Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Last week I read a very interesting blog post from Interpreting en Pointe. She described how getting back to ballet studies has really helped her focus on her posture at her desk.
This got me thinking…what hobbies or postures do you have to avoid neck pain or back pain while sitting at your desk for more than 5 hours translating?
I play the piano. Well, I should say I played the piano because I haven’t sat down to play for a couple of months. When I was playing the piano every day, I noticed that I would sit up straight at my desk and have better overall posture and strength. I’m now considering moving the piano stool to my desk so that I’m not tempted to lean back and slouch ;)
So what have you found to help your posture? Is it a great chair, Pilates, or just a conscious decision to sit up straight and take breaks?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Not straying too far from the Ivory Tower or the Wordface

Recently, there has been much discussion on if translation theory is relevant. I don’t want to get into a discussion on that today but I thought I would highlight one of the models I studied.

The model I want to talk about is Nord’s 1992 looping model “Step-by step procedure for translation-oriented text analysis”. For those not familiar with it, basically it states you need to:
-Analyse the translation brief
-Analyse the ST
-Determine the gist
-Closer reading/in-depth text analysis (intra- and extra-textual factors)
-Preserve or adapt ST elements
-Do the final restructuring of the target text
-Now go back and check whether your translation fulfils the intended TT function

What follows is a few of the processes and resources I consult to indirectly and sometimes directly achieve the aims of this model.

Don’t skim
I have gotten into an extremely bad habit of skimming articles for relevance. I read many articles, blog posts, fiction and non-fiction books throughout the week and most of the time I skim read. With a text for translation, I am often tempted to skim and then to start the translation. I have to consciously sit down and focus on the ST, wading through it with a fine tooth comb and knowing it inside out before I start translating. This sometimes means getting up to make a cup of tea, walking around or browsing on twitter (haha) so that I’m sufficiently refreshed to do the translation. Granted, some texts don’t need to be gone through with a fine tooth comb before translation but the moral is, actively pay attention to the source text.

Use multiple screens or split screens
In my university years I use to write out my translation drafts of 800 words by hand and manually count out paragraphs to check that all the ST paragraphs were included in the TT (yes, I really did!).

I have come a far way since those days. I now use split screening browsing when typing up a ST and TT so I can easily see when something has been left off. I also sometimes have an additional screen for my research and then the other screen for my split screen ST and TT.

David Turnbull wrote a great post on split screen browsing for translation research too.

I have suffered from translationese on occasion. I may become too involved in the ST structure. At times I suffer from lack of ownership regarding my translations. Most of the time it’s the engrossing effect of ST patterning regarding collocations. Sometimes I can’t seem to think what the English collocation is. This is when I either take a break and it comes to me or I turn to corpora.

Using corpora
Using a corpora of texts is extremely useful in researching structure and the tendency of certain words to occur together. Sometimes I use Google as my corpora or a freesearch tool which uses the Web as a corpus.

This must be one of the most important parts in the process. This is the chance to catch any mistakes.

It goes unsaid that you need to let the text lie for a few days in order to catch all your mistakes. I also read the text out loud. Sometimes I cringe at some of the choices I made which I thought sounded good in my head.

Sometimes I also change fonts to proofread texts. Georgiafont is apparently the best for proofreading texts on a screen.

Educate yourself
I recently attended a webinar by eCPD webinars on Quality Continuing Education (available for free). One of the things mentioned was “don’t be afraid to educate yourself”. I totally agree with this. I taught myself to use a CAT tool and it was the best thing I did. I even taught myself a bit of DTP. All it took was time, patience and a bit of focus.

So even in our everyday life we may be indirectly working towards a theoretical model. Granted, most theory has arisen out of observations in the field but you can’t rule out the relevance of translation theory. As my lecturers so wisely said,“What we often forget is that our knowledge of the world and our literatures are all made accessible to us through translation…Who reads Goethe in the original German? …Therefore a knowledge of translation theory should be relevant and should help us to become better translators and give us a feeling of professional self-esteem”.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Film review

I love watching subtitled films. I’m so enchanted by the world of subtitling and dubbing, that I only watch movie trailers in Spanish. While watching them I even try to translate them back to the original English. Obsessive? Maybe

Why am I telling you all this? Well, a few weeks ago, I watched the French film Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis (I’ve included a film summary at the end of this post).

I have never enjoyed a subtitled film as much as I did this one. Not only was the film laugh-out-loud funny but the subtitles were pure linguistic genius! No wonder translators are writers too!!  

So, as an English speaker, I’m fortunate enough to be able to watch the Hollywood blockbusters in English. I would like to know from you, have you ever seen an English movie translated into your mother tongue which you thought was deserving of an Oscar for subtitling?

Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis-Welcome to the sticks

The most successful French film of all time is a charming comedy about not jumping to the wrong conclusions. A post office manager is trying to wangle a transfer to the Riviera, to please his wife. Unfortunately he is caught trying to cheat his way there, and punished by getting posted to the north of France for two years. The new village is a joke among the French... cold, miserable, and the locals speak their own weird dialect. However once there, he settles in okay and makes new friends, all the while feeding his wife back home misconceptions about the situation. Then one day, she feels so sorry for him that she moves up to join him...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

How not to translate

How not to translate
08:45      Feeling quite desperate. Haven’t had new work in 2 weeks.
09:00      Received email from new client. Looks like big
09:05       Not in my speciality but how hard can medical
                 translation be?
09:30        Agreed to translate from my mother tongue to
                 my SL. How hard can it be?
09:35         Had a look through the potential translation 
                  and vocabulary doesn’t look too difficult. Looks
                  like I can find most of the medical terms in a
                  bilingual dictionary.
10:30         Client accepted my quote and I will now get
                   started on the translation.
10:35          Signed confidentiality agreement.
11:30         Already having problems with the translation
                   so ran a few sentences through Google
11.45         I’m sure “deprivation” = “deprivación”??! Too
                   lazy to look the word up. I’m sure it’s another
                   case of being able to guess the corresponding
                   word as in “condition” = “condición”.
12:00         Encountered another problem so have posted
                   it on a number of translator forums.
12:05         Forgot I signed confidentiality contract! Oh
                   well, too late now. The client will never know
                   or come across these forums anyway. I’m sure
                   Google translate have thousands of entries
                   similar to the one I put through!
13:30         Haven't eaten lunch yet. Will need to plough 
                   through to get 5000 words done in 3hours. 
17:00         Translation done. An hour late but not as late
                   as it could have been. Waited until 17:00 to
                   make sure client wasn’t still at the office!
17:05          Sent translation off to client in an email.
17:15          Client just emailed I forgot to attach the
17:16          Sent attachment off.
17:20         Just revised my translation and noticed I wrote
                   ‘of’ instead of “off”. Oh well, no biggy. I’m sure
                   client won’t even notice. He can’t expect it to
                   be perfect in the time frame he gave me.
17:21          Just noticed I spelt the client’s name wrong in
                   the email!
17:30         Good translation day! Managed to earn double
                   what I would normally do and done in record
                   time. Must try to do quick translations like this
                   more often. Minimum effort required too-only
                   used one bilingual dictionary for the whole
                   translation. No CAT tool needed either!
17:32         Glad I wasn’t asked to sign my name to this
17:35         If client complains, will send angry email back
                   stating all my grievances specific to the project
                   and the translation industry as a whole.
09:00 next day: Received angry email from client about
                             the quality of the translation. How would
                             he know? He doesn’t speak two
09:30         Sent promised angry email and tweeted about
                   the client. Wrote a blog post about client and
                   posted it on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.  
60 days later:    Never received payment despite angry
                             and threatening correspondence. Am
                             letting this one go though.
61 days later:    Decided not to accept further jobs which
                             aren’t in my specialisation or language
                             combination. This was a bad experience!
                             Scared of the translation industry now!

This tongue-in-cheek blog post was inspired by a recent blog entry entitled “Cómo no traducir una novela” by Rafael Carpintero (El capintero traductor). It was an amusing diary entry, documenting a translator’s attempts to translate a novel. I thought it would be fun to do a similar blog entry documenting a translator trying to translate a text. Mox has also just done a cartoon entitled “Tips forwhen you’re in a hurry”.
I tried to include all the definite translation no-nos. Have I left anything out?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Word for word

I’m a serial collector of quotes. I keep a note pad of all the quotes/unusual words/collocations I come across which resonate with me.

I have accumulated quite a tome of quotes and I thought I would share the not so common language/culture/writing related ones.  I’ve only included the English ones, although to be fair some of these are in English translation already.

Do you have any to share? Please share any in other languages too! I would love to add to my collection!

“To be English is to know yourself in relation to the French, to the hot-blooded Mediterraneans, and the passionate traumatised Russian soul. You go round the entire globe: When you know what everybody else is, then you are what they are not.”

Anthony D. King.

“I pity from my soul unhappy Men
Compelled by want to prostitute their pen
Who, must like lawyers, either starve or plead
And follow right or wrong, where Guineas lead”

Earl of Roscommon

“Fiction must seem credible, reality seldom is.”

Isabel Allende

There is nothing dearer to a man than his own country and his own parents, and however splendid a home he may have elsewhere, if it be far from his father or mother, he does not care about it.”