9 translators on what they love about translation
To celebrate the International Translation Day, we called on several translators and asked them what their favorite thing about translating is.
Corinne McKay | French to English
A colleague recently commented that, ‘translators know things that almost nobody else knows’, and that’s what I love most about my job. I’ve translated brochures about pneumatic trash collection systems, cards for a zombie-themed role-playing game, reports about polio vaccination programs and the autobiography of a Sherpa from the 1950s. Very few people ever learn about these topics, much less get paid to read and write about them; that’s why being a translator is the best job for people who love languages!
Corinne McKay is French to English Translator and American Translators Association Board member. You can find her website at www.translatewrite.com.
Carolyn Yohn | French and Hungarian to English
They say reading offers you windows to other worlds. With translation, I get to build those windows for other people, one sentence at a time. Sometimes, I even get to build doors – for refugees looking for a safer place to raise a family, for inventors seeking buyers or producers for their new technology, for international couples preparing to commit to a life together. It’s an honor to be involved in such pivotal moments of strangers’ lives.
I also have the rare privilege of walking freely through these worlds that non-translators only catch glimpses of. Translation requires an intimate knowledge of both cultures involved. In an odd anthropological twist, I almost have to become the Other in order to properly comprehend the subtleties of the ideas I am asked to transmit across the language divide. This adds thrill to travel and to my everyday experiences: at all moments, in all places, I am both local and foreign.
This privilege may become less rare. Forty-five percent of Californians now speak a language other than English at home. The lines between local and foreign are blurring for the average monolingual American, too. This is beautiful and exciting. As translation grows in importance to the mainstream, there are so many windows and doors being built – so many opportunities!
Carolyn Yohn has been translating French and Hungarian into English since 2010. Her first book-length translation — Comments on the North American Travels of La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, 1794–1798 — hits the shelves on November 20, 2015. Learn more about the doors she can open for you at www.untangledtranslations.com.
Rose Newell | German to English
Hard question! As a reader, I love the diverse range of texts I have the opportunity to read. As a writer, I love the chance to tease original ideas out of one language and weave them into another. As a human being, I love the interaction I have with my clients and hearing their delighted feedback. Clients often even send me copies of the final, printed products or links to the finished websites, and let me know how they got on. I love that.
To answer the question, I think what I love most is success: not just my own, but helping people I form a connection with to succeed. Nothing feels better than knowing you helped a great idea gain traction with a broader, international audience. Translators help great ideas grow.
Rose Newell is a German-to-English translator and copywriter specializing in high end, high tech, and high finance. You can learn more about her work at englishroseberlin.com (English) or englishroseberlin.de (German).
Suyash Suprabh | English, German, and Italian to Hindi
What I find most interesting about translation is the fact that it gives you an opportunity to live different lives through different languages. Each language is different and has its own world. Another important thing is that translation helps you to know about both strengths and weaknesses of your native language. Some scientific and technical concepts are easily expressed in English, but require a great deal of effort to express in Hindi. It is not that Hindi lacks the capacity to express such ideas. It is because Hindi doesn’t have the opportunity to be a language of science and technology due to historical factors. Translators keep on finding new ways to express new ideas in their native language. Last but not least, translation has given me the satisfaction of contributing to my native language. Hundreds of sentence structures and idioms have been included in Hindi by translators. It is really surprising that more translators are not aware of this contribution to their native language.
Suyash Suprabh translates from English, German, and Italian into Hindi and you can find his writing on translation at ontranslationandwords.blogspot.in (English) and anuvaadkiduniya.blogspot.in (Hindi).
Timothy Barton | French, Spanish, and Catalan to English
What stands out for me is the variety of things I learn while working. As a translator I’ve learnt about higher education systems in different European countries, the make-up of African and Latin American economies, the technical and tactical aspects of transatlantic sailing, the history of Spain, the graphic design process from start to finish, how small businesses operate and what services they offer, and a vast range of other fascinating information. What’s more, my translations have given a much wider audience access to this information.
Timothy Barton translates from French, Spanish and Catalan to English, specializing in economics, sport and higher education. You can learn more about his work at www.anglopremier.com.
Emma Goldsmith | Spanish to English medical translation
I love unravelling a complex medical text in Spanish and putting it together again in English. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You have all the pieces and a picture of how it should look. You size up the pieces against each other, put some to one side and try others with a different shade of the same colour. You take a step back, to get a better perspective. And all of a sudden you have it: the whole picture.
With translation, pieces are missing from the box. I have to look up terms and context in dictionaries and subject-specific resources. But I still get that exciting feeling of achievement when it all comes together and the whole picture has been rebuilt.
That’s what I love about translating.
Emma Goldsmith is a Spanish to English medical translator, and you can learn more about her work at www.goldsmithtranslations.com.
Judy and Dagy Jenner | Spanish, English, German, and French
What we love the most about translating is the fact that we play a small part in making global communication possible.
Judy and Dagy Jenner are translators who work with Spanish, English, German, and French (and others through their partners). To learn more about them, you visit www.twintranslations.com.
Elizabeth Adams | Russian to English translator
Working as a translator is like getting paid to solve puzzles all day. Sometimes the puzzles are easy and you speed through them, other days they’re like monster brain teasers that follow you from your desk to the grocery store to the dinner table to the shower. And then something clicks and the answer is right there. You found it! Or did it find you? Either way it’s a good day’s work.
Elizabeth Adams translates business, legal and creative texts from Russian into English for clients around the world. You can learn more about her work at www.languagedigger.com.