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Reading while translating (and not before!)

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:28
Russian to English
+ ...
You have to read the entire book before translating it once Jul 19, 2016

or twice, sometimes many times. What are they talking about? It is absolutely essential in literary translation. With regard to technical, or legal, well, perhaps you can just read the entire page.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Interesting topic Jul 19, 2016

I entirely agree with the idea of NOT reading the entire book before translating.

We are very obsessed indeed with naturalising/domesticating translations as if it was the only valid approach. At the request of publishers, we (I mean the vast majority of the translation community) very much produce a pre-digested target text, instead of preserving the foreign traits of works as a potential source of delight and knowledge for readers. If I am allowed the analogy, we as translators swallow up works and regurgitate the ideas back onto the paper, thus feeding readers not only with something that has completely lost its flavour, but also with a lot of our digestive juices (or prejudice, our whims and habits, our personal perception of the source culture and of the nature of our own culture, the mental artifacts imposed upon us by our age...).

We are so obsessed with naturalised translations that many translators even think that Venuti was in favour of naturalisation/domestication! As Berman(1) put it, "The properly ethical aim of the translating act is receiving the foreign as foreign". By NOT reading the full book before translation, we stay closer to the foreign nature of the text and its mechanisms of strangement, fully experience its twists and can convey them better, and are better prepared to produce similar effects in areas that are often neglected, like rhythm, syntax, and even the sound of the source text.

(1) Berman, A. (1985/2004) “La traduction comme épreuve de l’étranger”, Texte 4 (1985): 67-81, translated by L. Venuti as “Translation and the trials of the foreign”, in L. Venuti (ed.) (2004), pp. 276-89.


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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:28
German to English
Could pose problems Jul 19, 2016

The main problem I see arising with not reading the book before starting literary translation is foreshadowing. The first time you read a novel, you might not realize that a particular word or turn of phrase was chosen because of its foreshadowing effect. You therefore won't necessarily choose a translation that also foreshadows since you don't even know THAT you are foreshadowing, let alone WHAT you are foreshadowing. Did I use "foreshadowing" enough in that paragraph?


I don't do literary translation, and since academic papers have convenient abstracts at the beginning to let you know the thesis and main arguments, I usually don't find it necessary to read the entire article in detail before starting. I've never run across any foreshadowing or (intentional) mysteries in academic papers, though.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 21:28
English to Croatian
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Literary translation training. Jul 19, 2016

This is how it looked:

The system was not only to read the book before translating it, but also: study the author's biography, his or her contemporaries, historical background of the era, literary movements of the era, analyse the themes and motifs, and much more. Then after all this, you are *perhaps* ready to start translating the piece.

It was also important to read other "styles" so you are flexible with your language. For instance, if you are translating a novel, your language skills will be different if you also read and analysed the poetry and drama pieces in the same time frame.

But in today's world of instant everything, yes, just mix it up and translate quickly. : D


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Quickly it is not Jul 19, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:
But in today's world of instant everything, yes, just mix it up and translate quickly. : D

It is not a matter of translating quickly at all. In fact, preserving the foreignness in a source text and translating in a more "Saussurean" way (i.e. sticking more to the source text and its rhythm, sound, and minute effects) both take a terribly long time and requires quite a mental effort.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Interesting indeed Jul 19, 2016

Kelly Neudorfer wrote:
The main problem I see arising with not reading the book before starting literary translation is foreshadowing. The first time you read a novel, you might not realize that a particular word or turn of phrase was chosen because of its foreshadowing effect. You therefore won't necessarily choose a translation that also foreshadows since you don't even know THAT you are foreshadowing, let alone WHAT you are foreshadowing.

Yes, but I think that in a more "to the letter" approach, you would have a low risk of destroying foreshadowing, rhymes (in the sense of repeated elements that enclose pieces of the story), or other deeper effects and intentions.

Kelly Neudorfer wrote:
Did I use "foreshadowing" enough in that paragraph?

Yes, mission accomplished!


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:28
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, I absolutely agree. Jul 20, 2016

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

I entirely agree with the idea of NOT reading the entire book before translating.

We are very obsessed indeed with naturalising/domesticating translations as if it was the only valid approach. At the request of publishers, we (I mean the vast majority of the translation community) very much produce a pre-digested target text, instead of preserving the foreign traits of works as a potential source of delight and knowledge for readers. If I am allowed the analogy, we as translators swallow up works and regurgitate the ideas back onto the paper, thus feeding readers not only with something that has completely lost its flavour, but also with a lot of our digestive juices (or prejudice, our whims and habits, our personal perception of the source culture and of the nature of our own culture, the mental artifacts imposed upon us by our age...).

We are so obsessed with naturalised translations that many translators even think that Venuti was in favour of naturalisation/domestication! As Berman(1) put it, "The properly ethical aim of the translating act is receiving the foreign as foreign". By NOT reading the full book before translation, we stay closer to the foreign nature of the text and its mechanisms of strangement, fully experience its twists and can convey them better, and are better prepared to produce similar effects in areas that are often neglected, like rhythm, syntax, and even the sound of the source text.

(1) Berman, A. (1985/2004) “La traduction comme épreuve de l’étranger”, Texte 4 (1985): 67-81, translated by L. Venuti as “Translation and the trials of the foreign”, in L. Venuti (ed.) (2004), pp. 276-89.

Translations of literary works should be true to the original in terms of content, style, dialogue, not naturalized. By making them too audience accessible, we destroy a part of their charm or perhaps even the whole work of art, turning it into cheap, sellable trash.

I still think you should read the whole book, at least once before translating it. I do.

[Edited at 2016-07-20 09:25 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 21:28
French to English
foreshadowing and exotica Jul 20, 2016

Kelly Neudorfer wrote:

The main problem I see arising with not reading the book before starting literary translation is foreshadowing. The first time you read a novel, you might not realize that a particular word or turn of phrase was chosen because of its foreshadowing effect. You therefore won't necessarily choose a translation that also foreshadows since you don't even know THAT you are foreshadowing, let alone WHAT you are foreshadowing. Did I use "foreshadowing" enough in that paragraph?



If, however, you go all the way through checking everything after you've done your first draft, you will pick up on all this and make appropriate changes.

I personally can't stand just passively reading the text, so I do my first draft without reading through first. It's a terrible draft where I don't even bother to look anything up. It's just translated well enough to then distance myself from the source and focus more on making my prose flow naturally.

I don't do literary translation, but I do lots of pretty creative stuff, and take care to leave a sprinkling of French in to give enough of an exotic feel. In tourism especially, since I'd rather attract tourists who will enjoy the Frenchness of France rather than seeking out a Little England


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Awad Balaish
Saudi Arabia
Local time: 23:28
Arabic to English
+ ...
Reading before translation can be costly Jul 23, 2016

Reading the whole book while you are a professional translator meanwhile your desktop is covered with a lot of jobs to be done, sounds waste of time. It has been taken for granted that reading a book before translating it, is a good idea in itself, it certainly, will increase the quality of your translation. But for the sake of time and money conditioned by high quality of your work, you have to recourse to your experience in translation without prior reading, and ask yourself what sort of mistakes you usually make or problems you could face or you think will you face, (make a list) for example (I mean just one example): during translation one depends a lot on his background of the culture from which the book or the text came and of course his experience and skills, in addition to pre-knowledge of the targeted subject, hence, probability of misunderstanding some areas can be inescapable to extent that misreading of some words could occur because of your background of that culture and your culture.

[Edited at 2016-07-24 06:22 GMT]


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Heladio
Local time: 16:28
English to Spanish
Isn't time an issue? Jul 23, 2016

As I did not read all the commentaries, I don't know whether someone refered to the time added if you read your assignments entirely. Isn't this issue important? Usually, our time is limited. How much does it take reading a whole book or document before translating it? Or should we take a course in fast reading before becoming translators?

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SNEH SHARMA
Local time: 01:58
English to Hindi
+ ...
Purpose of Translation Jul 24, 2016

Purpose of translation is 'to carry across the meaning, retaining the sense.' Translator is not the author. And to carry out this task, a translator needs to read the book before starting a literary translation. A good translator can translate in a naturalized way, staying true to the original.

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Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:28
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
On the other hand Jul 24, 2016

"With regard to technical, or legal, well, perhaps you can just read the entire page" - contrary to the assumption implicit in these words, translating technical or legal texts does involve intellectual effort as well rather than simply moving fingers, so reading just a page before immersing oneself in the job is quite a perilous approach and will lead later to serious loss of time for haphazard research. I don't translate pure literary texts, I have translated several non-fiction books on high level politics and economics, so my approach may have limited use for literary translation. On the other hand, I have several decades of experience as a translator so perhaps not all what I would like to contribute here will be useless. Before I sit down to a translation, I read the entire book twice. The first time I do it to see the forest behind the trees, to see its Gestalt. I do it without taking any notes and usually in one go, in the bath and at the expense of my sleep) The second time I read it at my desk, doing precise notes helping me to plan my research. Then I go for a weekend for a big outdoor and I don't think about the job at all, to clear my mind. When I return home, it's all plain sailing from here and the work goes very fast.

[Edited at 2016-07-24 18:46 GMT]


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Jack Slep  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:28
Russian to English
Start off Jul 24, 2016

I've been R>E translating scientific/technical journals on 70 different subjects on a daily basis for 65 years (I'm 85) and have never pre-read thousands of articles, or 10 or so books. I start with the first word and just keep going, adjusting the syntax/active-passive as needed, and researching my very large R, R>E., RE, ER library on a multitude of subjects as required. Perhaps if you do literary translations a "panoramic view" of what lies ahead and a preliminary skim (or in-depth) perusal is needed. But for the most part sci/tech is straight forward, succinct, to the point (except for authors who like to hear themselves) and can be translated from the start, from the git-go. But I guess after 6+ decades, since the Korean and Cold Wars, I've gained some knowledge about the different styles of authors and publishers and can proceed "from the start." The "thing" with sci/tech, though, is vocabulary. I'd wager that better than half those such words didn't exist when I began as a full-time freelance translator in 1966, or even the very sci/tech fields: magnetohydrodynamics, molecular genetics, solar power engineering, robotic surgery, etc. If you're comfortable pre-reading, do so. If you have competent knowledge of the subject, go straight to it and save time and money. Or select the options that makes you the best translator with the best product. Nothing is cut-and-dried in this profession, but use the greatest machine ever conceived--your brain--not some alphabet---CAT, MT, TM, TRADOS, etc., crap in, crap out; quantity in, bovine excreta out, forgetting quality; client's original product in, required product out before you got the original; $$$/??? it's in the mail, paid in Zambia currency, zebra zeroes. Being a professional (I hope!) translator all these decades, at least in my R>E combo, with literally millions of words translated, I've seen this honorable profession deteriorate from human to subhuman alphabets to demands to use various "machine products" developed by electrons, protons, neutrons, and morons. I'll give them a recent article I did on "Periglacial Geomorphlogy." Shove that through MT etc. and I'll probably get "Martini, go lightly on the ice around the G-spot rim" Of course, that's more erotic than my translation and will garner more readers. Don't blame them. Well, obviously, I'm the Ancient Translator, so I'll sign off. Probably didn't answer the original question, but do what is best for you--you don't need opinions, you only need yourself.

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Emil Kucera
Canada
Local time: 14:28
Member (2007)
Czech to English
+ ...
Good on you, Jack! Jul 24, 2016

Jack Slep wrote:

Nothing is cut-and-dried in this profession, but use the greatest machine ever conceived--your brain-- … do what is best for you--you don't need opinions, you only need yourself.

Thanks for putting it so well! The only thing I can think of to add is - best for you AND your (reader OR client) - they or their interest may not always be the same
There will be plenty of critics in either case
Regards Emil


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peninsular  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 01:58
Russian to English
+ ...
Browse Jul 25, 2016

I'd just leaf through and browse the pages to get a feel of the language, syntax and the lexicon and if I am comfortable I'd start translating .

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