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Poll: Do you think translators should have a passion for literature?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 07:30
SITE STAFF
Apr 28, 2009

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you think translators should have a passion for literature?".

This poll was originally submitted by Mariam Osmane

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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rickyg
United States
Local time: 09:30
English to Spanish
No. Apr 28, 2009

Perhaps legal translators should have a passion for the law, medical translators for medicine, but to say that we must all love poetry to translate politics is absurd.

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xxxjacana54  Identity Verified
Uruguay
English to Spanish
+ ...
for reading: yes Apr 28, 2009

for literature: not necessarily



L


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
Translators should be well rounded. Apr 28, 2009

I think translators should have a passion for, or at least a well-rounded interest in, anything related to culture: literature, art, history, philosophy, religion, etc.

This may not be essential to their particular area of specialization, but I think having broad knowledge of various cultural disciplines helps to keep one's mind open and stimulates creative thinking, which to me is essential for being a good translator.

[Edited at 2009-04-28 15:36 GMT]


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 09:30
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes Apr 28, 2009

Yes, we should. That helps to polish our reading and writing skills.

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A. R. Raman
Singapore
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
Agree with John Apr 28, 2009

I agree 100% with John here. Knowledge in these areas gives a wide variety of idea for your skills. It is definitely beneficial to understand another culture whether you are a translator or an interpreter.

[Edited at 2009-04-28 15:53 GMT]


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Oleksandr Kupriyanchuk  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 17:30
Russian to English
+ ...
Why just literature? Rather for languages and cultures... Apr 28, 2009

... including good literature .

But above all, we have to love our working instruments - languages, (as well as their skilled users - particularly good writers).


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:30
Member
English to Turkish
Yes Apr 28, 2009

Even if you translate nothing but machine manuals, you must be able to write in a clear, concise, well-worded manner. Such a skill cannot be acquired in crash courses or webinars, they're the cumulative result of a lifetime active language usage, which involves lots of reading and reading literature, which in turn, cannot be done, I think, without passion. Also, how could one have a command of their source language and culture without knowing its literature?

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Louisa Berry
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:30
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Words Apr 28, 2009

I think its just a question of symantics here... I believe translators should have a passion for words and writing.. which isn't necessary literature

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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:30
Italian to English
+ ...
No!! Apr 28, 2009

I have a passion for translating literature and poetry, and let me tell you, it really gets in the way of translating boring technical documents. I can't leave a sentence until it's worthy of a literary award.... it really slows me down sometimes.

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Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:30
Member (2009)
French to English
Absolutely not Apr 28, 2009

...that will leave more literary translation jobs for me.

All kidding aside, most of what I translate has been just a wee bit on the dry side. It helps to have an interest in finance and business as well. Otherwise, I think I would have gone crazy, broke, or both.

I do agree that a passion for *language* is essential. If you are not internally motivated to find just the right word, there is little point to translating anything. Perhaps the most correct statement would be an abbreviated one:

Translators should have ... passion.


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 16:30
English to German
+ ...
Cutler said it well I guess.. Apr 28, 2009

hi! translating literature may not pay well, but the amount of work and energy going into understanding the chaning technologies does not either and of course the kudoz fights . Have some peace at both ends. I am talking about book and literature translations, where most usually the translator´s name is also published, I find that a noble idea. I am a technician and engineer but took passion for literature a few years ago. I am myself not a literary person but learning now.

Believe me it is not easy to to get there . Some times it is a matter of attitude and understanding also experience. And the budget is yet another one. BR Brandis


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Venkatesh Sundaram  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:00
German to English
Passion! Apr 28, 2009

Jenn Mercer wrote:

...that will leave more literary translation jobs for me.

All kidding aside, most of what I translate has been just a wee bit on the dry side. It helps to have an interest in finance and business as well. Otherwise, I think I would have gone crazy, broke, or both.

I do agree that a passion for *language* is essential. If you are not internally motivated to find just the right word, there is little point to translating anything. Perhaps the most correct statement would be an abbreviated one:

Translators should have ... passion.



Another fairly interesting poll. Yes we do need to be passionate about words and beond!


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Andrew Levine  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:30
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Nothing to do with passion for literature Apr 28, 2009

Özden Arıkan wrote:

Even if you translate nothing but machine manuals, you must be able to write in a clear, concise, well-worded manner.


Why does this require a passion for literature? Why can't one write a clear and concise technical manual based on a firm background in equally clear and concise technical manuals? Especially when many great authors sometimes deliberately elide grammatical rules or omit details for dramatic effect. It is like saying you cannot become a psychiatric therapist without a background in calculus: Mathematics indeed forms an important part of ANYONE's education, but university-level math skills are not needed in the normal course of a therapist's work.

I mean, Ienjoyed reading The Red and the Black and The Great Gatsby, but they don't help when my job is translating a vacuum pump patent from French into English. What is helpful is an understanding of fluid mechanics and patent law, and a solid understanding of how a well-written patent is supposed to look and what pitfalls must be avoided.


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Mark Nathan  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:30
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...
Using words Apr 28, 2009

My partner once made the rather disparaging analogy (I can't remember what I had done to deserve it) that translators are like decorative painters who simply apply paint to a wall and know how to get a "professional finish" whereas artists wield their brush with real imagination...

The implication being that the two activities are totally unrelated - as are writing literature and translating technical documents.

But in any case, I think translators are generally interested in reading good literature. Apart from needing to be well-informed in their chosen specialities, they need to develop, or maintain "linguistic depth" for want of a better expression, and reading literature is surely part of this.


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