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Poetry translation job: should I accept it?
Thread poster: Teresa G.
Teresa G.
Italy
Local time: 00:54
English to Italian
Mar 9, 2009

Hi,
I've received a particular job offer:
a poet asked me to translate his poetry book into english (I am italian mothertongue),
now the problem is:

we all know it is not wise to translate into a language which is not your mothertongue.

I'm asking myself if I would be able to do a proper job or if it would turn into a desaster, but you never know untill you try... so...what to do?

Should I accept the job offer and find an english mothertongue translator to correct my sheets or should I refuse the offer?

I have read some of the poems to translate and I find them pleasant to read and to translate but my concern is about the final result...so to try or not to try?

Thanks,
T.


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 00:54
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I wouldn't Mar 9, 2009

The nearest I would get to this might be to offer a commentary on a poem, with the commentary not being in my native tongue. But I can't imagine any circumstances when I would take on a translation of poetry out of my native language.

If you're still tempted, why not do a trial poem, and submit yourself to the harshest critic you can find, who would have to be a native speaker of the target language with a deep knowledge of Italian.


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 17:54
Partial member
Spanish
+ ...
No Mar 9, 2009

Sorry but that's a big 'no'.

Even if you were a native-speaker, even if you are a top-notch translator, not everyone can translate literature. Poetry and good fiction are in a whole different level of reading. It's not just about enjoying it, it's about understanding it. Besides, it not only takes longer and pays less, it requires a lot of extra attention: on the composition itself, why the poet chose one word over another similar one, the structure of the composition, the metric, etc. I am a firm believer that literature should only be translated by writers of literature.

Claudia


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:54
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
I wouldn't either Mar 9, 2009

Literature is too difficult if not impossible to translate in a second language (e.i. not our native language).

Perhaps a technical job but not literature.

I suggest to have it edited by a native specialized in literature before delivering it to the client.

Good luck!


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:54
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Right! Mar 9, 2009

Claudia Alvis wrote:
it requires a lot of extra attention: on the composition itself, why the poet chose one word over another similar one, the structure of the composition, the metric, etc. I am a firm believer that literature should only be translated by writers of literature.

Claudia


I agree!


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Teresa G.
Italy
Local time: 00:54
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
... Mar 9, 2009

Claudia Alvis wrote:

Sorry but that's a big 'no'.

Even if you were a native-speaker, even if you are a top-notch translator, not everyone can translate literature. Poetry and good fiction are in a whole different level of reading. It's not just about enjoying it, it's about understanding it. Besides, it not only takes longer and pays less, it requires a lot of extra attention: on the composition itself, why the poet chose one word over another similar one, the structure of the composition, the metric, etc. I am a firm believer that literature should only be translated by writers of literature.

Claudia


I have been translating literature and writing for years,
I followed courses too so the problem here isn't my sensitivity to it
but just the language matter.
I have already thinked about submitting the translation to a mothertoungue translator before delivering it.
The question is :
would it be wise to accept to translate into another language?


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Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Belize
Member
Dutch to German
+ ...
No way Mar 9, 2009

... unless you are a poet yourself.

[Edited at 2009-03-09 21:17 GMT]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:54
Dutch to English
+ ...
No Mar 9, 2009

Teresa G wrote:

I have been translating literature and writing for years,
I followed courses too so the problem here isn't my sensitivity to it
but just the language matter.
I have already thinked about submitting the translation to a mothertoungue translator before delivering it.
The question is :
would it be wise to accept to translate into another language?


Judging simply by the errors you've made here, my answer would be a firm no.

Edited: to include correct name




[Edited at 2009-03-10 06:22 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:54
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Teresa, it is your decision, but... Mar 9, 2009

Teresa, it seems to me you are really tempted to do this job. (Passion is good!)

The way I see it, we really have no way of assessing your ability to write/translate poetry - there are no poetry samples in your profile, not even in Italian.
Furthermore, there are no English writing samples available, only your postings here.
Based on these, I think you can only get a general advice: which is NO.
(The responses show just that, and that would be my personal advice as well.)

However, you have much more info about yourself, than we do, so perhaps the suggestion of trying one poem and submitting it to a native editor for critique would be a good approach for you. That way you could convince yourself one way or the other.


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 17:54
Partial member
Spanish
+ ...
Case in point Mar 9, 2009

Teresa G. wrote:

I have been translating literature and writing for years,
I followed courses too so the problem here isn't my sensitivity to it
but just the language matter.
I have already thinked about submitting the translation to a mothertoungue translator before delivering it.
The question is :
would it be wise to accept to translate into another language?


No.

In order to render a good translation, you need to be better than those who master the target language. In order to translate literature, you need to be much much better than those who master the target language. I'm not saying that you shouldn't translate literature into your native language, but your post has several mistakes in English, not just simple typos or non-words, the choice of wording is also awkward.

I'm not trying to offend you or insult you, it's just that if I were the writer, I wouldn't let a non-native speaker translate what probably took a lot of effort and passion.

PS. Lawyer-Linguist, I didn't write that.

[Edited at 2009-03-09 20:06 GMT]


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:54
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with Wolfgang Mar 9, 2009

I wouldn't say 'never under any circumstances', and to a certain extent it depends on the type of poems, but poetry is THE most difficult type of literature to translate. You would have to be a poet and be fluent in both languages in order to translate poetry from one language to another.

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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:54
Swedish to English
+ ...
Yes, with a few very big IFs Mar 9, 2009

IF you're a poet/creative writer in your own language
IF your English is of native standard (your posting suggests not)
IF you team up with a native English speaker with native standard Italian knowledge
IF this native speaker is also a poet/creative writer

Then, and only then, the two of you working together could produce a work which does the original poet proud. Unless all these four conditions are fulfilled, I suggest you walk away from this one.


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Teresa G.
Italy
Local time: 00:54
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
... Mar 9, 2009

Thanks for the advices.
Yes, in some way I am tempted to accept, not for money but to try and learn something also from my mistakes ( for Claudia and Lawyer-Linguist: sometimes I make errors because of fast-tiping or distraction, these ones are some of them,
I am not english mothertongue nor I clam to be/appear it).

What I wanted to be clear is that I wouldn't translate into another tongue without a mothertongue revisor and trying maybe could have been a good way to learn something.

That's all.

Anyway I asked for advices and I got them.
Thanks to Tina, Katalin, Wolfgang and Angioletta.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:54
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My recommendation, too, would be to suggest someone more suitable Mar 9, 2009

It sounds as though you would be the right person to translate poetry from English to Italian - you say you have both training and experience in this very difficult area.

As you say, for a technical/business text, it's possible in some cases to translate into your source language and then have it proofread by a native speaker. But I think there's a risk with poetry that the proofreader may either want to, or even have to, re-write the whole thing. Change one 2-syllable word into a 3-syllable word and you may be forced into re-writing the rest of the line to keep the metre; change a word that rhymes and you have to change the other line or lines too; etc.

If it's you that's paying for the proofreading you may not end up making much in the way of profit.


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Trinh Do  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2007)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Definitely no Mar 10, 2009

Reading is one matter, translating is another. You need to be a native poet, not just a native speaker. It's very difficult.

Sometimes, I don't translate poetry in my own mother tongue because it destroys the beauty of it.


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