Posts in English, Translation

Why I Love Being a Translator

It’s been four (yes, FOUR!) years since I last wrote a post on my blog. I know, it’s been a very long time. I have been busy with my MA course, and I also started working on my thesis, which will be on French literary translation (more details about it in upcoming posts).

Today is one of those days in which I feel proud to be a translator! I am glad I chose this path, I realised that I found my calling. I am writing this post after attending the TetraTeTra translation conference in Forlì, which I enjoyed. It’s 12:37 a.m. right now but, instead of going to bed, I decided to write a post on the reasons why I love being a translator. Here they are:

1) The sense of satisfaction and completion I feel after finding le mot juste, or after finishing the translation of a text;

2) It’s an enriching job which allows you to expand your knowledge in both source and target languages. Two words: lifelong learning.

That’s all for now. The bed is waiting for me… I’m tired, but happy!

Languages, Posts in English, Translation

When Translators (and Language Students) Meet the Rest of the World

  • MYTH: Translation/language students and translators/interpreters are living dictionaries.
  • REALITY: Yes, we speak more than one language. No, we don’t know all the words in a given language. It’s impossible to know EVERY. SINGLE. WORD, even in your mother tongue. Vocabulary is important, but we are no living dictionaries and us humans can’t know everything.

I find situations like these annoying:

PERSON I’M TALKING TO: “How do you say *insert word here* in *insert language here*?”

I usually ask them to tell me the context (and think “Ah, if only they realized that a word has different meanings in different contexts…”), a sentence in which they would use that word. Staying on topic, here’s a joke:

  • How many translators does it take to change a light bulb?
  • It depends on the context.

So, for translation/interpreting professionals and students, context is extremely important. We can’t read your mind, and guessing possible meanings might lead to making mistakes.

Next conversation:

  • PERSON I’M TALKING TO: “Wow, you study languages! How many do you speak?”
  • ME: “Four: Italian, English, French and some German.”
  • PERSON I’M TALKING TO: “You know only those?” or “Why don’t/didn’t you study Arabic/Chinese/etc?”

You usually study two to three languages at university. It takes a lot of time to learn a language well, let alone two or three. In my opinion, it’s better to know two or three languages at an advanced level than five or six at an elementary level. In this case, quality matters more than quantity but, if you manage to speak five to six languages at an advanced level… well, congratulations! 🙂 I chose to study English and French because I like(d) them and I’ve studied them since I started middle school. I can speak them fluently and I’m looking forward to improving more and more. I chose English in particular because it is “my passion, my obsession, my life” (as I wrote on some social networking site). Why should I study languages I’m not interested in learning? It also takes many years and stays abroad to learn languages like Arabic and Chinese well.

If you’re on Twitter, maybe in the last few days you read some tweets on “Tips to date a translator” (or an interpreter). I had tons of fun reading them, and I couldn’t have enough of them, haha. Two words: compulsive reading. You can find all the tweets here.

My favourite ones:

  • Do not take us too literally and always be faithful. @judittur
  • And for God’s sake, spell check your written correspondence. Nothing turns translators off more. @jackiedeal
  • Suggesting Google Translate will replace human translators will lead to you making love *without* human translators. @miguelllorens
  • Resign yourself to this: The woman loudly criticizing the subtitles in the midst of an action movie is your girlfriend. @miguelllorens
  • Don’t brag about your knowledge of a foreign language UNLESS you are really fluent! @avinc1
  • Distract the waiter while your translator friend takes photos of the ill translated menu. @petra_s_ger 
  • We love puns. We LOVE them. If you play on words smartly, you’ll get 100 extra points. 😉 @toolupwithwords
  • Don’t be surprised if you buy them chocolates and the 1st thing they do is read the ingredients in all the languages! @Silvia_MediaLoc 
  • Be ready to put up with pointless arguments about grammar and etymology when fellow translators are around. @carlosckw
  • If you ask the translation of a word and she doesn’t know it don’t reply “what kind of translator r u?@Laura_Solana
  • Pour son anniversaire, un bon dictionnaire fera toujours l’affaire. @juliettelemerle

Some blog posts on the same topic:

Posts in English, Translation

The Way I Translate

I’ve just finished translating part of a text I’m going to deliver in the next few days (the deadline is on the 10th), and I was reflecting on how I usually translate a written text. I go through these steps:

  1. Read the whole text before translating it (translating the text paragraph by paragraph, not knowing what comes next, doesn’t work for me);
  2. Translate a sentence (I use monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, a collocations dictionary and other online translation resources);
  3. Read the source language sentence to make sure that I translated everything;
  4. Read the target language sentence to make sure that I translated it correctly and used natural Italian (unless it’s for a university assignment, I only translate into my mother tongue);
  5. Translate the rest of the text in the same way;
  6. Proofread the target language text, preferably on a printed version of it.

What about you? Do you use a different method?

Posts in English, Translation

Communication as Translation

This post is about what I learnt in class today.

Each communication act can be considered a translation. Not necessarily should communication acts be between two languages or cultures, you can even “translate” a thought into spoken words, a gesture into an explanation of its meaning and a book into a film, to make some examples.

In the video above there are some examples of translation, even in the broader meaning of the word:

  • Italian gestures are translated using an explanation of their meaning;
  • there’s an oral description, made by one of the travelers, of what a vigile does, and the other one is surprised to hear that in Italy a traffic warden carries a pistol. At the end of the video, there’s the typically Italian applause adressed to the pilot after a plane lands;
  • the captain translates his announcement into English by talking with a very strong Italian pronunciation and, when he doesn’t know how to translate something, he uses onomatopoeia.
  • there’s also the use of subtitles, i.e. a translation from oral verbal language into written one.
Posts in English, Translation

Consecutive Interpreting Techniques Fascinate Me

Yes, you read right.

Since each interpreter has his/her own note-taking style (it can differ in structure, the way words are written/abbreviated, the symbols used or even in the language in which notes are written), I like reading examples of consecutive interpreting notes. Every time I read an interpreter’s notes, I always think nostalgically of interpreting classes I attended during my undergraduate course. While attending my first consecutive interpreting class I might have thought: ‘How will I manage to write all those things while still listening to the speech?’ I remember I had difficulty in splitting my attention between listening and taking notes at first, but I guess everybody went through that stage. You know, interpreters are made, not born. By trial and error, I eventually realized that (worrying about) writing EVERY. SINGLE. THING. was counter-productive, and that it was important to find a balance between listening and taking notes. It’s better to focus on the speech and write only the most important details, the essential ones. My note-taking style improved over time, but I think it’s still improvable. As a saying I particularly like says, practice makes perfect.

I started reading books and online interpreting resources to improve my note-taking, and I always try to use this technique when taking notes because it works for me. Experimenting with different methods while “in training” is okay, but you eventually have to choose one that works for you (it’s the same for symbols and abbreviations). Writing notes horizontally isn’t for me because it takes me a longer time to read them and I would be tempted to write a lot more than I should, which is not good, because I would get distracted. As far as the language used is concerned, I try to stick to the source language but, if I already think of a translation or words/abbreviations of the target language (I even use English words and abbreviations a lot, even when the target language isn’t English), I immediately write it down.

Posts in English, Translation

Happy International Translation Day!

First of all, I’m wishing all translators, interpreters and students specializing in Translation and/or Interpreting a happy International Translation Day, which is celebrated every year on September 30th on the feast of St. Jerome, the Patron Saint of Translators.

According to Wikipedia,

The celebrations have been promoted by FIT (the International Federation of Translators) ever since it was set up in 1953. In 1991 FIT launched the idea of an officially recognised International Translation Day to show solidarity of the worldwide translation community in an effort to promote the translation profession in different countries (not necessarily only in Christian ones). This is an opportunity to display pride in a profession that is becoming increasingly essential in the era of progressing globalisation.

According to the International Translators Association,

[…] the challenge of International Translation Day remains the same: to raise awareness of the translation profession.

For those who didn’t know, St. Jerome is the Patron Saint of archeologists, archivists, Bible scholars, librarians, libraries, schoolchildren, students and translators. You can read about his life and works on this Wikipedia article. Two years ago, Jill Sommers posted a very detailed post about him, which was also about the way he worked as a translator (he revised and translated parts of the Bible into Latin, and awarded sainthood thanks to the services he rendered to the Church). Quoting  the article posted on the TIHOF’s website:

Jerome’s humility regarding his own work set a good example for translators who followed him. He freely admitted ignorance, even embarrassment, when warranted, and revisited some of his translations, making corrections and additions. On the other hand, he also pointed out that a translation’s accuracy depended greatly on the reliability of the source text: copyists often inadvertently introduced errors, which would be compounded and passed down through the centuries.

The International Translation Day has a different theme every year. This year’s theme is Translation Quality for a Variety of Voices.

Many translation-related events are organized on this day. For example, ProZ.com’s Translation3 virtual conference, starting at 10 am GMT, which runs for 12 hours and you can attend for free. Always speaking of ProZ.com, some members even organize pow-wows.

My Writings, Posts in English, Translation

The Translator

Wandering through words
written on a dictionary
like they’re roads
of a Babel that’s contemporary.

Fishing the right meaning
in the definitions river
then you find her moving
it through the foreign language’s mirror.

She’s a translator, a messenger,
a writer, an interpreter
of hidden meanings inside words
stressing on how much they’re worth.

Of course it’s no game,
you can’t run in the fast lane
it takes a thorough reflection,
to do well this profession.

Learn the words, learn their meanings
learn grammar rules, understand the author’s feelings
do research, completely understand a text
pay attention to the tiniest details and all the rest.

© Ilaria – August 15, 2007.

App, siti e risorse utili, Posts in English, Resources, Traduzione, Translation

English-Italian Business Glossary

Last year I made this bilingual (English and Italian) glossary for an English Interpreting exam. It contains marketing, finance, economics and business terms and expressions (one section of the glossary is dedicated to business-related idioms). You can find the references on the last page of the .pdf file (you need Adobe Reader to open it).

You can download it by clicking on the link below:

Ilaria Sclafani – Business English Glossary (.pdf, 1.6 MB)