A Practical Guide for Translators TOPICS IN TRANSLATION Series Editors: Susan Bassnett, University of Warwick, UK Edwin Gentzler,University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA Editor for Translation in the Commercial Environment: Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown,University of Surrey, UK TOPICS IN TRANSLATION Editor for Translation in the Commercial Environment: Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown A Practical Guide for Translators (Fifth Edition) Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown MULTILINGUAL MATTERS Bristol • Buffalo • Toronto Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Samuelsson-Brown, Geoffrey A Practical Guide for Translators/Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown. 5th ed. Topics in Translation Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Translating and interpreting. I. Title. P306. S25 2010 418’. 02n-dc22 2010005062 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue entry for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN-13: 978-1-84769-251-1 (hbk) ISBN-13: 978-1-84769-259-7 (pbk) Multilingual Matters UK: St Nicholas House, 31–34 High Street, Bristol BS1 2AW. USA: UTP, 2250 Military Road, Tonawanda, NY 14150, USA. Canada: UTP, 5201 Dufferin Street, North York, Ontario M3H 5T8, Canada. Copyright © 2010 Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown. All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Typeset by Techset Compostion (P) Ltd, Salisbury, UK. Printed and bound in Great Britain by Short Run Press Ltd. Contents Belinda: Ay but you know how we must return good for evil Lady Brute: That must be a mistake in the translation Sir John Vanbrugh, 1664–1726
I am grateful to the following for permission to reproduce extracts from various publications: British Standards Institute. Extract from The Guinness Book of Records 1993, Copyright © Guinness Publishing Limited. The Institute of Translation and Interpreting, The Institute of Linguists and the Federation Internationale de Traducteurs for permission to quote freely from the range of publications issued by these professional associations for translators. ASLIB for permission to use extracts from chapters that originally appeared in The Translator’s Handbook, 1996, Copyright © Aslib and contributors, edited by Rachel Owens.
Special thanks go to Gordon Fielden, past Secretary of the Translators’ Association of the Society of Authors, for allowing me to reproduce extracts from his informative papers on copyright in translation. Last but not least, thanks as always to my wife and best mate Geraldine (who is not a translator – two in the family would probably be intolerable! ) for acting as a guinea pig, asking questions about the profession that I had not even considered. Thanks also for lending a sympathetic ear and psychologist’s analytical viewpoint when I have gone off at a tangent. x Foreword to the Fifth Edition What is a translator? An easy question if you know the answer. What makes a good translator? Once again, easy if you know the answer. How do I become a translator? Well, now we are heading into a mine? eld; the answer to this one depends greatly on who is asking the question and probably more importantly on who is answering it. In what order would you expect these questions to be asked? It may surprise readers to learn that the third question is invariably asked ? st; the daily life of the secretariat of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting includes answering this question in phone calls and emails. This is not to suggest that those asking necessarily have the answers to the ? rst two questions; no, it is more the point that they do not have suf? cient information to realise the need to understand these vital questions before asking how to become a translator. A practical guide to anything can often be worth its weight in gold, for example, my DVD player, the rules of American Football and my car air-conditioning system.
Such guides run to around 10 or so pages, but I usually end up asking one of my children to press the right buttons or explain the role of a Running Back. On the other hand, we have A Practical Guide for Translators, 200 pages packed to the bindings with advice, explanations and must-have information. It is written with a clear, structured approach that does not confuse the beginner to the profession, neither does it seek to teach the oldtimers how to suck eggs. Now in its ? th edition Geoffrey has created a model from which translators at any level of experience and professionalism can learn and enjoy. Which returns me to my earlier questions – my advice to anyone thinking of becoming a translator or just starting out would be to read this guide to understand why they need to ask the other two questions ? rst, and then read it again to understand the answer to the third question. Alan Wheatley General Secretary Institute of Translation and Interpreting xi Preface to the Fifth Edition The wisest of the wise may err Aeschylus, 525–456 BC
In the early 1990s, after teaching Translation Studies at the University of Surrey for seven years at undergraduate and postgraduate level, I felt there was a need for practical advice to complement linguistics and academic theory. A Practical Guide for Translators grew from this idea. The ? rst edition was published in April 1993 and I have been heartened by the response it has received from its readers and those who have reviewed it. I am most grateful for the comments received and have been mindful of these when preparing this and previous revisions. I started translation as a ull-time occupation in 1982 even though I had worked as a technical writer, editor and translator since 1974. In the time since, I have worked as a staff translator and freelance as well as starting and building up a translation company that I sold in 1999. This has given me exposure to different aspects of translation as a practitioner, project manager and head of a translation company. It is on this basis that I would like to share my experience. You could say that I have gone full circle because I now accept assignments as a freelance since I enjoy the creativity that working as a translator gives.
I also have an appreciation of what goes on after the freelance has delivered his translation to an agency or client. Trying to keep pace of technology is a daunting prospect. In the ? rst edition of the book I recommended a minimum hard disk size of 40 MB. My present computer (three years old, yet still providing sterling service) has a hard disk of 180 GB, dual-core processor, CD re-writer, DVD, broadband communication and a fairly sophisticated audio system. My laptop has a similar speci? cation that would have been dif? cult to imagine only a few years ago and is virtually a mobile of? e! When looking through past articles that I have written, I came across a comparison that I made between contemporary word processors and the predecessors of today’s personal computers. The following table is reproduced from that article. DFE is the name of a word processor whereas the others are, what I called at the time, microprocessors. This was written in 1979 – 30 years ago. The DFE I purchased in 1979 cost around ? 5400 then, but was a major advance compared with correctable golfball typewriters. Just imagine what ? 400 would be at net present value and the computing power you could buy for the money. xiii A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS System RAM (KB) Disk capacity Standard (KB) Optional (KB) 22 Software included Text processing Yes Data retrieval No Maths Commodore (Wordcraft 80) Eagle (Spellbinder) Olympia (BOSS) 32 950 No 64 64 769 2 ? 140 2 ? 121 – 1 ? 600 + 1 ? 5 MB Up to 192 MB Yes Yes Limited No No No DFE 64 Yes Yes Yes New to this edition are: • • • • • • E-commerce and its application to translation and its impact on inter-personal relations. The added value that translators provide.
Computer-aided translation. Continuous personal development through professional institutes for translators. Planning for retirement. Looking in more detail at the business aspects of translation. Legislation on payment terms for work has been introduced in the United Kingdom, which I welcome. So many freelance translators have terms imposed on them by clients (these include translation agencies and companies! ). More of this in Chapter 4 – Running a translation business. I have also endeavoured to identify changes in information technology that bene? t the translator – I ? d being able to use the Internet for research an excellent tool. The fundamental concept of the book remains unchanged, however, in that it is intended for those who have little or no practical experience of translation in a commercial environment. Some of the contents may be considered elementary and obvious. I have assumed that the reader has a basic knowledge of personal computers. I was tempted to list useful websites in the appendix but every translator has his own favourites. Mine have a Scandinavian bias since I translate from Danish, Norwegian and Swedish into English, so I have resisted the temptation.
I have given the websites of general interest in the appropriate sections of the book. The status of the translator has grown but the profession is still undervalued despite a growing awareness of the need for translation services. The concept of ‘knowledge workers’ has appeared in management speak. The mere fact that you may be able to speak a foreign language does not necessarily mean that you are able to translate. (This xiv PREFACE TO THE FIFTH EDITION does not mean, however, that oral skills are not necessary. Being able to communicate verbally is a distinct advantage. Quite often you will be faced with the layman’s question, ‘How many languages do you speak? ’. It is quite possible to translate a language without being able to speak it – a fact that may surprise some people. Translation is also creative and not just an automatic process. By this I mean that you will need to exercise your interpreting and editing skills since, in many cases, the person who has written the source text may not have been entirely clear in what he has written. It is then your job as a translator to endeavour to understand what the writer wishes to say and then express that clearly in the target language.
An issue that has become more noticeable in the last few years is the deterioration in the quality of the source text provided for translation. There may be many reasons for this, but all present dif? culties to the translator trying to fully understand the text provided for translation. The lack of comprehension is not because of the translator’s level of competence and skills but lack of quality control by the author of the original text. The dif? culty is often compounded by the translator not being able to communicate directly with the author to resolve queries.
A more recent development is that a text for translation may have been written by a non-native speaker. Documentation on any product or service is often the ? rst and perhaps only opportunity for presenting what a company, organisation or enterprise is trying to sell. Ideally, documentation should be planned at the beginning of a product’s or service’s development – not as a necessary attachment once the product or service is ready to be marketed. Likewise, translation should not be something that is thought of at the very last minute.
Documentation and translation are an integral part of a product or service and, as a consequence, must be given due care, time and attention. As an example, Machinery Directive 98/37/EC/EEC speci? es that documentation concerned with health and safety, etc. , needs to be in an of? cially recognised language of the country where the product will be used. In fact, payment terms for some products or services often include a statement that payment is subject to delivery of proper documentation. There is now a European standard for translations. This is EN 15038:2006, which speci? s the requirements for the translation service provider with regard to human and technical resources, quality and project management, the contractual framework and service procedures. In addition to the language and subject skills possessed by a translator, he needs skills in the preparation of documentation in order to produce work that is both linguistically correct and aesthetically pleasing. The two most important quali? cations you need as a translator are being able to express yourself ? uently in the target language (your language of habitual use) and having an understanding of the text you are translating.
To these you could usefully add quali? cations in specialist subjects. The skills you need as a translator are considered in Figure 1. xv A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS There are two principal categories of translators – literary and non-literary. These categorisations are not entirely accurate but are generally accepted. The practical side of translation is applicable to both categories although the ways of approaching subjects are different. Since the majority of translators are non-literary, and I am primarily a nonliterary translator, I feel con? ent that the contents of this book can provide useful advice. Most of the book is however relevant to both categories. Those who are interested speci? cally in literary translation will ? nd Clifford E. Landers’ book Literary Translation – A Practical Guide extremely useful and readworthy. Many books have been written on the theory of translation and are, by their very nature, theoretical rather than practical. Others have been written as compilations of conference papers. These are of interest mainly to established translators and contain both theory and practical guidance.
The use of he/him/his in this book is purely a practical consideration and does not imply any gender discrimination on my part. It is very easy for information to become outdated. It is therefore inevitable that some of the details and prices will have been superseded by the time you read this book. Comparison is however useful. This book endeavours to give the student or ? edgling translator an insight into the ‘real’ world of translation. I have worked as a staff translator, a freelance and as head of a translation company. I also spent around 10 years in total as an associate lecturer at the University of Surrey.
I hope the contents of this book will save the reader making some of the mistakes that I have made. When burning the midnight oil to meet the publisher’s deadline for submission of this book, I am painfully aware of all its limitations. Every day I read or hear about items I would like to have included. It would have been tempting to write about the structure and formatting of a website, running a translation company, the management of large translation projects in several languages, management strategy, international business culture and a host of other related issues.
By not doing so I could take the cynical attitude that this will give the critics something to hack away at, but that would be unkind. I will have to console myself that now is the time to start work on the next edition. I am reminded of John Steinbeck’s words with which, I am sure, every translator will sympathise. To ? nish is sadness to a writer – a little death. He puts the last words down and it is done. But it isn’t really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown Bracknell, March 2010 xvi 1 How to become a translator
They know enough who know how to learn Henry Adams, 1836–1918 People usually become translators in one of two ways: by design or by circumstance. There are no formal academic quali? cations required to work as a translator, but advertisements for translators in the press and professional journals tend to ask for graduates with professional quali? cations and three years’ experience. Many countries have professional organisations for translators and if the organisation is a member of the Federation Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT) it will have demonstrated that it sets speci? standards and levels of academic achievement for membership. The translation associations af? liated to FIT can be found on FIT’s website – www. ?t-ift. org. Two organisations in the United Kingdom set examinations for professional membership. These are the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL) and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI). To gain a recognised professional quali? cation through membership of these associations you must meet certain criteria. Comprehensive details of professional associations for translators in the United Kingdom are given in Chapter 11.
If you have completed your basic education and have followed a course of study to become a translator, you will then need to gain experience. As a translator, you will invariably be asked to translate every imaginable subject. The dif? culty is accepting the fact that you have limitations and you are faced with the dilemma of ‘How do I gain experience if I don’t accept translations or do I accept translations to get the experience? ’. Ideally as a ? edgling translator you should work under the guidance of a more experienced colleague. Do not disregard your dossier of translations made while studying at university.
You will have covered a range of subjects and received feedback from your tutor. You will be unlikely to receive this level of analytical constructive criticism from an agency or client. If you have progressed to studying for an MA you will have reached a very professional level. Continuous personal development with a professional body such as the ITI or the CIoL will stand you in very good stead. 1 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS 1. 1 ‘Oh, so you’re a translator – that’s interesting! ’ An opening gambit at a social or business gathering is for the person next to you to ask what you do.
When the person ? nds out your profession the inevitable response is, ‘Oh so you’re a translator – that’s interesting’ and, before you have a chance to say anything, the next rejoinder is, ‘I suppose you translate things like books and letters into foreign languages, do you? ’. Without giving you a chance to utter a further word you are hit by the fatal catch-all, ‘Still, computers will be taking over soon, won’t they? ’. When faced with such a verbal attack you hardly have the inclination to respond. The skills clusters that the translator needs at his ? ngertips are shown in Figure 1.
Regrettably, an overwhelming number of people – and these include clients – harbour many misconceptions of what is required to be a skilled translator. Such misconceptions include the following: • • • As a translator you can translate all subjects. If you speak a foreign language ipso facto, you can automatically translate into it. If you can hold a conversation in a foreign language, then you are bilingual. Cultural understanding What influences the development of the source language National characteristics where the language is spoken Hazards of stereotyping Information technology
Hardware and software used in producing translations Electronic file management E-commerce Project management Resources coordination T erminology research Administration Quality control Translation skills Making decisions Consulting Reflecting Analysing and evaluating Establishing facts Making judgements Language and literacy Understanding of the source language Writing skills in the target language Proof-reading and editing Communication Clarity of expression Establishing rapport Giving and processing feedback Listening and questioning Observing and checking understanding Figure 1.
Translation skills clusters 2 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR • • Translators are mind-readers and can produce a perfect translation without having to consult the author of the original text, irrespective of whether it is ambiguous, vague or badly written. No matter how many versions of the original were made before ? nal copy was approved or how long the process took, the translator needs only one stab at the task, and very little time, since he gets it right ? rst time without the need for checking or proofreading. After all, the computer does all that for you. 1. 2 A day in the life of a translator
Each day is different since a translator, particularly a freelance, needs to deal with a number of tasks and there is no typical day. I usually get up at around 7 in the morning, shower, have breakfast and get to my desk at around 8 just as my wife is leaving to drive to her of? ce. Like most freelances I have my of? ce at home. I work in spells of 50 minutes and take a break even if it is just to walk around the house. I try and take at least half an hour for lunch and try to ? nish at around 5 unless there is urgent work and then I will perhaps work in the evening for an hour or so.
But I do the latter only if a premium payment is offered and I wish to accept the work. If I were to analyse an average working month of 22 possible working days, I would get the following: My average monthly output for these ? fteen and a half effective days is around 28,000 words. If this is spread out over effective working days of six working hours (8 ? 50 minutes in reality), my effective hourly production rate is 300 words an hour. This may not seem a lot but it may be worth considering that to expect to work undisturbed on translation eight hours a day, ? e days a week, is unrealistic. There may Task or item to which time is accounted Translation including project management, research, draft translation, proofreading and editing, resolving queries and administration Of? ce administration including invoicing, purchasing and correspondence (tax issues and book-keeping are dealt with by my accountant) External activities such as networking and marketing Continuous personal development including – and this is not a joke – watching relevant TV programmes or reading articles on subjects in which you have or wish to improve your expertise.
Public or other holidays (say 21 days leave and 7 days public holidays) Time spent on the task Fifteen and a half days Two days One day One day Two and a half days 3 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS also be times when you are physically or mentally unable to work – how do you take account of such eventualities as a freelance? 1. 3 ITI’s peer support group ITI runs two online peer support groups. These are the ITI Professional Support Group (PSG), for translators launching a freelance career, and the ITI Orientation Course, for newcomers to translation. Details of both courses are given below.
ITI Professional Support Group An online course for translators launching a freelance career Who is it for? Do these statements apply to you? • • • • you have quali? cations and experience in a ? eld other than translation on which you can draw in establishing yourself as a translator; you have done some paid translation work, but not enough to earn a living; you are about to launch a freelance translation career; you have joined ITI as an associate or quali? ed member but you are not sure how to go about earning a living from freelance translation work. . 3. 1 Its aims The ITI PSG is a mentoring scheme, run annually for a group of 20–25 members of ITI who are establishing themselves as freelance translators. It is online, so it does not matter where you live. It consists of a set of exercises in which, under the guidance of senior and experienced translators, mentees work on their CVs, business and marketing plan and equipment/ technology plan and gain insight into negotiation with clients and other business skills. Feedback from the mentors is intensive and given through the online group.
Ideas are debated and solutions pooled among the fellow mentees, so that they build up a lasting community of friends and colleagues. In this private, friendly and supportive environment, newcomers gain the con? dence to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by ITI, such as its professional development course, language and subject networks, and regional groups. 1. 3. 2 Who is eligible? Applicants are accepted if they can demonstrate that they are ready to launch a freelance career. Consequently, enrolment on the course is restricted to those who have joined ITI as an associate or quali? d member, and who can devote at least 12 hours a week throughout the course. 4 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR 1. 4 Literary or non-literary translator? Although used quite generally, these terms are not really satisfactory. They do however indicate a differentiation between translators who translate books for publication (including non-? ction works) and those who translate texts for day-to-day commercial, technical or legal purposes. 1. 4. 1 What is literary translation? Literary translation is one of the four principal categories of translation. The others are interpreting, scienti? and technical, and commercial/business translation. There are also specialist ? elds within these categories. Literary translation is not con? ned to the translation of great works of literature. When the Copyright Act refers to ‘literary works’, it places no limitations on their style or quality. All kinds of books, plays, poems, short stories and writings are covered, including such items as a collection of jokes, the script of a documentary, a travel guide, a science textbook and an opera libretto. Becoming a successful literary translator is not easy. It is far more dif? ult to get established, and ? nancial rewards, at the bottom of the scale, are not excessive by any measure. Just reward is seldom given to the translator – for example, the translator of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice doesn’t even get a mention. Your rewards in terms of royalties depend on the quality and success of your translation. You would be well advised to contact the Translators Association (TA) of the Society of Authors on matters such as royalties, copyright and translation rights. 1. 4. 2 Qualities rather than quali? cations When experienced members of the TA were asked to produce a pro? e of a literary translator, they listed the following points: • • • • • • The translator needs to have a feeling for language and a fascination with it. The translator must have an intimate knowledge of the source language and of the regional culture and literature, as well as a reasonable knowledge of any special subject that is dealt with in the work that is being published. The translator should be familiar with the original author’s other work. The translator must be a skilled and creative writer in the target language and nearly always will be a native speaker of it.
The translator should always be capable of moving from one style to another in the language when translating different works. The aim of the translator should be to convey the meaning of the original work as opposed to producing a mere accurate rendering of the words. 5 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS • The translator should be able to produce a text that reads well, while echoing the tone and style of the original – as if the original author were writing in the target language. As is evident from this description, the ? ir, skill and experience that are required by a good literary translator resemble the qualities that are needed by an ‘original’ writer. It is not surprising that writing and translating often go hand in hand. 1. 4. 3 Literary translation as a career Almost without exception, translators of books, plays, etc. , work on a freelance basis. In most cases they do not translate the whole of a foreign language work ‘on spec’: they go ahead with the translation only after the publisher or production company has undertaken to issue/perform the translation, and has signed an agreement commissioning the work and specifying payment.
As in all freelance occupations, it is not easy for the beginner to ensure a constant ? ow of commissions. Only a few people can earn the equivalent of a full salary from literary translation alone. Literary translators may have another source of income, for example from language teaching or an academic post. They may combine translation with running a home. They may write books themselves as well as translate other authors’ work. They may be registered with a translation agency and possibly accept shorter (and possibly more lucrative) commercial assignments between longer stretches of literary translation.
If you are considering a career in literary translation, it is worth reading a companion to this book. It is entitled Literary Translation – A Practical Guide (Ref. 1) and is written by Clifford E. Landers. Clifford E. Landers writes with the clean, refreshing style that puts him on a par with Bill Bryson. His book should be read by all translators – not only because it is full of practical advice to would-be and practicing literary translators but also because it has a fair number of parallels with non-literary translation. The title embodies the word Practical and this is precisely what the book is about.
Practical aspects include The translator’s tools, Workspace and work time, Financial matters and Contracts. These words of wisdom should be read and inwardly digested by all translators – yes, even we non-literary translators who seldom come in serious contact with the more creative members of our genre. Literary translators have a much harder job, at least in the early stages of their careers, in getting established. You probably will not ? nd commissioners of literary translations in the Yellow Pages. In this context Clifford Landers provides useful information on getting published and related issues such as copyright.
Selectively listing the contents is an easy but useful way of giving a ? ve-second overview and, in addition to what it mentioned above, the book also considers Why Literary 6 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR Translation? (answered in a concise and encouraging manner), Getting started, Preparing to translate, Staying on track, What literary translators really translate, The care and feeding of authors, Some notes on translating poetry, Puns and word play, Pitfalls and how to avoid them, Where to publish and so much more. 1. 5 Translation and interpreting
The professions of translation and interpreting are signi? cantly different, but there are areas where the two overlap. As a translator I interpret the written word and the result of my interpretation is usually in written form. I have time to deliberate, conduct research, proofread, revise, consult colleagues and submit my written translation to my client. There are occasions when I need to seek clari? cation from the client, etc. An interpreter interprets the spoken word and does not have the luxury of time nor a second chance to revise the result of the interpretation.
Many translators will have done some interpreting, but this will probably have been incidental to written translation. To ? nd out more about the profession of literary translation, I would recommend you read The Interpreter’s Resource (Ref. 2) written by Mary Phelan. This book provides an overview of language interpreting at the turn of the 21st century and is an invaluable tool for aspiring and practicing interpreters. This guide (with the accent on practical) begins with a brief history of interpreting and then goes on to explain key terms and the contexts in which they are used.
The chapter on community interpreting details the situation regarding community, court and medical interpreting around the world. As with any other profession, ethics are important and this book includes ? ve original Codes of Ethics from different professional interpreter organisations. While this discussion could migrate to other areas where language skills are used, another form of translation is that of forensic linguistics. My experience of this, and that of colleagues, is listening to recordings of telephone calls to provide evidence that can be used during criminal or disciplinary proceedings.
This can present an interesting challenge when various means such as slang or dialect are used in an attempt to conceal incriminating evidence. But let us get back to translation. 1. 6 Starting life as a translator A non-literary translator needs to offer a technical, commercial or legal skill in addition to being able to translate. Fees for freelance work are usually received fairly promptly and are charged at a ? xed rate – usually per thousand words of source text. If you are just starting out in life as a translator, and have not yet gained recognised professional quali? ations (through IoL, ITI or some other recognised national body) 7 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS or experience, you may be fortunate in getting a job as a junior or trainee staff translator under the guidance and watchful eye of a senior experienced colleague. This will probably be with a translation company or organisation that needs the speci? c skills of a translator. Having a guide and mentor at an early stage is invaluable. There is a lot more to translation than just transferring a text from one language to another, as you will soon discover.
You will possibly have spent an extended period in the country where the language of your choice is spoken. Gaining an understanding of the people, their culture and national characteristics at ? rst hand is a vital factor. There is the argument of course that you can translate a language you may not be able to speak. This applies to languages that are closely related. For example, if you have gained ? uency in French you may ? nd that you are able to translate Spanish. This is perhaps stretching the point though.
What do you do when faced with slang words, dialect words, or trade or proprietary names? This is when an understanding of the people as well as the language is useful. If you have worked or lived in the country where the source language is spoken, it is very useful to be able to contact people if you have dif? culties with obscure words that are not in standard dictionaries. If the word or words can be explained in the source language, you have a better chance of being able to provide a correct translation. Some words are really obscure and quite often are not understood by a native speaker.
I recently came across the word ‘Gjutmastarebostader’ in a Swedish text for which the literal translation could be ‘foundry master’s dwellings’. The correct translation in the context of the text is ‘porosity in a casting’. I found an explanation in Swedish after keying in ‘Gjutmastarebostad’ in Google. You will inevitably be doing your work on a computer. Have the patience to learn proper keyboarding skills by mastering the ability to touch type. Your earning capacity will be in direct proportion to your typing speed and, once you have taken the trouble to learn this skill properly, your capacity will far outstrip the ‘two-? ger merchants’. Of all the practical skills you need to learn as a translator, I would consider this one of the more essential and directly rewarding. Let us summarise the desirable requirements for becoming a translator by design: • • • • • • education to university level by attaining your ? rst degree in modern languages or linguistics, spending a period in the country where the language of your choice is spoken, completing a postgraduate course in translation studies, gaining a working knowledge or experience of the subjects you intend translating, getting a job as a trainee or junior translator with a company, learning to touch type, HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR • • an understanding of the necessary IT skills and software used in translation, having the willingness to commit to lifelong learning. This gets you onto the ? rst rung of the ladder. 1. 7 Work experience placements as a student The opportunities for work experience placements as a student are dif? cult to ? nd but extremely valuable if you are fortunate enough to get one. The company that I managed considered applications to determine if there was a suitable candidate and appropriate work that could be offered.
The following is an example of a memo issued with an eightweek programme designed to offer a French university student broad exposure to what goes on in a translation company. Summer placement programme – Cecile X Distribution: All staff Introduction The purpose of this Summer placement with ATS Limited is to provide Cecile with a broad exposure to the different operations that are performed at a translation company, and an appreciation that being a translator is a very demanding and exacting profession.
Where applicable, the relevant procedures in ATS’s Quality Manual shall be studied in parallel with the different operations, for example ATS/OPS 02 Translator Selection. Comments should be invited on the comprehensibility of the procedures by an uninitiated reader. Cecile will be here from 1 July to 31 August and her supervisor will be FS. This responsibility will be shared with those looking after Cecile in the various sections: • • • • Production coordination – KN Proofreading and quality control – AL and SM Administration – JA Freelance translator assessment – MS
I am sure that all members of staff will do their best to make Cecile’s stay with us both enjoyable and rewarding. (continued ) 9 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS Information to be provided Information pack about the company to include • • • ATS’s lea? et in English Organisation chart Copy of ‘A Practical Guide for Translators’ Other information will be provided by the various section supervisors. Translation, proofreading and editing • • • • • • • • • Familiarisation with the C–C project Reviewing ATS’s presentation slides in French Checking overheads produced by SH.
Emphasis on the importance of accuracy Read through the SRDE manual in French and English to provide a concept of what is involved. One-to-one session with SM on the different types of proofreading: proofreading marks as per BS 5261 scan check for information purposes only full checking checking for publication checking documents for legal certi? cation Database management MS will provide an introduction to database management and the way in which freelance translators are selected. The emphasis shall be on stringent criteria for selection and the way in which the information is managed.
KN will supervise an introduction to the way in which database management is used as a tool in production coordination. Weekly reviews FS will hold weekly reviews with Cecile to assess progress and seek solutions to any problems. Place and date 10 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR There are, of course, routine tasks that everybody has to do – these include photocopying and word counting. Make sure that a structured programme is offered, that you are not being used as a dogsbody and that you derive bene? t from the experience.
Since the company offering the placement will incur costs as a result, not least by providing a member of staff as a supervisor and facilities for you to use, you as a student on placement should not expect to receive a salary even though some discretionary payment may be made. You can gain considerable bene? t through meeting experienced practitioners and seeing what goes on in a translation company. You may decide after the placement that translation is not for you. You then have a chance of redirecting your studies. 1. 8 Becoming a translator by circumstance Becoming a translator in this way is a different kettle of ? h. The advantage in this case is that the person concerned will usually have gained several years’ experience in a chosen profession before translation appears as an option. Many people become translators when working abroad, either with their company as a result of being posted to a foreign country or after having married a foreign national and moving to an adopted country. Probably the best way to learn a language is to live in the country where the language is spoken. The disadvantage is perhaps the lack of linguistic theory that will have been gained by a person with a formal education in this discipline.
Are you suitable as a translator? I suppose the only answer is to actually try a translation and see how you feel about it. In my own case, I was working in Sweden as a technical editor in a company’s technological development centre using English as a working language. I did some translation as part of my work and it is from this beginning that my interest in the profession grew. Working as a freelance translator is a fairly lonely occupation. The work is intense at times, particularly when you are up against very tight deadlines. Translators tend not to be gregarious. Initially it is tempting to tackle all subjects.
Ignorance can be bliss, but risky. After all, how do you gain experience if you do no’t do the work? I suppose it is rather like being an actor – if you are not a member of Equity you cannot get a job and, if you do not have a job, you cannot apply to join Equity. (An interesting but not quite parallel situation is that of the non-Japanese sumo wrestler Konishiki. Despite having won the requisite number of tournaments to become a yokozuna or Grand Champion, Konishiki lacked the vital element essential to become a Grand Champion sumo wrestler – a quality called hinkaku. Loosely translated, it means ‘dignity-class’ and it is sumo’s Catch 22.
To become successful in sumo, you need to have hinkaku. But since only Japanese are supposed to understand the true meaning of hinkaku, only Japanese can become Grand Champions. ) 11 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS You will have enough problems to wrestle with, but the opportunity to work as a staff translator will smooth your path. 1. 9 Working as a staff translator Before you consider working as a freelance, you would be well advised to gain at least a couple of years’ experience as a staff translator – if you are fortunate in being offered a position. This offers a number of advantages: • • • • •
An income from day 1 and a structured career path. On-the-job skills development under the watchful eye of an experienced translator or editor. This will save you many attempts at re-inventing the wheel. Access to the reference literature and dictionaries you need for the job. The opportunity to discuss translations and enjoy the interchange of ideas to the extent not normally possible if you work in isolation as a freelance. An opportunity to learn how to use the tools of the trade. If you work with a large company you will have the opportunity of gaining experience and acquiring expertise in that particular company’s industry.
You will have access to experts in the relevant ? elds and probably a specialist library. If you are fortunate, you will be involved in all stages of documentation from translation, proofreading and checking through to desktop publishing. You will also be able to view your work long term. If you work for a translation company, you will be exposed to a broader range of subjects but will not have the same close level of contact with experts. Your work may be restricted to checking and proofreading initially so that you can gain some feeling for the work before starting on translation proper.
The smaller the company, the more you will be exposed to activities that are peripheral to translation. This in itself can make the work more interesting and heighten your sense of involvement. Your choice will be determined by what jobs are on offer and what your own skills and aspirations are. I would advise working for an industrial or commercial company ? rst since working in a translation company often demands more maturity and experience than a newly quali? ed translator can offer. You may wonder how many words a translator is capable of producing in a day.
Having worked together with and consulted other translation companies, the norm for a staff translator is around 1500 words a day or 33,000 a month. This may not seem a lot but there is more to translation than initially meets the eye. Individual freelance translators have claimed a translation output of 12,000 words in a single day without the use of computer-aided translation tools! The most I have completed, unaided, is just over 12 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR 20,000 in three days. This tempo is impossible to sustain because the work is so mentally draining that quality starts to suffer.
Using a translation memory (TM) system I have been able to plough through 36,000 words in six working days. But, as you might surmise, this contained a high degree of repetition. There are occasions when the text presented to you for translation contains a degree of repetition. This is where computer-aided translation comes into play. The way in which this is dealt with is discussed in Chapter 6. Working as a staff translator should provide a structured approach to the work and there should be a standard routine for processing the work according to the task in hand.
Paperwork is a necessary evil or should I say a useful management tool and, if used properly, will make organisation of your work easier. Some form of record should follow the translation along its road to completion. This is considered in detail in Section 8. 10. 1. 10 Considering a job application Any salary ? gures quoted in a book will, by their very nature, rapidly become outdated. Income surveys are carried out from time to time on rates and salaries by the ITI, with results published in the ITI Bulletin. Consult the ITI Bulletin for the latest ? gures.
As in any job, the salary you can command depends on your experience, expertise, any specialist knowledge you may have and, not least, your own negotiating powers. Results of surveys are published from time to time by the professional associations. Job adverts also give some indication of what salary is being offered. When considering a position as a staff translator, make sure that you get a written offer which encloses a job description to indicate your responsibilities, the opportunities for personal development and training, and a potential career path.
Do not forget that you are also interviewing a potential employer to determine whether he can offer the type of work and career development that you are looking for. The following is an actual example of a job offer made to a fresh graduate without any professional experience. When discussing your employment, look also at items that are general and not related speci? cally to the job of translator. These include the following: • • • • What induction procedure does the employer have? What do staff regulations cover? What career structure is in place? What personal and skills development is offered?
Do not forget that you are interviewing a potential employer as much as the employer is interviewing you. 13 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS Candidate Street address Town, County, Postcode PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL Offer of employment – Staff translator and checker Dear (Candidate’s Name), As a result of discussions, and successful completion of two test translations under commercial conditions during your visit, I am pleased to offer you employment at our of? ce in Bracknell. The principal terms of this offer are: Position: Starting date: Working hours: Holidays: Staff translator and checker.
Date. Actual date to be con? rmed by mutual agreement. Full time. 35 hours per week. Core hours 9. 00 to 17. 00 with 60 minutes for lunch. Flexibility subject to approval. 20 days per annum (pro rata for 2010) plus all public holidays. Date The probationary period applicable to new employees is three months. Thus your position will become permanent on (Date) subject to satisfactory completion of this period. The period of notice during this period is one week. The following are your speci? c terms and conditions of service with the company as of 1 March 2010 until further notice.
Position You will be employed as a STAFF TRANSLATOR AND CHECKER. Your principal duties are translation from Norwegian and Swedish into English, and checking other translators’ translations. It is anticipated that your language skills will be extended to Danish through exposure to relevant texts. Salary and bene? ts Your salary as from (date) will be ? XX,000 per annum with the next scheduled salary review on 1 (date). Your salary will be paid monthly in arrears on or about the 23rd of each month. No sickness or injury bene? ts in addition to National Health provisions are provided at present.
The company runs a non-contributory pension scheme in association with High Street Bank plc. You will be eligible for this bene? t after 12 months’ employment with the company. (continued) 14 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR This will be in addition to statutory government provisions that are in operation. Time off will be allowed to attend medical or dental appointments on the understanding that some ? exibility of hours worked is offered in return. Proposed starting date (Date). Actual date to be con? rmed by mutual agreement. Working hours and holiday entitlement Your normal working hours will be between 09. 00 hours and 17. 0 hours with 60 minutes for lunch. Thus the total working hours per week are 35. Flexible hours are permitted providing these are agreed in advance. Your initial holiday entitlement is 20 days paid holiday per calendar year plus all public holidays. If your employment does not span a full year, your entitlement will be calculated on a pro rata basis. Responsible manager Your responsible manager will be JA, Commercial Director. CL will act as your guardian angel – other translation staff can be consulted as appropriate. I will act as your guide and mentor where appropriate through One-to-One Consultations.
Training Training will be carried out on the job and will be supplemented with in-house seminars on work-related tasks. Notice of termination of employment The period of notice of termination of employment to be given by ATS Limited to you is one calendar month. The period of notice of termination of employment to be given by you to ATS Limited is one calendar month. Further education Once you have completed one year of full-time service (date), the company is prepared to consider sponsorship of further education that is pursued through a recognised educational establishment such as a local college or the Open University.
This will form part of your structured career development. Sponsorship is subject to the discretion and approval of the Managing Director. Such further education shall be deemed to be of bene? t to the company. (continued ) 15 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS The company will pay for the cost of the courses you wish to attend, plus the cost of the necessary books and course materials. Course books that are paid for by the company will remain the property of the company and shall be kept in the company’s library once the course is completed.
If you discontinue your employment of your own volition while the course is in progress, or within one year of the course being completed, you will be obliged to reimburse the company to the full extent of the sponsorship of that course. This condition may be waived under special circumstances and at the discretion of the Managing Director. Professional association fees will be reimbursed at the discretion of the company. ACCEPTANCE OF TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE I hereby agree to and accept the above Terms and Conditions of Service. Dated,……………….. (Date). ……………………………………….. (Candidate) Please reply with your acceptance or rejection of this offer by (day and date). A non-disclosure form is also enclosed and requires your signature. We look forward to your joining the team. Yours sincerely, (Signature) Managing Director ATS Ltd. Enc. Staff Regulations Non-disclosure agreement 16 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR 1. 11 Working as a freelance Unrealistic expectations of freelance translators include the following: • • • • • The ability to work more than 24 hours a day. No desire for holidays or weekends off.
The ability to drop whatever you are doing at the moment to ? t in a panic job that just has to be completed by this afternoon. The ability to survive without payment for long periods. … No, that is not really true (unless you allow it to happen! ). The essential attribute you do need is the discipline to structure your working hours. Try and treat freelance translation like any other job. Endeavour to work ‘normal’ of? ce hours and switch on your answering machine outside these hours. There are many temptations to lure the unwary (or perhaps I should ay inexperienced) freelance. There could be unwarranted demands on your time by clients if you allow yourself to be talked into doing an assignment when, in all honesty, you should be enjoying some leisure time. Plan your working hours to allow suf? cient time to recover the mental energy you burn. There are of course times when you need to stretch your working hours. Try not to make a habit of it. If you become overtired it is all too easy to make a mistake. There is the temptation to think that if you take a holiday, your client may go elsewhere.
The answer to that is if your client values the quality of your work then he will come back to you after your holiday. What you can expect to earn as a freelance translator depends on your capacity for work and the fees you can negotiate. Your net pre-tax income, to start with, will probably be in the region of ? 30,000 depending on the language pairs you work with. As you become more experienced, your production capacity will improve. Little differentiation is made in fees offered since translators are inevitably asked, ‘How much do you charge per thousand words? ’ and that is about it.
Certainly, little consideration is made of experience, evidence of specialist knowledge, continuous personal development since qualifying or tangible evidence of quality management. 1. 12 What is the difference between a translation company and a translation agency? One decision you will need to make at one stage is whether to work for translation companies and agencies or whether to try and build up your own client base. There are advantages to both approaches. 17 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS It is perhaps worth giving a brief de? nition of translation companies and agencies.
The former have their own in-house translators as well as use the services of freelances whereas the latter act purely as agencies, or translation brokers, and thereby rely solely on freelances. (I will refer to translation companies and agencies collectively as ‘agencies’ for convenience since this is how clients perceive them. ) If you work for translation agencies you will be able to establish a good rapport. This will ensure a reasonably steady stream of work. You will also have the option of saying ‘No thanks’ if you have no capacity at the time.
It will also keep your administration to a low manageable level. The fees offered by translation agencies will be lower than you can demand from direct clients. But consider the fact that agencies do all the work of marketing, advertising and selling to get the translation assignments. All you need do as a freelance, essentially, is to register with them and accept or reject the assignments offered. Working for translation agencies will also allow you to build up your expertise gradually. Reputable translation agencies also make additional checks on the translations you submit.
They may also spend a considerable amount of time reformatting a translation to suit a client’s requirements. The fact that an agency performs these additional tasks does not in any way absolve you from producing the best possible translation you can for the intended purpose. Some fees offered by agencies are unacceptable. I am in the fortunate position of having years of experience and the con? dence to decline offers of work that I do not ? nd acceptable. In late 2008 I was offered a job in two parts. One part comprised 1400 words for delivery on the date I received the email.
Because of the time difference between the agency’s location and the United Kingdom, the deadline had expired by the time I received the offer! A second part was for 14,000 words for delivery in ? ve working days – a production rate of 2800 words a day. A fee of USD 30. 00 per 1000 words was offered with payment at 45 days. This rate was equivalent to less than GBP 20. 00 per 1000 words. My average rate at the time was more than ? ve times this ? gure. I considered replying to the email stating that the terms were unacceptable but decided to disregard it completely.
A word of caution It is unethical to approach a translation agency’s clients directly and attempt to sell them your services. You may consider it tempting but it is viewed as commercial piracy. (Remember all the legwork done by the agency in cultivating a client. ) It will take you some time to establish a reputation as a translator. That reputation could be damaged irreparably if you attempt commercial piracy. The world of translators is quite small and word gets around incredibly quickly if you act unprofessionally. 18 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR 1. 13 Working directly with clients
If you decide to work with translation agencies, all you need to do is register with a number of them and hopefully you will receive a regular supply of work. The level of administration you will need to deal with will be quite small. You will need to advertise if you want to work directly with clients and this requires quite a different approach. There will be additional demands on your time that will swallow up productive and feeearning capacity. Approaching potential clients directly requires a lot of work. Table 1 will perhaps allow you to make your own judgement.
Working with translation agencies All major agencies advertise in the ‘Yellow Pages’ and are easily accessible A letter will usually suf? ce as an introduction after which you may be asked to complete an assessment form and carry out a test translation Working with direct clients How do you identify potential clients? How do you make yourself known? Who do you contact in a company? You may need to make a number of phone calls before you get to the right person. In fact, you may need to make around 100 phone calls before you can gain a single client You will be lucky to ? d a potential client that does not already have a supplier of translations. You also have to convince a potential client that you have something special to offer Getting paid by some clients can take a long time. Make sure you have written agreement on terms of payment What happens when you go on holiday? It could be an inconvenience being at the beck and call of a client If you produce a satisfactory test translation, you will be listed as a freelance and, hopefully, will receive a regular supply of work that is appropriate for your individual skills Most agencies pay at pre-arranged times.
Make sure you negotiate acceptable terms of business! Holidays are ‘allowed’ You can decide which assignments you wish to accept from a translation agency Table 1. Choosing to work with agencies or direct clients 1. 14 Test translations Some people are a bit tetchy about doing a test translation. After all, you may argue that you have your degree – isn’t that enough? Consider the relatively small amount of time you may have to spend on a test translation – it is not very long. (Would you buy a 19 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS computer or car without testing it ? rst? ) A test usually amounts to a page or so.
I have however seen a case where a potential client has asked for a complete chapter from a book to be translated free of charge as a test! I often wonder if the client concerned had got the whole book translated free of charge by sending a different chapter to the required number of translators. Performing a test translation will give you a chance to shine and could be the start of a long-term working agreement. Most clients demand that translation agencies provide test translations (often several in the same language using different translators). You can image the response from the potential client if the agency declined to provide samples.
Consider the provision of test translations as a way of differentiating yourself from your competitors. I have been translating for more than 30 years and still perform test translations if appropriate. You always have the option to decline if you are not attracted by the proposal. 1. 15 Recruitment competitions Two major users of multilingual skills are the European Community and the United Nations. Both organisations employ a large number of multilingual service providers (translators, checkers, interpreters, lawyers, administrators, etc. ). 1. 15. 1 The European Community
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation is one of the largest translation services in the world. Located in Brussels and Luxembourg, it has a permanent staff of some 1750 linguists and 600 support staff, and also uses freelance translators all over the world. Known as the DGT after its English initials, the service translates written text into and out of all the EU’s of? cial languages, exclusively for the European Commission. Interpretation of the spoken word is the responsibility of the DirectorateGeneral for Interpretation. The quali? cations required depend on the post for which the candidate intends applying.
To give an indication of the quali? cations required for the European Community, a translator is required to have a full university degree or equivalent, two years’ practical experience since graduating, a perfect command of the relevant mother tongue and a thorough knowledge of two other Community languages. An assistant translator is required to have obtained a full university degree within the last three years, a perfect command of the relevant mother tongue and a thorough knowledge of two other Community languages – no experience is required. The European Community announces recruitment competitions for the following organisations: • The Commission of the European Communities The Council of the European Union 20 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR • • • • The European Parliament The Court of Justice The Court of Auditors The Economic and Social Committee The information that follows pertains only to written translation. For information about interpreting you need to apply to the Joint Interpreting and Conference Service. The Commission’s Translation Service consists of large subject-based departments, four in Brussels and two in Luxembourg, which specialise in translating documents relating to speci? c ? elds.
Each department comprises a number of language units, one for each of? cial language of the Union. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • (Balgarski) – BG – Bulgarian ? ? Cestina – CS – Czech Dansk – DA – Danish Deutsch – DE – German Eesti – ET – Estonian Elinika – EL – Greek English – EN Espanol – ES – Spanish Francais – FR – French Gaeilge – GA – Irish Italiano – IT – Italian Latviesu valoda – LV – Latvian Lietuviu kalba – LT – Lithuanian Magyar – HU – Hungarian Malti – MT – Maltese Nederlands – NL – Dutch Polski – PL – Polish Portugues – PT – Portuguese Romana– RO – Romanian ?
Slovencina – SK – Slovak ? Slovencina – SL – Slovene ? Suomi – FI – Finnish Svenska – SV – Swedish Most EU institutions recruit their translation staff through jointly organised open competitive examinations. The exceptions are the Court of Justice and the Council of the European Union, which, in view of their special requirements, hold their own competitions. 21 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS The competitions are held from time to time as vacancies arise for translators into a particular language. They are announced in a joint notice published in the Of? ial Journal bearing a number in the series ‘EUR/LA/ . . . ’, and advertised simultaneously in the press of the language concerned. Competitions for English language translators are advertised in the United Kingdom and in Ireland, and possibly in other countries. Check ISSN 0378-6986 on the Internet for the latest information. The competition consists of written tests (multiple choice questions and translations into English from two other of? cial languages) and an oral test. The competition procedure (from the deadline for applications through to the oral tests) takes 8–10 months on average.
Successful candidates are placed on a reserve list. To ? ll immediate vacancies, unit heads select entrants from the reserve list for further interviews and medical examinations. Those not called for interview, or called but not selected for appointment at this stage, may be recruited as vacancies arise until recruiting from that list closes. The period during which entrants are recruited from the reserve list may be extended. The Commission’s policy is to recruit at the starting grades, which for language staff means LA 8 (assistant translator) or LA 7 (translator).
General conditions of eligibility for competitions for translators or assistant translators Nationality: Candidates must be citizens of a Member State of the European Union. Quali? cations: Candidates must hold a university or CNAA degree or equivalent quali? cation either in languages or in a specialised ? eld (economics, law, science, etc. ). Knowledge of languages: Candidates must have perfect mastery of their mother tongue (own language) and a thorough knowledge of at least two other of? cial EU languages. Translators translate exclusively into their mother tongue. Age: The upper age limits are 45 for LA 8 and LA 7 competitions.
Experience: • • No experience is required for LA 8 competitions, which are open only to candidates who obtained their degree no more than three years before the competition is announced. At least three years’ experience is required for LA 7 competitions. The experience may be in language work or in some relevant professional ? eld (economics, ? nance, administration, law, science, etc. ). Practical information The Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission (DGT) Competitions for translators are normally held every three years for each language, although the interval is sometimes longer. 2 HOW TO BECOME A TRANSLATOR The Commission’s ‘Info-recruitment’ of? ce is open every weekday from 9. 00 to 17. 00, and will answer your questions on any aspect of recruitment to the European Union institutions. Address: 34 rue Montoyer, B – 1000 Brussels Telephone +32. 2. 299. 31. 31 – fax +32. 2. 295. 74. 88. http://ec. europa. eu/dgs/translation/index_en. htm This information was accessed in October 2008. Check the EU’s website below for the latest information. Tests comprise a written element and an oral element. Candidates are ? rst obliged to take an elementary test that comprises a eries of multiple choice questions to assess the following: • • • specialised knowledge of the ? eld(s) covered by the competition and knowledge of the European Community and current affairs, particularly in Europe; logical reasoning ability (numerical, symbolic and spatial, etc. ); knowledge of a second European Community language (chosen by the candidate and speci? ed on the application form). The written tests vary according to the nature of duties. Candidates applying for work as a translator or interpreter must sit special language tests. Successful candidates then go through various selection stages for further assessment.
Suitable candidates are then listed for approval by an appointing authority and may then be invited for a further interview with heads of department at the Commission or any other institution that may be interested in recruiting them. A de? nite job offer may be made after these interviews. Information about forthcoming competitions can be found in the Of? cial Journal of the European Communities. Write to the following address for more information: INFO-RECRUITMENT Recruitment Unit Commission of the European Communities rue de la Loi 200 B-1049 Brussels (http://http://ec. uropa. eu/dgs/translation/workingwithus/recruitment/index_en. htm) 1. 15. 2 The United Nations A competitive examination for editors, translators/precis-writers and verbatim reporters takes place annually in order to establish a roster from which vacancies for editors, 23 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS translators/precis-writers and verbatim reporters at United Nations Headquarters in New York, and at other duty stations (Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi, Beirut and Bangkok) are ? lled. Applicants outside the Secretariat applying for the examination must • • • ave the language that they are translating into as their main language; have a perfect command of English and an excellent knowledge of French and one of the other of? cial languages of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish); hold a degree or quali? cation from a university or institution of equivalent status or hold a university degree from a school of translation. On the basis of the results of this examination, selected candidates are invited for an interview. Candidates who are successful in this examination and are selected for inclusion in the roster are appointed to ? l vacancies as they occur in the Editorial, Translation or Verbatim Reporting Services. When vacancies occur, successful candidates are recruited from the roster, subject to the requirements of the services in terms of expertise and language combinations. The assignments are subject to rotation, and successful candidates are sometimes called upon to serve at other duty stations in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean and Headquarters according to the needs of the organisation. Successful candidates are expected to serve a minimum of ? ve years in language posts.
The selected candidates are normally offered an initial two-year probationary appointment at the P-2 level. Contact information: Examinations and Tests Section Specialist Services Division Of? ce of Human Resources Management Room S-2575-E United Nations Secretariat New York, N. Y. 10017 U. S. A www. un. org/Depts/OHRM/examin/exam. htm During my research, I have been in contact with government organisations that use translation services but generally these have not wished for their details to be published. 24 2 Bilingualism – the myths and the truth
There are no foreign lands, only the traveller is foreign Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850–1894 When I wrote this chapter for the ? rst edition of the book in 1993, I telephoned the ITI with the intention of getting an accepted de? nition of bilingualism. I was informed politely that trying to get an answer would be as pro? table as poking a stick into a hornet’s nest. If you have a copy of the Guinness Book of Records, look up the entry for the person who can supposedly ‘speak’ the most languages. When I wrote the ? rst edition of this book, the entry read, ‘In terms of oral ? ency, the most multilingual living person is Derick Herning of Lerwick, Shetland, whose command of 22 languages earned him victory in the inaugural “Polyglot of Europe” contest held in Brussels in May 1990’. The Guardian newspaper published the obituary of Kenneth Hale, the linguist, on November 10, 2001. He was a professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was said to be ‘the master of more than 50 languages’. The term ‘bilingual’ is very much abused and the number of people who are truly bilingual is very small.
You may have seen job advertisements for a ‘Bilingual Secretary’. I suppose the argument is that a person who is that well quali? ed would not be working as a secretary. (This is no re? ection on the abilities of a good secretary. ) The number of people who are listed in the ITI Directory as being competent to work in more than one language is very small. There is a term called ‘language of habitual use’. You may have learned one language as a child and then moved to a different country. The language of that country will probably become your language of habitual use.
There is also the term ‘main language’ in use in the European Community. The ITI demands evidence of any claim to be bilingual before the person concerned can be listed as having this quali? cation. The ‘main language’ would be the natural choice for listing in the directory. Assessment of any claim for an additional language is done by taking an examination or submitting written evidence in support of the claim. 25 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS 1,123 470 418 372 288 235 235 182 125 124 121 0 200 Chinese Arabic 400 English Portuguese 600 Hindi Japanese 800 1,000 1,200 1,400 Bengali
Spanish French Russian German Figure 2. The world’s major languages Just as a matter of interest, look at Figure 2, which illustrates the number of people (in millions) who speak the world’s major languages, as either their ? rst or second (working) language. Certainly in the Western world, it would appear that English (in its various guises) is the lingua franca. Statistics indicate that as a result of Sweden, Finland and others joining the European Union, English is the most widely used language in the European Union. This is con? rmed by a report in the Financial Times (Ref. ) that quotes an unpublished survey of more than 1 billion document pages translated at the European Commission. This states that 42% were translated from English compared with 40% from French. The IoL publishes a booklet entitled Bilingual Skills Certi? cate and Certi? cate in Community Interpreting. It offers the following de? nitions on bilingualism: Bilingual service providers are people who possess two sets of skills – language and professional skills, so that they can give the same standard of service in the context of two languages and cultures.
In order to provide an equal standard of service to all clients, the people providing the service should have adequate standards of training and quali? cations in both sets of skills. For example, allowing people to give medical advice or gather information upon which medical decisions are made when they are not quali? ed and solely on the grounds that they happen to speak French or Urdu is as bad as giving good medical advice which cannot be understood. Total bilingualism or ambilingualism means having an equal or complete functional competence in two languages, which involves an equal understanding of both cultures.
Bilingualism is usually described as using two languages in daily life – but not necessarily in the same context. Therefore, one can be bilingual but not have a command of both languages in the same subject area. 26 BILINGUALISM – THE MYTHS AND THE TRUTH Bilingual service providers should have an adequate competence in both languages and an objective understanding of the implications concerning both cultures in the subject area in which they work. Being bilingual does not necessarily include the ability to interpret or translate.
This requires additional skills in order to transfer concepts between languages. I have used Swedish as a working language for more than 40 years and have translated the language for almost that length of time. I speak the language almost every day and spend weeks at a time working in Sweden. Yet I would shy clear of submitting a translation into Swedish unless it were to be used purely for information purposes. Yes, you may be able to translate quite correctly into a foreign language but it will eventually become evident that the translation was not written by a ‘native’.
The only way to get around this is to get the text checked by a ‘native’, but this is usually an unsatisfactory compromise. Probably the least satisfactory task is ‘laundering’ a text produced by a non-native speaker and given to you with the bland statement, ‘I’ve already translated this, will you please have a quick look at it just to check the English’. More often than not, it is quicker to translate the piece afresh. The person submitting the request is under the illusion that he is saving money in this way. He will no doubt have spent some considerable time on producing the draft and it is dif? ult to tell the person concerned that the time may have been less than productive. An example is given in the appendix. You can, of course, learn something from the terminology used in some cases. If I do not feel happy about accepting a ‘laundering’ assignment, I will politely decline the offer and explain the reasons why. The following is an example of such a text written by a Swede. It took the best part of an hour to try and make sense of what was written, whereas a clean translation from Swedish into English would have taken half the time. Asterisks are used to disguise the guilty.
There are times when your diplomacy will be tested since there are people who, having a knowledge of a foreign language, will question your use of that language. Let us assume for the sake of example that this is English. Such people come in a number of categories: • • Those who have a basic knowledge of English and who wish merely to criticise either to demonstrate their knowledge or just for the sake of it. I have seen many cases where people have ‘corrected’ a translation and have introduced errors. To these people all you can do is point out the error(s) and perhaps explain what would be the consequence of retaining it (them).
Those whose style differs from yours. If this style is more appropriate, then accept it. After all, the client should know his business and you should be receptive to constructive comments. 27 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS ********* HOLIDAY Version Europe The Christmas catalog will give your customers ideas for Christmas gifts! The consumer will ? nd inspiration and new ideas. CHRISTMAS WISHES! You can reach your customers directly! Use your stores register of addresses for direct mailing! You will ? nd the name of your store in the catalog. How many cataloges do you need?
We need you order at latest the 15th of October. HOLIDAY ADVERTISING ********* will make a double spread in important interior magazins. How do you do your local advertising for Christmas? ********* will as usual do ready made advertising material for that, both in color and in black and white. Please, contact ********* for material. CHRISTMAS DECORATION CARD To each member of the Marketing program 2002, we will send instore material to give extra attention to ********* in your store. • Those who can offer constructive comments in terms of terminology – again, here is an opportunity to enhance your expertise.
The letter below is not untypical. It was sent to a large number of potential clients in the United Kingdom from an estate agent in Sweden with the aim of attracting interest in a property just north of Stockholm. Only the names have been removed to protect the guilty. I later heard a comment from a cynic who reckoned that the letter was written in this way to guarantee that it would be the centre of discussion! Be philosophical – you can always learn from the mistakes of others. 2. 1 Target language and source language These are convenient terms and are really self-explanatory.
The source language is the language you are working from whereas the target language is the language you are 28 BILINGUALISM – THE MYTHS AND THE TRUTH working into (your language of habitual use). Most people charge according to the number of words in the source language since this is what is supplied by the client. There has been, and will continue to be, heated discussion on which is the most appropriate method, but this book is not the forum for this discussion. How to charge for your work is discussed in Chapter 4. 1991. 4 September Dear Sirs, Concerning the project (. . .. Sweden. We take the liberty of sending You some information about the above headline. The (. . . .) is a very representative . . … building and under up construktion and it will be ready to move into 1992, the First of Feb. The property is in a very rigth place, about 70 kilometres from Stockholm the capital of Sweden and to Arlanda, the international and domestic airport is it only 20 minutes drive, without any queues, that is a save of time!!! Into Uppsala city, down town, is it about 5 minutes drive and the buscommunications traf? cs here very frequntly. The (. . .. is built in a very venturesome architecture, with the daylight coming through the roof and there is an atrium, with lots of trees and ? owers surrounded by mirrors of water. The environment feels very important to day for a pleasant and nice workingenvironment. We will appreciate, if unprejudiced, through a meeting get us the honour to present You more deeper and detailed information and this object’s possibilitys. This purpose is given to attract Yours intrests for a possibly renting. We would like to see you here in Sweden for a businesslunch, with a following showing of the building, this unique project as it says.
Yours sincerely, 2. 2 Target language deprivation There is a risk of becoming linguistically schizophrenic. Because your brain is so ? uent in both languages, it is fooled into thinking that the structure you have put together in the target language is correct merely because it is correct in the source language. 29 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS Target language deprivation is one of the problems experienced by translators working in their adopted country. They become so totally immersed in the language and culture that they lose their linguistic edge – they begin to think like a native.
I know in my own case that it took me at least six months to speak proper English again when returning to the United Kingdom after having lived in Sweden for 10 years. This was despite reading or at least glancing through an English language newspaper and magazines most days. I now read Swedish newspapers online in an endeavour to keep up with current affairs and industry. 2. 3 Retaining a sharp tongue To understand a language properly and to translate it successfully, you must keep up with cultural change. This is why the best translations are made by a native speaker who is resident in the country where the target language is spoken.
A language undergoes continuous change and development – sometimes to its detriment, unfortunately. (I was chided with the statement, ‘That’s very old school’ for having this attitude – but that is my opinion. I’m homeostatic and sometimes resent change. ) The best of both worlds, of course, is being able to travel to the source language country to work on assignments. This allows you to retain the sharp edge of your mother tongue while keeping up to date with the source language and culture. I have seen signi? cant changes in my own lifetime.
Some I am happy to accept whereas others make the English language poorer by their introduction. The following example shows the differences in the Lord’s Prayer taught by the Church of England. The version to the left is the one I learned as a child whereas the version to the right is the one used in my local church. I must say that I prefer the use of the second person singular in this context. Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done; In earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil: For thine is the Kingdom, The power; and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. There are, of course, many versions and translations, and research on the Internet produces interesting linguistic challenges.
Microsoft Word’s spell checker rejects ‘thine’ but not ‘Thy’ since the latter has an initial capital letter and is treated as a proper name. 30 BILINGUALISM – THE MYTHS AND THE TRUTH 2. 4 Localisation This is a relatively new term, but illustrates the importance of the command of the target language. If a translation is to be used in published form, such as a catalogue or manual, a serious client will send your translation to his counterpart in the country where the translated document can be checked to ensure that • • • it is suitable for the intended market, terminology re? cts what is in current use and the language used is pitched at the right level. This is no re? ection on your ability as a translator but an endeavour to ensure that the language used is topical and relevant for the intended market. There is a downside to this on occasions because the foreign subsidiary may view this as an opportunity to edit your translation or heavily criticise it. This is particularly the case if the subsidiary felt that it should have been given the job of translation. It is surprising how many translations are used directly without any pretence of quality control by the client.
The original language document will probably have undergone several revisions before ? nal approval. The translator usually has but one stab at the work. I suppose the argument is that the text you are given to translate is in its ? nal, approved form and all you need to do is to put it into a different language. This is a prime case for trying to ‘educate’ or at least make the client aware of what the translation process entails. A client would not dream of printing a brochure in the source language without ?rst checking at least one proof. Several equally valid versions may have been considered before the ? al version of the source text was approved. While not advocating that several different translations should be considered, a proper level of suitability assessment should be applied to the translated document. The essential factor to consider is the target reader. This governs choice of language, presentation, level at which the language is aimed, etc. A manual may be written in English and intended for use by mechanics or technicians in a developing country. English is used merely as a working language and, as a consequence, the language needs to be elementary but not patronisingly simple.
This requires skills in what is termed ‘Simpli? ed English’. When working as a technical editor at Volvo in Sweden, I paid a visit to a UK rival’s technical documentation centre. At that time, the company concerned produced several ‘English’ language versions of their car owner’s manuals: North American, European, South African, Australasian and English for the Indian sub-continent! This is perhaps an extreme example, but it does show that language needs to be suited to or localised for the intended reader. The advent of satellites, electronic mail and instant access has led to the development of news networks such as CNN.
CNN is now available worldwide in most large 31 A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TRANSLATORS hotels and, with similar networks originating from the USA, is often the principal source of English language news. This source is ethnocentric since it reports news from a US perspective and, as such, is how a lot of people learn English. One could also argue that this is cultural imperialism, but that hypothesis is politically loaded. I would contend that the English spoken in the United States has now diverged so much from ‘British’ English that it ought to be classi? ed as a separate language.
What it should be called is a hard choice since ‘American’ would no doubt upset the Hispanic population of the USA. For those who wish to read more on the development of English as a world language, I recommend Bill Bryson’s books Mother Tongue and Made in America. 2. 5 Culture shocks I remember a particular occasion when I was a university student in Sweden. I had been living in the country for over three years. I would like to think that my knowledge of Swedish was reasonable since I had already taken the qualifying examination, in Swedish, for university entrance (studentexamen).
I was in my second year at university studying physics after having already read a year of mathematics. To supplement my income I worked as a night porter at a hotel. Among other things, this work involved manning the telephone switchboard and reception desk at night. On Saturdays the hotel had dinner-dances and the last guests usually left at around midnight. I locked up at about half past midnight and settled down to studying my physics notes. The resident chef had ? nished in the kitchen and was out walking his dog prior to retiring for the night.
While deep in thought about the quantum theory of electrical conductivity, I was disturbed by a guest from the dinner-dance who staggered down the stairs to reception. He asked for a toilet and, rather than making him go back up the stairs again, I offered him the facility of using the staff toilet adjacent to reception. He reappeared some time later with glass in hand and pronounced, ‘Staff have been drinking on duty, I shall report this to the health authorities! ’. I hypothesised for a brief moment and explained that I had not seen a glass the last time I checked the toilet during a security walkabout.
He detected that I spoke Swedish with a foreign accent and made the obvious but inebriated remark in Swedish, ‘So you’re a foreigner are you? You must be one of these bloody refugees that come here to live off the state! ’ This was followed by an enquiry as to my nationality and, when he found out that I was English, he demanded the use of a telephone. He explained that his son had been to England on holiday and would have to come to the hotel to act as an interpreter. The fact that we had been conversing successfully so far in Swedish seemed to have escaped him. His son refused to come to the hotel 32
BILINGUALISM – THE MYTHS AND THE TRUTH and there followed an uncomfortable period while I endeavoured to placate the less than sober guest. Fortunately, the chef returned after walking his dog – a large Alsatian. The chef had met this troublesome guest before and suggested that he either go home or stay overnight at the hotel. The guest’s wife refused to collect him at such a late hour and he declined to take a taxi. The upshot was that he was given a room at the hotel and retired for the night. Thank goodness for resident chefs with Alsatians! The guest’s wife came and bailed him out in the morning.
Unfortunately for him, the only vacant room just happened to be the most expensive. As a result of discussion with the hotel manager later on, the guest was banned from the hotel since this was not the ? rst time he had made life uncomfortable for the hotel staff. There is the argument, of course, that this was not so much a culture shock as being the victim of drunken chauvinism. Figure 3 illustrates the cycle of expatriation and repatriation plus the attendant culture shocks. The latter occur not only when you move to a country but also when you move back to your country of origin. Third culture shock First culture shock
HOME COUNTRY Adjustment before and after repatriation Training prior to repatriation Retraining after repatriation Mentors and sponsors Career planning Recruitment and selection Recruitment and selection techniques Early social adaptation Linguistic skills Training and education Inter-cultural skills Personal development in the new country Communication Mentors and sponsors Actively meeting challenges Training and development International experience Career planning Cross-cultural training Second culture shock Internal adjustment and performance Accommodation and status Training after arrival Mentors and sponsors