It never fails. Picture yourself. You are translating some document or other. You get stuck with some expression be it at SL or TL level and you do some research to try to understand the expression in its fullness, or at least, as much as you can. Unfortunately, your book have proven fairly useless and on-line dictionaries do not shed as much light as you would have hoped they would… So you proceed to a forum… And you type the question and if you are lucky you will find a series of answers, some good, some some, not so good. But there tend to be (this is not a scientific approach to the theory but my own, I confess, bug bear) two types of answers: the one that screams:- “I need more context. Impossible to say without complete context!” and the one that starts fumbling about some vague answer that leaves you scratching your head and checking that you have actually typed the right question.
I know, I know. I am being unfair and and perhaps a little childish towards my fellow translation colleagues. But at the same time, I can’t but help to think whether those two kind of answers are actually answers at all or more some sort of masked ignorance. I.e. it is better to make some noise than not make any noise at all, as long as you get your nick made known. And it always makes me think about a lecture about translating “untranslateables” where we were taught that actually there aren’t any untranslateables but merely a case of not knowing how to translate a word, expression, etc… correctly. You might not like the translation for a particular expression, especially if this translation is actually some explanation rather than a single word, for instance homeless or homelessness into Spanish, but this only highlights your taste rather than anything else.
Having said that, this article, again passed on by my wonderful sister-in-law, made me really think about what it is that I do, and actually why I do it. More often than not, I find myself thinking about how I would translate this or that or thinking how toconvey feeling not just intellectual knowledge into my readership. As a translator, the path from A to B is full of possibilities and sometimes, the straightest line is not the shortest route between the two points. Think about this. How would you translate “chair” into another language? Is the image the same to the one that you have in your head? I think that this has to do that my job as a translator is to interpret what I read and gauge it so that the intended readership can read an author that might or might might have had them at the time of writing the text, whereas an economist will look at a text the same way he looks at an equation. The simpler, the better.
Also, another reason why I love this article is because my older son has all the makings of being an engineer. And if that is the case, it will mean that we are going to have very heated arguments about everything. This article just gave me the heads up!
By the way, if you ask something in a forum, and you expect me to answer, you’d better put the context and who this text is addressed to!