The perks of being a translator

One of the perks of being a translator is that it allows you to be a (better) reader. They say that translators are better at playing Trivial Pursuit since they need to know about many different subjects and knowledge areas. The thing about translating books is that you are bound to read many different stories, some of which you probably wouldn’t choose to read given the chance.

I remember one of the first serious translations I did was about the Komodo dragon. I hadn’t even heard about it before the task was commended to me so I had to do some research about this wonderful creature and I learnt many things along the way.

At college, they told us how to “properly” translate – that is – the steps you need to follow in the translation process:

Ideally, you would start with an initial reading, from which you would just infer the meaning or purpose behind the text.

Secondly, you would re-read the text, focusing in the details with a more specific look (i.e. underlining the words or expressions that you’re not familiar with).

Before getting on with the translation, you would research those concepts that you have found during the second read and also you could get a bit of context on the subject of the original text.

The fourth stage would be the translation itself, now that you understand the purpose of the text and you have made your little research. You must expect further research during this stage too.

Finally, and always before delivering the translated text to the person who requested it, you should correct it (even double-correct it!) paying attention not only to possible grammar/vocabulary mistakes but also to style and general cohesion.

Those are the ideal stages of translation but now, practically speaking, this scenario is not possible in many occasions, especially when you need to deliver the translation yesterday (not a mistake…) and you won’t have time to go through all those steps.

Maybe you think that a book for children can’t possibly have so many things to research (unless it’s a non-fiction book, mind you) but we have to take into account the possible cultural references that need to be checked (specific food references from the country of origin, for instance), or the rhymes, the nonsense, etc.

A positive trait of translating children’s books, though, is that since the amount of text is -usually- inferior to an adult novel, there is a higher chance that the translator will be able to read it and re-read it a couple of times or more.

Since I’m doing this project on my own and I am my own boss (wu-huu!), I get to decide the deadline and therefore have a better chance to soak in the beautiful books I’ve chosen to represent the different countries of the world.

I get to read hundreds of books from hundreds of countries and they open to me so I can get a glimpse of their culture and there is nothing more beautiful than that. With the limited amount of time we have in our lives, reading a book from a different part of the world is the cheapest way to travel and a very efficient way of learning something wonderful about those places.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”, Dr Seuss

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