Friday, February 19, 2016

On closer thought

Once a year, some (but not all) Israeli translators leave their Internet caves and mingle at the ITA conference.  While part of the pleasure is networking, the formal activity is three consecutive days of lectures on a whole plethora of topics, some immediately relevant to the person’s work and others completely outside the usual sphere of activity.  Curiously enough, I find the latter much more interesting and ultimately more satisfying. 

This year, we technical translators could learn about Donald Duck in Holland, Hebrew detective books, translating Brazilian-Jewish culture into German and the joys of Jane Austin, to name a few.  Of course, we can also hear practical advice about medical translation, French legal terms, site building, Wikipedia translation tools and the tricks of LinkedIn.  Due to fact that three different lectures were going on any time, I and the other attendees had to make cruel choices.

At first glance, the reason for my preference for the “irrelevant” is my fascination or envy of the challenges my colleagues face.  I do not have to find a parallel structure or alliteration to express the language of Jane Austin.  I don’t have to express the language register of the American detective Sam Spade when he talks with his secretary. I don’t even have to ask which kind of jacket the hero wears.  However, on second thought, I do have to choose my words, albeit different ones, carefully. I have to remember that a French “sentence” is the judgment, not the punishment, when to use the Hebrew as compared to the English name of a disease and thoroughly check my documents for spelling errors.  My range of freedom for translating a sentence may be less but my requirements are no less exacting.

In short, all translators, as communicators, are smiths.  In olden times, physical smiths may have worked with iron, gold or silver, but they all used the same tools, heat and hammer, granted of varying temperatures and size.  Like, we word smiths may treat different materials and vary in out finish, but we share the same tools, specifically words and creativity.  We all belong to the same guild.

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