Translator: Worker or Creator?
Thread poster: keshab

keshab  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:52
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Jul 8, 2006

Hello,

A question arises in my mind and I want to present it before the forum. Does a translator just do their job given and designated only as a worker? Or he deserves some recognition as a writer or creator?

There is a small history behind this question. Few days ago my sister completed a translation of a novel . She translate it into Bengali and got payment for it. Now it is a new novel with all get-ups. But her name displayed as a translator at the bottom of the third page of the book and in the smallest size of font. Obviously people donot look at there and know the only original author's name which displays very prominently on the front cover of the page.

According to my friends, it is common as she is fully paid for the job and original writer deserves the right of this translated book. I can't agree with them. Whatever copyright may be, the name of translator ought to be printed on the cover of the book with same prominency. If she works only as a clerk, perhaps the translated version would not be popular among people. Here she has the same credit as the writer because she rewrites the story in a different language. But my friends still differ on the ground that it's just a job.

And the basic question arises for all translators. Whenever one paid for some job, one go to be a worker only and has no right to be a creator (whatever creativity he shows!).

I'm looking for the views of proZians.





[Edited at 2006-07-08 13:44]


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 02:22
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
As a book translator in the past Jul 8, 2006

keshab wrote:
But her name displayed as a translator at the bottom of the third page of the book and in the smallest size of font.


This is how it happened to me, too. I don't think it's a problem, in fact. When I translated a book, all rights and credits went to the publishing house. Also, translation work always supposed you are left `in shadow', and this is OK.

Sometimes they say a translator should be as transparent as a clear window-glass. Our Russian classical author Nikolay Gogol wrote once that yes, a translator should be transparent as for an original, still there is no perfectly clear window-glass, and, when the translator is really good, one can see all this spots on glass left by weather or insects or fingerprints, etc. I'm inclined to think he is right - assuming, the small spots on the glass do not prevent you from enjoying the beautiful vista beyond the window.


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mriduladasgupta
Local time: 04:52
English to Bengali
+ ...
Translator: More a worker, also a Creator Jul 8, 2006

The original is giving the exact line of thinking. The description of the environment and feelings of the characters (main) are already READY in the original. When we translate we translate all the things given in the original. So, more a worker.
BUT, the original has to be changed to be acceptable for the new language people. The causes of humour, the sadness and their magnitudes differ in different segments of people. A language is changed- means, - a chance in perception, understandable environment, feelings etc.- all have changes. Another aspect,- the translator sometimes has to explain the geography, interpreted logic, customs, mannerisms etc to the new language people. So, also a creator.
A worker has also "grades". Also, a creator has a "grade", so, has a "Translator".


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:22
Member
English to Turkish
Depends on the publisher Jul 8, 2006

In some of the books I've translated, my name appears on the cover, in some on the third page. Some publishers place a higher importance on translator's details, it seems (a few even publish the translator's biography along with that of the author), some don't. If you ask my opinion, I couldn't care less, honestly. (But would I care, if they didn't credit me at all:D) And I think the more invisible the better for a literary translator. And I don't agree with the 'translator, the creator' view. Those, for whom it's about time to create and be visible, start writing, anyway.

[Edited at 2006-07-08 18:11]


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chinesetrans
Netherlands
Local time: 01:22
English to Chinese
+ ...
Copyright Jul 9, 2006

Well, it concerns the copyright. In Chinese law, the original writer reserves the copyright both the original and the transalted. The original writer even can sue the translator for unauthorized transaltion, which means the translation of the original needs authorization from the original. Years ago, the first case concerning the translation copyright was files in the court and the original writer won the case. So, in this case, that your sister's name is printed back is understood, even though she did translate perfectly. Truely, she is a creator on translation, yet she is not the true creator on the whole book ideas.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:22
English to French
+ ...
It's a little less than I would have expected... Jul 9, 2006

Your sister's case is a good example of when a translator is not being given the recognition they deserve. I don't think it's necessary to have your name on the cover of the book, especially when there is a specific design that would be messed up by an additional name on the cover. However, I would have put the translator's name on the title page, just below the author's name, in the same font size as the author's name.

Translators are all specialized in something. Some of us translate travel brochures, which is a creative field. Some of us work on user's manuals, which is not very creative, but still, if the same manual was given to someone else, the translation would still be slightly different. Some of us even translate literature, in the most strict sense of the word. In my opinion, that is the most creative a translator can get. Come to think of it, translating a book is harder and sometimes even more creative than writing it. This idea should not be overlooked - but it seems in your sister's case it was.

I get the feeling that, more and more, people regard our work as piece work. It's like a dentist - how many teeth can they pull per day? We definitely don't get as much recognition as we should.

However, in your sister's case - and I hope she learns the lesson so next time the outcome matches her work - she could have negotiated that part of the deal also, and put it in her contract. This would have ensured that she gets the recognition she deserves. I've never translated a book, but I know I would ask for a specific way of displaying my name on the final product. Just like actors, producers, etc., do. They ask to have their name in such as such font size at such and such spot on the movie poster. Yeah, sometimes they go overboard - but the final version would not exist without them, would it?


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Debi Vaught
Local time: 01:22
Swedish to English
+ ...
No leeway in literary translation Jul 10, 2006

I've had this conversation, and what I am reading here is very similar to the discussions. Below is *my opinion only*.

For literary work, the translator is not permitted much, if any at all, leeway in the translation. So the translator in the case of a novel is not a creator.

For subtitling, it's creation. There is much interpretation needed for subtitlers. Yes, they are translating, but the limitations for the television and movie screens are strict and so the need for creativity exists.

For those doing closed captioning, there's an expection of work rather than creativity, as they should be getting all the words into the captions.

Now, once you've translated a book, what acknowledgement should be received?
The translator is not the originator of the thoughts, therefore the credit should not be as large as that of the author. However, without the translation, people might not be able to read the work. So the translator's efforts and name should definitely be included. This is definitely something to be taken up with the publisher at the time of the agreement to do the job. So many times we see the translator's name in very small print, if at all. It is rare enough, though improving in my own local store here in a small town in Sweden, to see the translator's name even on the cover. I believe personally I would happy with a title page credit, one-half to three-quarters the size of the author's name.

Interesting reading, thanks for starting this. I'll be checking back!


callie


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keshab  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:52
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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TOPIC STARTER
Book translator's work effects our mind. Jul 11, 2006

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

However, in your sister's case - and I hope she learns the lesson so next time the outcome matches her work - she could have negotiated that part of the deal also, and put it in her contract.


Thanks Viktoria. Very recent her second translated book (Hindi>Bengali) published where her name comes after the author's name and a short introductory note about her is displyed on the third cover. We are happy that a translator is recognised at last!

callieslv wrote:


For literary work, the translator is not permitted much, if any at all, leeway in the translation. So the translator in the case of a novel is not a creator.

For subtitling, it's creation. There is much interpretation needed for subtitlers. Yes, they are translating, but the limitations for the television and movie screens are strict and so the need for creativity exists.


I beg to differ a little. I think literature translation is more effective and creative than subtitling although the later demands more technical skill. Here I want to share my experience at childhood when I first met the world famous detective Sharlock Holmes through translation. Here many translations of Sharlock Holmes available. But the very translator's book was so effective, so simple and so well translated that my childhood mind could hardly believe that Mr. Holmes and Dr.Watson are not my next door neighbour! This magic happened only for that bengali translator (He is also a famous science fiction writer in Bengali). Doyel could not reach us without the help of that translator. So in my opinion a book translator have to do more creative work as he works with our imaginative power.

Regards,

Keshab.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:22
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Recognition of literary translators Jul 15, 2006

Keshab wrote:
callieslv wrote:
For literary work, the translator is not permitted much, if any at all, leeway in the translation. So the translator in the case of a novel is not a creator.

For subtitling, it's creation. There is much interpretation needed for subtitlers. Yes, they are translating, but the limitations for the television and movie screens are strict and so the need for creativity exists.


I beg to differ a little. I think literature translation is more effective and creative than subtitling although the later demands more technical skill. Here I want to share my experience at childhood when I first met the world famous detective Sharlock Holmes through translation. Here many translations of Sharlock Holmes available. But the very translator's book was so effective, so simple and so well translated that my childhood mind could hardly believe that Mr. Holmes and Dr.Watson are not my next door neighbour! This magic happened only for that bengali translator (He is also a famous science fiction writer in Bengali). Doyel could not reach us without the help of that translator. So in my opinion a book translator have to do more creative work as he works with our imaginative power.
Regards,
Keshab.


Keshab, I agree with you. I have done enormous amount of subtitling, and it requires a lot of ingenuity and skill, but it is not creative in the sense as translation of literature is.

You also answered your own question in the passage you wrote about your childhood favourite translation of Sherlock Holmes.
I have my favourite translations I remember reading as a child and later, and the secret is the quality of translation.
I have read some Thomas Mann novels - translated from German - in English and in Hungarian, and I wouldn't read the English translation again, but I am longing to re-read the Hungarian translation.

I am glad that your sister got more recognition, and if her translations are really good, people will take notice and remember, and look out for her translations, and she will be known for the quality of her work regardless of where and what size her name is printed on the books. I wish her great success.

Regards,
Judith

[Edited at 2006-07-15 00:42]


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Andreas THEODOROU  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:22
Greek to English
+ ...
interesting Aug 4, 2006

I tend to agree with Viktoria in terms of how prominent the translator's name should be. And isn't there a law somewhere that states that the translator's name must appear somewhere?

I consider it as a creative enterprise - it's much more than just translating. I'm sure that the translator's own style will show through. (There is a world of difference between 'literal' and 'literary'. )

And of course, the sign of a good translation is that it won't read as a translation.


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