After working on several texts of varying quality for an exhibition catalogue recently, I was not surprised that one of them came back with revisions for translation updates. The text read as if the art critic was trying to express concepts that he had not fully thought over, and was fumbling for words, resulting in strange choices of words, unnecessarily long sentences, syntax going off the rails, to say nothing of stray words and typos.
Such documents Continue reading
Occasionally, I receive documents that do not seem to have been finalised: they have not been proofread – spelling mistakes, words missing – or they are full of track changes, with questions for the author in the margin, which will probably mean changes later on. In other cases, the text seems fine, but once the translation has been done, the client comes back with changes and/or a few new sentences. Continue reading
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
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
Accents are important in life and deserve your respect. They are not exotic decorations that you sprinkle about like glitter over the Christmas tree. They have their place in this world and many languages would not be the same without them. So when writing or typing foreign words, don’t forget to Continue reading
Communication is only effective if it is clear. If your thorough translator identifies any tricky bits in your text, such as ambiguities due to vague words, confused syntax or erroneous punctuation, they will send you a list of sentences and clauses to clarify. And that’s good news: it shows that they are keen to get it right.
It is therefore worth spending time questioning your own text before publishing it or Continue reading
This second post on how to be a VIC (very important client) addresses the quality of your texts. Vague (generic words, clichés, lengthy sentences) or poorly written (incorrect grammar/punctuation, etc.) documents are confusing, and hair-pulling sessions slow your translator down. We love our work and we do like a challenge, but we’re not so keen on headaches. Clients who regularly provide poorly written texts do not get priority.
If no one Continue reading
When working on texts destined to be published in a strongly visual context (e.g. website, magazine, brochure, illustrated book, etc.), one of the challenges is space. Because the same story in two different languages will always result in two different lengths, the layout, font size, and other visual parameters need to be adjusted significantly.
English is concise, flexible and snappy. So much can be said with so little. In comparison, Continue reading
Following on from my 2014 New Year’s resolution, my knowledge of Sanskrit is slowly building up.
Last Spring, I started a new advanced yoga class with a fantastic teacher who also introduces us to the Yoga Sutras of Pantañjali. As the Yoga Sutras were originally written in Sanskrit, Continue reading
If you hire an amateur “translator” who speaks French like a Spanish cow, your audience could feel like a hen that has found a knife, leaving you in the cabbages while the crook runs away in the English fashion.
Idioms make languages colourful and interesting. When using them, we don’t think about what they say literally but non-native speakers hearing them for the first time will Continue reading
An agency once sent a translation with some complaints from the client to me by accident. The problematic translation was a Belgian French version of a text that I had translated for them into French French. The agency had commissioned two translators to work on the same text into two different variants of French. While adapting the text to each country is sensible, translating the text twice into very similar variants of the same language is not the most cost-effective way to do it. Continue reading
After much thinking, deliberating, hesitating and mmm-ing, I have decided to stop offering translation from Spanish.
People who do not speak a second language struggle to understand that the knowledge of a language is not for life. Languages are living things. If you don’t look after them, they will wither away and die from your memory. Even your mother tongue can Continue reading