds like a mark of professionalism and commitment to certain standards, and of course it is reassuring to potential clients. Sadly, it is one of those things that “look great on paper but”: the new demands this creates can prove detrimental to the agency-translator relationship.
In the UK, a professional translator is usually at least an Associate, if not a full Member, of either the CIOL and/or the ITI. This means that our qualifications and references have been checked, that we Continue reading
On a translators’ forum, a colleague recently expressed some doubt about his own rates and the respect we as translators get from clients, after an agency told him that his rates were too high. The response from the group was unanimous: stick to your guns. His rates were fine, if a little low in fact.
In translation as in life, there are bullies and pushovers, and then there are those who Continue reading
It sometimes takes more than translation for a project to be understood abroad. Understanding your reader’s culture is equally important. A translator may be able to make you aware of cultural issues in your text, but your marketing team needs to do its homework too.
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is an excellent illustration of cultural misunderstanding. Skeleton Jack, from the Halloween world, accidentally discovers the Christmas world and Continue reading
Just like being able to speak English is not enough to be the next Oscar Wilde, not every job that involves a foreign language can be allocated to a translator. There are times when a translator is the wrong person for the job.
To come up with a snappy slogan or a memorable acronym, you have probably delegated the task to a skilled person within your marketing department or even hired a professional copywriter. Many translators can Continue reading
Some translators are not so keen on working with direct clients (as opposed to agencies) partly because clients are not always familiar with the translation process. I see this as an opportunity to help people better understand, and therefore appreciate, what we do rather than see translation as a mere commodity (a view largely reinforced by most agencies).
Discussing the project is crucial for both parties , or Continue reading
Occasionally, translators are contacted by new clients who, after getting a quote, ask for a discount simply on the basis that they are a new client and that, so they claim, there will be more work to come. Nice try.
There is no incentive there for a sole trader for the obvious reasons that 1) a discount effectively means a direct reduction of our personal income; and 2) the promise of future work may never materialise – whether it is a genuine promise in the first place or not. Besides, Continue reading
The fact that, after completing an MA in translation, some qualified students decide not to pursue a career in that field after all shows that even aspiring linguists can have misconceptions about translation, and that “speaking another language” is far from enough to be a capable translator.
Some students, believing that their degree in two or more foreign languages already gives them the skills required and that an MA will only Continue reading
Each language has its own logic, sets of rules and exquisite weirdnesses. If something looks strange to you in the translation, it may be due to such idiosyncrasies rather than a translator’s mistake.
For example, in French there is a hard space in front of certain items of punctuation such as question and exclamation marks, colons and semicolons, and quotation marks. Also note that the latter Continue reading
When two translators meet, you can bet on the questions that they will ask each other; they are always the same. Yet it is never boring. In fact, it is an important conversation and clients can benefit from asking those same questions to any translator they meet.
While these questions make handy ice-breakers, they also enable us to Continue reading