Translating Chinese Whispers

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

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From Dream to Reality

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

Who are you Writing for?

Who your readers are is a major factor for the form and content of any text. Are you addressing an expert readership on a specialist topic, or designing a marketing campaign for a particular section of the population? Is your audience local or international?

If you are targeting an international audience, Continue reading

Mirror, Mirror

If you’ve ever seen a poor-quality translation, did you think: “the translator who did this is rubbish” or “this company can’t even hire a decent translator”?

Memes with the message “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur” have been doing the rounds on social media, and everyone Continue reading

Housewife with a Good Italian Dictionary? You’re Hired!

There are myths and clichés about many professions. Here are some common ones regarding translation.

Anyone who speaks more than one language can be a translator.

Even a bilingual person is not necessarily a skilled translator, let alone someone with an A-level only. If all you need is to get the gist of what the document says, such a person may be able to give you a rough idea of what it is about, but if you need an accurate and reliable translation, I suggest you Continue reading

How “International” is your Business?

It is intriguing to notice that many organisations claim to be “international”, yet their website is available in English only. The myth that everyone speaks English is widespread amongst those English speakers who, interestingly enough, do not speak another language themselves. (I am yet to meet someone who can communicate in another tongue and still agrees with this statement.) This home-made cliché costs the UK £7.3bn each year in lost trade. Don’t be amongst the losers. Continue reading

The Dark Side of Translation

Translators usually work anonymously, in the shadows. We receive a text in one language, we send back the same story in another language, and no one out there ever knows who did it, like a dark secret kept between us and the client, our partner in crime. In history, the dark art of translation has sometimes proved as dangerous as alchemy and witchcraft.

In the 14th century, William Tyndale translated the Bible from Latin into English so that even “the boy who ploughs the field” could Continue reading