I was looking at the Thinking Italian Translation book put out by Routledge as part of my thus-far lazy effort to learn Italian. This book is part of a series that also includes Spanish, German, and French. These texts do not teach you the language, but they teach you to think about the language from a translator’s perspective and thus they’re quite useful both for translators and for language-learners (well, for language-learners of a certain nerdy inclination, like yours truly).
There is some basic information, such as explanations of sociolect, adverbs, code-switching, and calques, among other topics, and there is information on scientific and technical translation and legal and business translation. Throughout the book, there are a number of examples, tips, and practical exercises. There are also several chapters on contrastive linguistics, in which the authors compare and analyze linguistic features in English and Italian, such as the conditional tense.
One thing many translators (and other people who run their own small businesses) tend to worry about is what will happen if they turn down a job. They fret, saying things such as, "If I say no to this particular job, the client will never ask me to do anyting again. And s/he won't recommend me to anyone else either." This leads to a situation where many translators (myself included) take on more work than they handle and thus find themselves stressed and overworked. Okay, I can admit that I personally prefer being stressed and overworked to not having any jobs at all, but it's actually not an ideal situation.
So is it true that if you say no to a client once, that means never hearing from him or her again? I would say that this depends on how you say no. Do not say no without explaining why. And always say you are looking forward to hearing from that client again at some point.
If you are turning a job down because you simply do not have the time, explain that, and make sure you add, "Thank you for asking me. I hope you will think of me again in the future."
If you are turning a job down because it is not in your area of expertise, recommend an appropriate colleague (or give a link to where the client can find a translator, such as the Swedish Association of Professional Translators) and remind the client what your particular speciality is.
The point is that even as you say no, do so politely and helpfully, while also subtly telling the customer you will be available in the future for other assignments.
It's true that once clients have found a good translator who delivers on time, charges a fair price, and is professional to work with, they might be unwilling to switch to someone else, partially due to inertia. So if you say no once and the client finds another translator who fulfills the requirements, you may not hear from that person again. But if you are selective about which projects you take on, which clients you choose to work with, and when and how you turn down assignments, it is likely that you will build up a stable of customers who return to you over and over again, even if sometimes you have to reject certain jobs.
I often get emails from people who ask me for reading lists and while I don't think I should do people's research for them, as I've said before, I can provide some suggestions. And if any readers come up with other books and articles that could be of use, feel free to add them in the comments.
So, for the first such list, I thought I'd offer some good introductory texts on translation. These will serve as a useful academic basis for a deeper understanding of what translation is and what translators do.
Mona Baker: In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation
Basil Hatim and Ian Mason: Discourse and the Translator
Clifford E. Landers: Literary Translation: A Practical Guide
André Lefevere: Translating Literature: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature Context
Jeremy Munday: Introducing Translation Studies
Peter Newmark: Approaches to Translation
Peter Newmark: A Textbook of Translation
Eugene A. Nida and Charles R. Taber: The Theory and Practice of Translation
Christiane Nord: Translating as a Purposeful Activity: Functionalist Approaches Explained
Gideon Toury: Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond
This is just to mark that there have now been 400 posts on Brave New Words, amounting to close to 130,000 words. Thank you to everyone who reads this blog and thank you, too, for all your comments and emails.
I know that it isn't always practical or feasible to publish bilingual editions of translations, but when possible, I think publishers should do so. Such editions are good for language-learners, of course, and I remember a bilingual version of Carlos Fuentes' book Aura that I read when I was learning Spanish many years ago. But they are also great for people who are interested in translation, because then we can analyze the original and the translation in a convenient way.
I was thinking about this recently while reading a bilingual edition of Edward Lear's nonsense limericks, as translated to Spanish by a student of mine, Matías Godoy, and published by Destiempo Libros. Here, for example, is one page in the book:
Había una joven con una quijada Igual a la punta de una larga espada; Mandóla afilar, compróse un citar, Y así tocó música con su quijada.
There was a Young Lady whose chin Resembled the point of a pin; So she had it made sharp and purchased a harp, And played several tunes with her chin.
It's really nice to be able to see Lear's original with Godoy's translation. Poetry is particularly well-suited to bilingual editions due to its length, but I wonder if, as more people gain a deeper understanding of translation and what it involves, publishers might start to publish bilingual editions of prose as well.
Originally from Chicago, I lived in southern Sweden for nearly 5.5 years, and moved to southern Wales in September 2006. I completed a Ph.D. translation studies in June 2009 at Swansea University, with a dissertation on the translation of children's literature.
Now I live in Norwich, England, where I am a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, and I also work as a translator, writer, and editor.
Contact me at bravenewwords (AT) gmail (DOT) com.