Around a year ago, I wrote a post about my “personal app wishlist”. I still haven’t managed to find technical solutions to the first two items on my list, better email auto-reply management and automatic email attachment/folder word counts (though I now think the former would be possible with programs like Outlook, and I’ve realised a simple workaround for the latter is simply to ask clients to state the character count of attached files in their emails). But I’ve tried and tested quite a few different solutions to the third item on my list: advanced quality control and search tools. Below are brief reviews and thoughts on some of the things I’ve tried.
Earlier this year, I finally joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). Although I have worked as both a translator and proofreader ever since my initial in-house training at a German translation agency, proofreading has often played second fiddle to translation in terms of professional development, so I wanted to focus some more of my attention on this aspect of my work. This month, I completed my first online training course with SfEP – Proofreading 1: Introduction. This post shares some reflections on my experience of the course for anyone else who is considering taking it.
It's been exactly a year since I moved to Cardiff from Southampton. As I'd hoped, Cardiff has proved to be a great city to live and work in. I feel so at home now I'm even thinking of starting Welsh lessons. But Welsh wasn't the only language besides English I've spotted in Cardiff. I've also been surprised at how often I've seen another European language while wandering around the city: namely, German. So I thought it would be fun to mark the occasion with a special blog post celebrating the traces of the German language to be found in Cardiff.
This week, I attended my first event organised by the ITI Media, Arts & Tourism Network: a workshop in Birmingham on the topic of “Music and Translation in Opera, Music Theatre and Popular Music”. This isn’t an area I work in directly or even expect to in future, but it does fall within the broader field of creative and cultural translation that I do work in, so I was hoping it would still be of some interest and relevance.
Way back in late 2014, I applied for the ITI German Network’s mentoring scheme. Specifically, I was interested in learning more about legal translation. Although this isn’t an area I do very much work in, I do occasionally translate bits of legalese (contracts, legal declarations or notices, etc.) for clients/accounts that I primarily translate marketing or creative texts for. By contrast with the latter types of texts (which I specialise in, and which were the focus of my in-house translation training), when it comes to legal texts I didn’t feel entirely confident about what I was doing. At the same time, I nonetheless felt happier working on legal texts than on, say, technical or financial ones, and was wondering whether this might be a prudent area to develop a secondary specialisation in.
This week, I attended not one but two translation workshops held, very conveniently, just down the road in Cardiff.
The first was a talk by Kari Koonin FITI on Professional Editing for Linguists and Translators. The event was primarily aimed at MA Translation students at Cardiff University, but a number of translators were invited by ITI Wales to give students a chance to meet people already working in the industry. Kari's talk was a very helpful refresher and a reaffirmation of best practices: she ran through the distinctions between proofreading, revision and editing (terms that are often used interchangeably) and emphasised the importance of checking your own translation work carefully (and preferably having it checked by a second reviser) over a number of stages. One suggestion that I have been meaning to look into for some time is making use of "text to speech" functions when checking, which allows translators to hear their work being spoken aloud as well as reading it on the screen (or page), which is a good way of spotting mistakes or stylistic glitches that might be less obvious otherwise. I already tend to read my work out loud at the revision stage for these reasons, but listening to yourself speaking is slightly different to hearing the text being read by an external voice.
Like many other translators (and writers more generally), I would describe myself as a perfectionist. I meticulously check and fine-tune every job, no matter how small or straightforward, to try and eliminate any mistakes and make the job as “perfect” as can be. Now, by and large, being a perfectionist is considered a good thing: while the perfectionist themselves might suffer from the agonising, painstaking work they do to try to make their work perfect, the text itself can only benefit from these exertions. Right? Well, not necessarily. In this post, I want to consider some reasons why perfectionism (or at least a common, specific form of it) should not be uncritically embraced, and how unadulterated perfectionism can actually be to the detriment of the texts we write.
I was recently alerted to the excellent False Friends, Good and Bad Translations blog. I can't recommend it enough as a resource for German-English translators, especially anyone working in marketing or related fields. In general, each post describes a different word or words that are misleading or pose difficulties to the unwary translator. As I read through the archives, I variously found reaffirmation of some of the things I had been taught in-house, confirmation of my own conclusions/suspicions about certain terms and inspiration for how to approach certain other terms (some of which I have struggled to find satisfactory solutions to, others which I had not previously appreciated were so problematic). While the abrasive tone might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I found it one of the most helpful pieces of “CPD” I have had in quite some time. Aside from guidance about specific words, the blog explores the process and aims of translation in a general sense, and has made me reflect a lot on how I approach some day-to-day translation problems.
There has been some discussion recently in professional circles about the need for CPD that focuses on specific language and translation skills, rather than more general business skills (as important a role as that may also play). I was fortunate that I began my career in a translation agency where I received a lot of feedback and training, and was able to regularly bounce ideas off other people. What is more challenging is replicating this in the context of freelance work; even regular contact with other professionals does not automatically allow you to get into all the nitty gritty of translation problems. Likewise, beyond a certain point it becomes challenging to further improve your mastery of a language; it is harder to find explicit guidance on highly specific difficulties or uncertainties that crop up in a fairly piecemeal way. So these sorts of contributions are very helpful.
A rather different theme than usual for this post, which has been inspired by my customary post-Christmas viewing of extended editions of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth films (based on two of my favourite childhood books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). While watching, I got to thinking about the centrality of the theme of translation in Tolkien’s work, and this post includes some of those musings.
It’s still a little early for New Year’s resolutions, but in this post I want to look ahead at four areas I plan to work on in 2016 and beyond. I’ve been freelancing full-time now for over two years (and working as a translator for over seven years in total). Throughout that time, I’ve improved a lot with experience, but I’ve also recognised that there are some areas that I need to consciously focus and reflect on so that I can move beyond honing my existing practices, and develop new skills and knowledge.
Dr Andrew Godfrey, MITI