Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Translation and the Economy

Lots of translators have mentioned being hit by the downturn in the economy. It makes sense -- if customers are going to cut corners somewhere, they'll often do it by skimping on quality translation (or editing or writing). As it is, many clients grumble about the supposedly high prices that a good translator charges, so this is a good excuse for them to find cheaper translators (often in far-away countries where the costs of living are much lower but where people may not be experienced with the source or target languages).

I rarely do work for agencies, but I am still listed in several agency databases from the early stages of my career, when I did take on such work. For this reason, I have received several emails in recent times from agencies. These messages subtly offer the following message: Times are bad, so lower your prices or you won't get work from us anymore. Agencies don't pay translators that well anyway, and it saddens me to think about all the ways agencies and direct clients are finding ways of not paying translators what they are worth.

Personally, I am not lowering my prices. My services are worth just as much, if not more, as they were a year ago. I hope my colleagues will consider keeping their prices the same, too, so that clients won't start taking us for granted. They get what they pay for and they should be willing to pay well for good translators, financial depression or not.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Round-Up of Articles

Time for another round-up of articles.

First, an article on apostrophe usage, which three different people sent me this article; that’s how well-known my obsession with apostrophes is!

Next, a piece by Lawrence Venuti, who is always interesting to read.

An article on spelling.

Then an article about translated literature in Sweden.

Finally, here is some interesting reading on the income of literary translators and related issues.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Translators as Readers

I like to think I’m always a fairly close reader, but I’ve noticed over the years that I seem to get more out of a text when I’m translating it. That’s not really surprising, considering how translators have to pay close attention to every aspect of a text in terms of both meaning and form, but it does make me wonder how translators develop such good reading skills and whether this can be taught, and also whether translators might in some situations make better critics than those who don’t work with language in the same way (obviously, some writers, too, may be good critics, but there are plenty of people who write book reviews but do not seem to have much writing or translating experience themselves).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tim Ferriss on Learning Languages

Someone keeps recommending Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Workweek to me, but I just haven’t had time for it yet (maybe I should outsource the reading to someone else!). I have, however, had some time to look at his blog. Some of his posts on learning languages are pretty interesting.

Check out his advice this post on learning any language in three months, and this one on learning languages in an hour, and finally this post on reactivating previously known languages. What do you think of his advice?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Translator’s Diary

Erik Andersson’s published diary, called Översättarens anmärkningar, from his work doing a new translation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to Swedish in 2002-2005 reveals his concerns and thoughts about a variety of topics regarding Tolkien’s classic text. It is very interesting to read about Mr. Andersson’s experiences translating this book. Some entries, all he writes is how many words he translated that day, or he discusses the physical pain that can come from sitting by your computer all day, but most of the time, he explores the challenges involved in crafting a fresh translation of a well-known text.

Some of his most interesting passages are in reference to names. Tolkien clearly spent a lot of time choosing the names, and other features of the text, and he even wrote a list of instructions for his translators. Also, Mr. Andersson had the additional complication that there was an already existing translation of the book, including the names, and Tolkien fans had strong opinions about what should be retained in the new translation and why. Mr. Andersson explains the problem of translating names as follows:

Tolkien has had certain ideas for the names, but he wouldn’t choose a name that didn’t have euphony. From the euphonic, one can always rationalise to the meaning, but the question is whether the process can go in reverse. Can I go from the meaning and rationalise to the euphony? (Here are all translation problems in a nutshell.) (20-1, my translation)

I think Mr. Andersson’s book offers a lot of insight into the translation process and thus would be of interest to translators themselves, Tolkien enthusiasts, and others who would like to learn about what it means to translate literature. As of now, it’s only in Swedish, but perhaps it will be translated, and maybe the translator of Mr. Andersson’s work will write an accompanying book about the challenges of translating Översättarens anmärkningar.