There are two basic truths which apply to the profession of translation: we learn from our mistakes; and we learn from other people.
If we are fortunate, we find our errors before delivering our work, or translation errors are discussed with us by mentors, project managers at agencies, or revisors. If we have an open, communicative approach with our direct clients and ask questions when we have translation doubts or cannot figure out what the source text is trying to say, we avoid errors, learn from experts in their field ('other people') and learn how to deal with similar problems in the future.
None of us can know everything. Sharing knowledge is important. We all have the ability to learn new things throughout our lives.
If, as translators, we maintain a dialogue about the translations that we do, receive feedback and accept criticism with maturity with a view to improving our skill, and do this repeatedly for many years under very many circumstances, we suddenly find that one day we are what others call 'experienced'.
What do we do with all this experience? Apart from apply it to our daily work, I mean. It is a natural impulse to give others the benefit of our experience, either for a fee, which is to be expected in business, or as a kind of community service so that other translators can learn from the insights we have gained. We pave the way for those who follow us, just as the way was paved for us by people who cared enough to point us in the right direction. This happens in all professions. It happens in the world of translation too.
The Internet makes it easy
The Internet, websites, blogs and social media platforms make the sharing of knowledge and experience easier than it has ever been before.
Wissenswinkel is a German-language knowledge base for translators; an excellent initiative launched by two very experienced translators, Sabine Lammersdorf and Giselle Chaumien. So that the content of this well-organised, interesting website reaches a greater audience, they have called for volunteers to translate articles of their choosing into English. You can read the article I translated, entitled Paving the way to being a professional: strategy and goals, here.
Although there is much controversy centred around the merits or otherwise of 'translating for free', I think in this case that it is a fine idea. I blog 'for free' on translation matters, so why not translate someone else's blog as a service to the translation community?
Collaboration is key
You will hear me saying 'collaboration is key' a lot.
I first noted my thoughts on the collaborative aspect of translation in a guest blog produced - you guessed it! - in collaboration with Catherine Jan on her blog, Catherine Translates. I say collaboration because the draft submitted to Catherine was a little over 4,200 words. Her pertinent comments helped me rewrite the article so that the final product is about half that length. Catherine is also the one who taught me - in action - about the effectiveness of sub-titles, by the way.
If collaboration is key, so too is revision of your translation by a translator who knows your work well.
My revisor for the Wissenswinkel blog has been revising my work in her capacity as a translation agency owner and professional translator since 2011. I was glad that she agreed to join me in this small voluntary effort since she was the natural choice as my second pair of eyes for this document to which we have 'signed our names'.
What does a revisor do?
After all these years, why does a translator like me need a revisor? Surely I know what I am doing by now? Oh, yes, I do! That is precisely why I value revision of my work.
A revisor checks the accuracy of the target text against the source text. Other checks include typographical, grammatical and spelling errors. What about legitimate doubts which arise as a result of typographical errors in the source text? Did you know that punctuation rules are different in other languages? Punctuation in the translated text has to be checked too. Then there are numerous harder to define aspects, such as consistency of style, tone and flow. All these factors help to create document cohesion. Document cohesion? Document cohesion is achieved when you cannot tell that the text produced is a translation, when the text 'hangs together' and makes sense as a whole.
One last thing
That article I translated wasn't that hard, was it? No, not really. So, what have I highlighted in yellow in the image of this short text above?
Just for fun, after the translation had been posted, I went through the text again and identified the main places in this so-called easy text where a degree of extra finesse was required or serious translation choices had to be made. To do this, I used my in-built 'red-flag system'. Quite a lot of yellow, don't you think, for an easy, non-technical, non-specialised text?
My red-flag system identifies all the places this text could sound like a translation, if I were not careful. I daresay my revisor has a red-flag system of her own especially for revision work, and would paint quite a different picture than the one above. She brings a different perspective to the work; she is my safety net.
Of course, it is possible for a translator to manage these things all on their own. Without the safety net of a competent revisor, however, you can never be sure. And you cannot learn from your mistakes or share knowledge. A good translator brings out the best in a good revisor - and a good revisor brings out the best in a good translator. And that paves the way for a professional translation.
©2015 Allison Wright
This blog will focus solely on aspects related to translation.