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Poll: Have you ever been deeply affected by a translation you worked on?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 13:16
Nov 28, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever been deeply affected by a translation you worked on?".

This poll was originally submitted by Natalia Pedrosa. View the poll results »


Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
French to Spanish
+ ...
Yes Nov 28, 2015

While translating for TWB a user manual on wheelchairs for poor people. I learnt a lot about other people's needs and sufferings. It touched me.


Ildiko Santana  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:16
Member (2002)
Hungarian to English
+ ...

Yes, and those jobs are the most memorable Nov 28, 2015

What a great poll! Thank you.
This has happened a few times in my career. A long time ago, I got involved in translating for a suit pertaining to the lottery win of a person who had deceased, another where someone's mother left behind diaries that she had written when she was in her teens.
This year, a translation project involving a series of old news articles stands out, which was commissioned by a US university for their history department's research on a nearly hundred year old disaster where dozens perished in a school house fire. "Deeply affected" doesn't even begin to describe how I felt while translating these moving accounts of the case. In the end, I volunteered to join their research efforts.
I can't wait to read what other colleagues have encountered in their translations.

[Edited at 2015-11-28 08:32 GMT]


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Yes Nov 28, 2015

Translating/creating German poems for children younger than 7 years of age from a rough English translation (source language was Russian), I had to smile since I could almost "see" the children's faces, knowing that they'd be smiling and curious.icon_wink.gif

When I translated visual aids for visually impaired people, the idea that this product would re-open the door to the visual world for them once again after having lost most of their vision, touched me deeply.


Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
NGO translations Nov 28, 2015

I do a fair amount on refugees; one can't be unaffected by reading about their plight, but perhaps more important is the knowledge on rights and lack of rights that I've acquired, and been able to pass on as advice.

And translating about Southern Sudan was harrowing.


EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Yes Nov 28, 2015

I also used to do refugees. But the ones that I mainly remember are a series of articles about Communist concentration camps, and an insurance case where a teenager broke his backbone and became quadruplegic.


Lucy Williams  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
Yes, about a crime in my city. Nov 28, 2015

This year I translated a report about a crime (murder) that had happened in my city, it was quite detailed and very shocking as I don't usually translate anything of the sort.


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:16
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Accident report Nov 28, 2015

Translated an accident report about an engine fitter who stood too close to a running aircraft engine, was sucked in and became mincemeat scattered over a wide area. This affected me, partly because I had once been an engine fitter working on jet aircraft myself.


M Pradeep Kumar  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:46
Member (2015)
English to Telugu
+ ...
Some times Nov 28, 2015

Once, in the beginning of my freelancing career, I translated pamphlets of a domestic workers' association for research. It really changed the way I look at domestic workers for life. Made me very considerate and sensible to them.

And then recently, there's a conversation between a prisoner and his sister over phone which I had to transcribe and translate. Though it was a very normal, plain conversation, the very context of it, touched me very deeply.

Sometimes, even when I translate market related material with too many adjectives and nice words, I feel very bad for the readers who will fall victim to this wizardry of words.

And then I begin to wonder, what is all this about?


Teresa Borges
Local time: 21:16
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes Nov 28, 2015

Over the years some translations have touched my heart and at times alarmed me, for instance:

1. Adoption documents of a severely handicapped child;
2. A report on the Rwandan genocide;
3. A report on female genital mutilation in Europe;
4. A report on the health consequences of smoking;
5. A report on domestic violence;


Platon Danilov  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:16
Member (2014)
English to Russian
+ ...
Only once Nov 28, 2015

It was condolences to relatives of victims of MH17 air crush in Ukraine last year. Of course, I refused to take any money and did it pro bono.


Petra Van Caneghem  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Member (2006)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Twice Nov 28, 2015

This year I have translated a book on a Belgian concentration camp (English-Dutch).
The story was told through the eyes of several people who had been in that camp, their stories ... Along the way one of the main characters died and that hit me so hard.
This was the period my grandmother and grandfather lived, had their first child, similar stories to some of the people in the book.
That was a difficult one (the book is a bestseller by the way! so I am a little proud of that).

The second one was a few years back.
I had to translate a study that was conducted by the minister of social affairs back then.
The topic was severly ill children (terminally ill actually) that were cared for at home, how this was done, what the nurses encountered, difficulties but also beautiful and special moments with the family.
There were a few cases of children that were discussed along the way.
At that time I had small children as well, which made it very hard for me translate but which also made me grateful for my healthy kids.

My next translation project is a book on Belgian football (sure that will not make a big and lasting impact on meicon_smile.gif


Natalia Makeeva  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
Adoption documents can be really hard Nov 28, 2015

I remember a judgement of adoption of a kid with quite a severe desease who actually had a mother, an uncle, one or two brothers and a grand-mother but was living in an orphan's home and no one of his relatives had never visited him. He was going to be adopted by an American family. I cried while translating that text and the proofreader as well.


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 14:16
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Several times Nov 28, 2015

For Translators Without Borders I translated a series of interviews with Palestinian people living in the West Bank and Gaza. It gave me a whole different outlook on their situation than what I had seen in the media.

Another example was a series of articles (pro and con) on the right to die. I am old enough to be deeply concerned about this issue.


Ailsa Campbell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:16
French to English
+ ...
the void Nov 28, 2015

These are all very moving instances - and I think probably what the poll was aimed at. But there is another way in which translators can be 'deeply affected'.
Those of us who work on full-length books will from time to time have a book, and an author, that makes you feel this was your purpose in being born - to translate this absolutely terrific book and try to capture the author's voice.
And when it is finished, there is a dreadful void, an emptiness, which I presume writers (I mean real authors) are quite familiar with. Just have to move on.

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