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Translator´s invisibility/visibility
Thread poster: Soledad Bellido

Soledad Bellido  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 10:56
English to Spanish
Apr 30, 2016

Much has been discussed about the close relationship between translators´ invisibility and the criterion of fluency. If a text can be read in a foreign language/culture without people noticing it had been previously translated, you have completed your job successfully.
But what about recognition and appraisal? Are we, translators, invisible in other ways as well? What can we do to become more visible in the work market? Should companies start mentioning more often that a text has been translated? I have the feeling that people are not truly aware of the huge amount of translations they “consume”. What do you think?


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 20:56
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
More visible in the work market? Apr 30, 2016

Soledad Bellido wrote:

Much has been discussed about the close relationship between translators´ invisibility and the criterion of fluency. If a text can be read in a foreign language/culture without people noticing it had been previously translated, you have completed your job successfully.
But what about recognition and appraisal? Are we, translators, invisible in other ways as well? What can we do to become more visible in the work market? Should companies start mentioning more often that a text has been translated? I have the feeling that people are not truly aware of the huge amount of translations they “consume”. What do you think?


I love your question. I recently was told not to communicate with clients or end users of my translation even during translation processed. I agree on condition that if there is any concern, I should be able to discuss with clients or end users of my translation for better translation satisfaction. Clients will be also exposed to more good translators.

By the way, representative of the client and the oversea translation agency flew to Bangkok and met with me in a business center of a hotel to discuss about this matter. We agree that visibility of the translator is quite critical to the translation satisfaction.

This is against the classic perception that the translator may not communicate with the client or other stakeholders.

Soonthon L.


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The Misha
Local time: 08:56
Russian to English
+ ...
If you want to be a principal, choose a different occupation Apr 30, 2016

Like, write a book. Or make a movie. Or become a successful CEO. You know, that kind of thing. Otherwise, just sh....t up, take the money and enjoy the feeling of freedom that comes with not having to be a part of the 9 to 5 rat race or a public figure who is always in the limelight.

There's always a trade-off. You can't have it all. Take it from someone who's lived a while.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:56
Member (2014)
English to German
In don't mind my work being "invisible", but ... Apr 30, 2016

I often get the impression translators are not considered a profession, but an industry of piece workers and typists who work for any rate and any time. There are may reasons for that, but sometimes it would be a start if able and qualified translators didn't see themselves in that way.

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:56
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Agree Apr 30, 2016

Yes, agencies should be more trustful of translators and help them communicate directly with clients. We know we should not approach the same client directly after the work is over or accept work from the client directly approaching us. It would save a lot of misunderstanding and mistranslation. I always refuse medical translations as I don't think I'm qualified for them, but on one occasion the agency couldn't find anyone else & asked me if I'd do it if I could discuss it with the doctors who had ordered it. I agreed, and I think the resulting translation about injuries from land mines was satisfactory, and I learned something about that subject.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:56
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I disagree Apr 30, 2016

Soledad Bellido wrote:
Much has been discussed about the close relationship between translators´ invisibility and the criterion of fluency. If a text can be read in a foreign language/culture without people noticing it had been previously translated, you have completed your job successfully.

Personally I dislike this idea that our ultimate goal should be to remove the foreignness of the texts we work on. Yes, I know that this is what most customers and publishers (and ultimately readers) expect, but maybe we have taught them to think that way... and it was very badly done indeed.

Especially in literature, we should rethink this whole paradigm of translation as a meat grinder that hammers source texts to shape them to the target taste. Publishers themselves already filter out much of the potential reading delights out there by selecting the works that -- they feel -- will not be uncomfortable or difficult to read when translated. Thus, they sacrifice authenticity to digestibility. If, on top of that, we translators domesticate texts even more, we are clearly not doing literature (or readers) a favour.

I encourage every translator to reconsider this matter and try to shake off the idea of translation as automatic domestication of source texts. There is a lot to gain for the reader in being fair to the authors and translating differently, or at least in trying to explain the difference to publishers.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:56
English to Croatian
+ ...
Pretty much a ghost profession. Apr 30, 2016

.. just like screen writers. When people consume movies, do they pay attention to screen writers, or to actors? Good script is at least 80% of the movie.

Not sure what could be done, but in general, interpreters have better visibility.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:56
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Screen writers and dramatists Apr 30, 2016

You're so right about the "invisibility" of screen writers and dramatists, Lingua 5B!
Few viewers of TV dramas and films even consider the quality of the writing. For instance, the constant admiration of the wondrous Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey, the Lady in the Van, etc. "Oh, isn't she brilliant!" everyone cries. Well, yes, she is brilliant, but the parts she gets these days are dream gifts. It would be a poor actress who couldn't hit the nail on the head with such lines.

Re the "invisibility" of translators - I agree with Tomás as far as the translation of literature is concerned (as opposed to the translation of legal, commercial and technical documents). The translation of novels and plays set, say, in France or Latin America, must retain an element of their original "Frenchness" or "Latin-Americanness" simply because the history, social circumstances, etc. of other countries need to be presented authentically to retain the atmosphere of the original work. Sometimes there simply isn't an equivalent in another language.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:56
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Agree with Jenny. Apr 30, 2016

The reverse is true too. Ben Miller was a great comic actor in "The Worst Week of My Life" and "Death in Paradise", and so was Caroline Catz in "Doc Marten" and "Murder in Suburbia", but they can't save "I Want My Wife Back" from being a totally unfunny "comedy".

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 13:56
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Literary translation Apr 30, 2016

I do agree with Tomás that a literary translation must reflect not only the creative, intellectual and emotional writing of the author but also the beauty of the text and its lexical, grammatical and stylistic features. I suppose that’s why literary translation is so difficult and literary translators tend to focus on the work of only one or two authors…

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 13:56
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Visibility/invisibility Apr 30, 2016

I have been translating since 2007 from English into European Portuguese articles published by “The Economist” and “The Guardian” for a Portuguese monthly magazine (“Courrier Internacional”) and what I try to do (and what I’m asked to do) is producing a text that looks natural and attractive to the reader. These are the only translations I do that are always credited with my name, though I don’t mind at all being invisible…

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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:56
Member (2014)
English to German
I agree Apr 30, 2016

The text needs to be readable and appropriate for the target reader, that might in some cases mean getting rid of all traces of the source culture and in other cases (e.g. literature) it might mean that the source culture should shine through, but the text must still be well written and idiomatic in the target language.

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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Why do we need visibility Apr 30, 2016

As Tomás pointed out, domestication is just one approach. We certainly use this approach, but we do so in combination with many other approaches, even in the same text. The profession itself pretty much consists of which approach to use and when to do so exactly.

As for our visibility, I acknowledge it. Moreover, I think we should be invisible (to the consumers of the work, not to the translation value chain, or we risk starving). I also think writers, movie directors, singers or judges should be also invisible, much more invisible that they are, actually.

If you enjoy your car, why on earth don't you have this crazy idea to meet the engineer who designed the gear box your car houses?

I like the movies Woody Allen directed. I completely ignore the details, nor do I try to find them, in relation to the fact that he married his step daughter (I just heard someone said this is so). I am totally uninterested in what Mr Allen eats, drinks or what his hobbies are (I admit I heard he played clarinet, but I never tried to find out if it was a B flat clarinet). I just like his movies, period. If someone else shoots movies that good, I will like them exactly the same way.

Why do we need visibility if it is not to find more and better work? If it is for this reason, then we should be visible to our profession-related stakeholders, not to general public.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 21:56
Chinese to English
A couple of possible answers Apr 30, 2016

I agree with the point that invisibility is not necessarily bad. But I think there are answers to a couple of Merab's questions:

Merab Dekano wrote:

(Why care who designed your car's gearbox)
Why do we need visibility if it is not to find more and better work? If it is for this reason, then we should be visible to our profession-related stakeholders, not to general public.

One answer is: out of a general concern for truth. Anyone who wants to know who designed the gearbox should be allowed to know and meet that person; translators are typically unfindable. And second, the sad truth is that our professional customers often seem little better informed than the general public.

I think raising the profile of an unacknowledged sector is worth it.


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Carole Wolfe  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:56
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
More Visibility May 1, 2016

I think that translators should be more visible. Letting others (both professionals and consumers of translations) know who is responsible for the text before them will lead to better translation quality. A translator will be more careful and conscientious if his/her name is on the texts he/she produces (even packaging labels and cut-and-dry equipment manuals) because of the possibility of word spreading about the quality or lack thereof of his/her work.
At this stage of the translation industry, if a translator produces a perfect translation, hardly anyone recognizes that. His/Her chief reward (besides getting paid on time) is self-satisfaction with a job well done. If he/she turns out a lousy translation, not many people will know about that either. Sure, he/she might get a critical comment from the agency and a reduction in pay, but so what? The translator will not will not ask for a recommendation from that agency and will just move on to the next unsuspecting client and churn out the same rubbish.
Bottom line: it's human nature to do your best if you know others will see what you've done and could spread comments (pro or con) about their opinion of your work.


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