Having read Paul Sutton's excellent critical appraisal of the translating
"Sounding the Language-Elephant's Trumpet," I would like to take up a point
he raised on a translator's function when faced with a poorly written source
language copy. Should translators act as copy-writers and improve on the original copy,
using guesswork on the intended meaning and thus risking misunderstanding,
should they only act as translators, that is maneuver within the confines
the original template? Challenging as translating a bad copy seems
to be, the latter case would even be more so, as the target language's
equivalent register or idiolect (using author's expression) would have to be
found. An effort in this sense would not bring the gratitude deserved, as a
translator will be judged and misjudged on the basis of the end product,
without taking into account the original. Thus, a translator has a
vested interest in acting as a copy-writer, as his or her work
will be evaluated on the basis of correctness of the target-language text. But
if a translator misinterprets the author's intentions? He or she will then
to deal with a disgruntled client.
I am inclined to consider a translator as a go-between, whose function is
limited to transfer of a message from one language to another. This implies
that if the meaning is blurred in the source language, so it should be in
the target language. If the source language copy sounds clumsy and
unprofessional, so should the target one,
unless a client specifically commissions a re-write of the original copy.
But should the fees reflect this?
There's always the third optionto refuse taking on a badly written copy.
But if a
high percentage of technical copies are bad, then that's not a real option
Halina Arendt, London, England
An excellent read Paul! You may even be surprised to learn that I agree with just about everything you say. Well written too, which nicely supports your thesis on writing skills.
Best wishes from Lisbon and, occasionally Toulouse and the Tarn & Garonne.
Steve Dyson, Lisbon, Portugal
I concur entirely with Mr. Gerasimov's experience. Working with translation
agencies can be stressful for many reasons. I have been searching for direct
clients in the healthcare/medical industry, and have been attending job fairs
specialized in this industry. The results in the last two months of search
have not been positive. I would like to ask Mr. Gerasimov, or any one
concerned reading this e-mail, for suggestions and more ideas on how to
approach potential clients in the medical industry with the purpose of
establishing a direct business relationship.
I have had the fortune to work as in-house translator for a prominent medical
instruments manufacturer in Southern California for quite a few years. At
that time, I had answered a Classified on the local paper.... I guess it
lucked out then!! I still work as a freelance for this great company, but
would like to expand my client database.
Michela Santostefano, Lisbon, Portugal
I would like to comment on the reasons Andrei Gerasimov has enumerated
against test translations. I agree with them all, but point 5 in which
he claims that somebody else rather than an applicant himself could have a
hand in producing a test translation. I see no reason why this should not
be acceptable to all parties concerned. A client is only interested in
procuring a quality product irrespective of whether it is produced by an
individual or a team of translators, as long as it is within a designated
budget. If a supplier can produce a satisfactory free test piece, the
assumption is they can supply a satisfactory payable translation by whatever
their methods of work. I myself for instance, work totally on my own, as I
do not know any other translators and even if I did, I wouldn't like to
share my scarce assignments and income from them. Should a payable
translation not match up the standard of a test piece, it will sooner or
later become evident to the client and affect the suppliers' credibility.
I would also like to take this opportunity to confirm the statement on the
Surrey Translation Bureau run by John Cooke, as I had a misfortune to deal
with him myself and have written him off as a bad debt. Living about 20
miles away, I have heard various stories about the messy way he runs
Halina Arendt, London, England
This is only to confirm that what Mr. Gerasimov says is absolutely true also
according to my experience, although I couldn't say I took contacts with
Giuseppina Gatta, Bari, Italy