How best to improve one's own style
Thread poster: Annett Hieber

Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:09
English to German
Oct 4, 2011

Hi all,

I think also as a long-standing translator one should regularly work on one's abilities and not only on technical subjects or marketing. Therefore, I would like to improve my overall style both in the source and target language, polish it so to speak.

Do you have any recommendations as to methods, books or otherwise?

Please share your opinions.

Annett


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:09
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Write Oct 4, 2011

Annett Hieber wrote:

Hi all,

I think also as a long-standing translator one should regularly work on one's abilities and not only on technical subjects or marketing. Therefore, I would like to improve my overall style both in the source and target language, polish it so to speak.

Do you have any recommendations as to methods, books or otherwise?

Please share your opinions.

Annett


A good translator should also be a good writer with a command of style and vocabulary in their own native tongue- so if you can, I would suggest you seek opportunities to write magazine articles etc.

The task of the translator is in fact to write well in their mother tongue. I'm not so hot at writing in my source language and it takes me twice as long. But since the translator shouldn't be translating out of their mother tongue anyway, it isn't a problem.

The main thing is to be literate and well-read in your native language, so that as you translate you're not reaching for the dictionary every five minutes, because you have plenty of ideas and vocabularies of your own, inside your head.

So: plenty of reading and writing!

[Edited at 2011-10-04 15:23 GMT]


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Ivan Rocha, CT
Canada
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I second Oct 4, 2011

...what Tom said. Books should be your life.

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:09
Member (2008)
Italian to English
.... Oct 4, 2011

Ivan Rocha wrote:

...what Tom said. Books should be your life.



...or the death of you. I'm gradually filling up my life with books I never have time to read ! I love books!


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#JuliaC#  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:09
German to Italian
+ ...
Reading Oct 4, 2011

All you can and like! I think it is the best way to build up a strong vocabulary and to get to know many different writing styles. And write, also if only for your own pleasure.

Like Tom my life is full of books.. I relocated some time ago and in my new home there's a specific room only for books... however it's already full of them

[Edited at 2011-10-04 16:47 GMT]


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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:09
German to English
Study other people's translations Oct 4, 2011

I find reading existing translations - particularly very good ones - extremely illuminating. Even where I am confident that I could have made a good job of the translation myself, reading what someone else has done with it always throws up interesting new ideas and new ways of looking at things. You can do this with bilingual documents that you find on the internet (where you are sure that the translation is good - it's not worth wasting your time looking at rubbish), with documents that you get sent for proofreading or editing, or with books that you get hold of in two language versions. I find I can read a text in, say, my source language, mentally translate it (or at least the most interesting parts) as I go along, and flick my eyes across to the published translation to see what the translator actually did with it - it's a fascinating and highly instructive things to do.

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:09
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Have you read "In Other Words"? Oct 4, 2011

Not that you won't get pointers from studying other people's translation, but it addresses translation issues systematically (word, grammatical, textual and pragmatic equivalence). It sort of condenses the more common problems we meet. I think it's currently downloadable (google "a coursebook on translation").

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Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:09
English to German
TOPIC STARTER
Very good incentives Oct 5, 2011

Thank you for all the interesting answers and suggestions, hints, links and recommendations so far! I will definitely take up most of them.

Annett


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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:09
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Edit/Proof read the work of other translators. Oct 5, 2011

I'd just like to second Armoral. Also not just reading, but editing. Editing is not for everyone, but it sure is a good way to discover alternative, and possibly better ways of translating particular terms and phrases.

Reading parallel texts in your language pair can also bring these benefits.

Another procedure that I have found helpful is to occasionally print out the translation, and then a few days later, read through it, not as a "translation", but as a document requiring improvements to the written style.


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Federica Pojaga
Local time: 04:09
English to Italian
+ ...
Indeed... Oct 5, 2011

Tom in London wrote:

Ivan Rocha wrote:

...what Tom said. Books should be your life.



...or the death of you. I'm gradually filling up my life with books I never have time to read ! I love books!




The 'To Read' section of my bookcase is steadily filling up with new books as I cannot resist buying them but find little time to read them (or maybe I have become a slower reader...).
I would add that, as well as books, magazines and newspapers (and possibly also films) keep you updated on the changes of style in your native language.


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unitracen
Italy
Local time: 05:09
a few titles Oct 8, 2011

William Zissner's "On Writing Well" - even if you are writing in German, the tips there are useful for all languages. Also "Elements of Style", by Strunk & White, the American style classic. Any manuals in your native language on writing well.

I agree with the suggestions to read extensively in your native language.

Investing 3% of your income in books, educational materials, and tools in your professional field will help you be at the top, and stay there. Studies show this amount is the critical figure to be re-invested in professional growth, both at the company and individual level.

Peter


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dropinka  Identity Verified
Italy
English to Italian
+ ...
Writing from the Reader's Perspective Oct 8, 2011

The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader's Perspective by George Gopen

http://www.amazon.com/Sense-Structure-Writing-Readers-Perspective/dp/0205296327

Pretty tough essay, but very interesting nonetheless.

Claudia


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:09
Hebrew to English
I second what Parrot (and others) wrote.... Oct 8, 2011

Parrot wrote:

Not that you won't get pointers from studying other people's translation, but it addresses translation issues systematically (word, grammatical, textual and pragmatic equivalence). It sort of condenses the more common problems we meet. I think it's currently downloadable (google "a coursebook on translation").



I have to reiterate this, I am a major fan of this book. It's not essentially a style guide, it's a translation textbook but it's a great read nonetheless.

I think it would help to vary your reading across genres, give you snippets of different styles *and obviously it would help to focus on your specialities, whatever they may be.


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:09
German to English
+ ...
Edit Yourself Oct 13, 2011

I agree about reading other GOOD translations. It can be a really useful exercise to pick up new phrasings to freshen up your own work and avoid getting in a rut.

There is a really good book for English writing called Edit Yourself by Bruce Ross-Larson - he goes through specific phrasings and structures and suggests more concise and effective ways of expressing the same idea.

Also, doing something that forces you to write natively rather than translate is useful. I am taking classes in a related field currently, and the writing we are doing is really refreshing.


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