A friend who recently moved to Sweden posted this video link on speaking Swedish, and I just had to share it. For me, as a translator, the best part is the Swedish/English idiom that he mentions: “It’s not the fart that kills, it’s the smell,” where “fart” apparently is the Swedish word for “speed” and “smell” is equivalent to “impact”! Not speaking Swedish, I can’t verify this for certain, but it definitely makes a great translation story!
And speaking of Swedish translations, I have to briefly mention the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson (which has also been made into movies). I found that the English translation by Reg Keeland reads very well. Most of the time, the reader forgets it’s a translation (of course, we could make an argument against the desirability of the translator’s invisibility, but…). As a translator reading it, there were several times when I found myself admiring a beautiful turn of phrase, the cleverness of the translator in finding it, and wondering what the source text and culture context was.
One bit that felt “off” to me, however, was the translation in the second book (The Girl Who Played With Fire) of Detective Bublanski’s nickname, Officer Bubble. Although I can’t think what other options the translator might have had, considering the name, Bubble just doesn’t seem to fit the descriptions of the officer that are given.
At this point it has been mentioned a number of times (here, for instance) that the original title of the first book would be more-correctly translated as Men Who Hate Women, which gets to the heart of the book’s subject matter. As a translator I know that this decision was made by the publishing company, and that the translator most likely had no input whatsoever, and may even have objected strenuously. As a reader I have to admit that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a much catchier title, and it allows for continuity among all of the trilogy’s titles. I’m not sure I would go as far as Laurie Penny, the author of the New Statesman review above, in regards to the title change:
“most men who see women as objects don’t dismember them and stuff them into rucksacks. They visit strip clubs. They watch degrading pornography. If they work, just for instance, in publishing, they might reject a book title that draws attention to violence against women and replace it with one that infantilises the female protagonist and focuses on a trivial feature of her appearance.”
However, as a feminist I am glad to see such views expressed, and as a translator I am glad to see that in most cases it has been recognized that this was a decision of the publisher and not the translator.
Incidentally, for those familiar with the Millennium trilogy, the Kalle Blomkvist books by Astrid Lindgren were translated into English in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They are no longer in print, but from the titles it appears they were domesticated, becoming the Bill Bergson books in English. For those less familiar, the male protagonist, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, is nicknamed Kalle Blomkvist.
Well, the spring semester is well underway here in Wisconsin (which is why I haven’t posted in a while). I’m happy to be taking an advanced seminar in Spanish to English translation. Not only is it always nice to put theory into practice, this is the first class I’ve had in a while that is live and in-person (which I find much more effective for these classes since it allows us to really workshop the texts).
For my class project I’m working on an environmental text – a guide for journalists which gives background on climate change and the upcoming (at the time of its publication) Copenhagen event.
While translating the introduction to the piece, I came across this sentence, which brought back memories of my time in Galicia:
Y aunque los “negacionistas” existen – “haberlos hailos” como las miegas -, hoy son pocos quienes dudan de que las Tierra está sometida a un proceso de cambio climático y, que por primera vez en la historia de nuestro planeta, este fenómeno tiene un origen humano, como puso de manifiesto el Panel Intergubernamental de Expertos en Cambio Climático (IPCC) de Naciones Unidas.
The phrase in question (“haberlos hailos” como las miegas) is from Galicia, and refers to a common saying there. “Miegas” are “brujas” or witches, and loosely translated the phrase means, “I don’t believe in witches, but I know they exist.” It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek.
So the text is saying there must be naysayers out there somewhere but nobody seems to be able to find one to stand up and say they don’t believe. Here’s my attempt:
And even though the nay-sayers exist – even if we don’t know who they are – today there are few who doubt that the Earth is undergoing a process of climate change and that, for the first time in the history of our planet, this phenomenon has a human origin, as put forth in the declaration of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC).
Anybody have a better idea for how to express this?
Over the past few months while developing this site and getting my own blog up and running, I’ve been perusing many other blogs and sites. While many of these can be found in my links area, there are so many options that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all.
There are several prominent blogs written by freelance translators which I follow pretty consistently and enjoy:
Thoughts on Translation by Corinne McKay is always very interesting and had good advice for freelancers. Her book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator (see my library), was used in excerpts as part of the class I took in the fall on Business and Professional Aspects of Translation (and was much more practical and useful than some of the other readings).
Musings From an Overworked Translator by Jill Sommer is another very informative blog that I enjoy.
Translation Times by Judy and Dagmar Jenner. Judy also pens The Entrepreneurial Linguist column for The ATA Chronicle. I’m looking forward to reading Judy’s upcoming book by the same name.
I also read Jost Zetzsche’s Translator’s Toolkit as well as his GeekSpeak column in The ATA Chronicle.
An ongoing challenge for anyone working with languages is maintaining your fluency, especially maintaining spoken language and listening skills. I have made it a goal for this year to improve these skills, and one of the ways I’m doing it is by using a variety of the available online language blogs and podcasts to increase my exposure to spoken Spanish.
Notes in Spanish is a site for learning Spanish, with interesting podcasts about a variety of subjects run by a couple living in Madrid. (There was one under the Advanced section about the Camino de Santiago – a subject dear to my heart since my stay in Galicia.)
Voices en español is an interesting and informative blog and podcast; the author also runs Cody’s Cuentos with podcasts of stories, including many that are suitable for children. I’m listening to these with my son.
What sites do find most useful either for business advice or language skills?
Recently I interviewed Simona Fagarsanu, a literary translator who has translated several books on spirituality from English into her native Romanian. While it was at times a difficult experience in many ways, her love for the subject matter – and I believe the subject matter itself – sustained her. Several times during our chat she swore, “Never again!” but she also admitted that there was another project that she might like to tackle some day.
As a new translator, I was especially interested in advice – things to do or not do, and things to be aware of. Some of the issues she had to deal with are very specific to post-Communist bloc countries, but I was able to pull some generalized lessons from these as well. Here is what I learned:
- Foster your network of colleagues - Mona deeply regretted the lack of support, camaraderie, and professional advice and input from her peers created by the hiring process used by the organization which commissioned the translation. The group sent various chapters out to prospective translators; by the time Mona came to the US for an interview most of the others had been eliminated or had dropped out, but the process had made them unwilling to have anything to do with it or her.
- Learn about the publishing world (for literary translation) or the market (in general) - Mona was hired by an American organization, and she had to do much of the negotiating with publishers in Romania, and later Poland. She wished she had known more about the process, what to expect, and what to ask for. In general translation terms, we need to learn more about the business and legal aspects of our profession – negotiating with clients, setting up contracts, dealing with liability issues, and so on.
- Be mindful of your posture and ergonomics - Over the course of this five-year project, Mona developed a crick in her neck that deteriorated into periodic numbness to the point of being occasionally bedridden for a day or two at a time, and she still experiences this when she sits at her computer for too long. Since my talk with Mona, I’ve invested in an ergonomic keyboard and ambidextrous mouse, and started practicing yoga again. I’m also considering speech-recognition software.
- Cultural differences can be key - This was one of the most interesting parts of our discussion. Mona said that when she was growing up, students learned grammar and literature through translating texts. They used the fact that translation requires a close, intimate reading of a text in order to better understand the work itself and the languages. During the communist era there was also a thirst for outside information. These two elements resulted in many books being translated without copyrights, informally rather than through publishing houses. There was a concern that the translators who felt scorned by the process might publish the chapters they had worked on without permission. While this is not the case everywhere, it is a good illustration of the impact culture and history can have on our industry.
Overall, my interview with Mona reinforced the general perception I have of literary translation as a labor of love, requiring great patience and persistence when dealing with the publishing world.
My husband has been suggesting that perhaps self-publishing is the way to go for literary translation – making use of resources such as Lulu or even Amazon’s Kindle. One would still need to deal with the original publisher or author, of course, but with the small number of books in translation that are published in the US through the traditional presses, this seems like a possibility. Does anyone have any experience with this or any thoughts on the idea?
One of the best parts of an in-person translation class or workshop is the brainstorming that goes on over various translations or interpretations of words or phrases in a text. This post is made in this spirit, and I hope it generates the same type of brainstorming.
I recently read Calypso by Costa Rican author Tatiana Lobo, and came across a phrase that makes a great puzzle because of the layers of meaning intended.
It’s such a fun situation and set-up, and such a good translation puzzle, that I’m throwing it out here to see if anyone can come up with a satisfactory solution.
In the story, two men, one white and the other black, are founding residents of a small town. The black man brings his woman with them, and the white man lusts after her. One night, while the two men are guarding the black couple’s chickens from a predator, the white man shoots the other and pretends it was an accident. The woman, grief-stricken, refuses to keep the chickens around, which means that all of the town’s eggs have to be brought in from outside. She ignores the white man’s advances, and eventually takes up with a Jamaican immigrant who moves to the town.
One day, the black man’s sister (who suspects that the white man purposely killed her brother), comes into the white man’s store and buys some eggs. She says to him, “Es lamentable que en este pueblo haya que conseguir los huevos importados.” Literally, this means, “It’s too bad that in this town we have to get imported eggs.” But she’s also saying that all the good men are imported too, since “huevos” is slang for testicles in the same way that we use “balls” or “nuts” in English; unfortunately for this case, we don’t use “eggs” in the same sense.
It’s a great line, and since there’s so much set-up, it’s a shame not to do something with it, but what?
The best I’ve come up with is, “It’s too bad all the eggs in this town are imported – and the men too.” Does anybody see a different solution?
When I tell people I’m studying translation, I often get asked about Machine Translation. My first, superficial response is to ask if the person asking has ever tried to use Babel Fish, Google Translate, or one of the other online automated translation engines.
For a bit more in-depth answer and discussion, I really liked what the ATA had to say in the open letter of response to the Obama administration this fall. (The ATA site has a link to their press release about the response: https://www.atanet.org/pressroom/news_release_obama.pdf ; the full letter was published in the most-recent issue of The ATA Chronicle.)
For the geekiest of answers, there’s the video blog posted by Jost on “The Reconvergence of MT and TM” : http://www.translatorstraining.com/sito/tlp_videoBlog.php
I wondered how common this question is when working with direct clients. How much time do you spend, on average, explaining the difference between MT and a professional human translator? Do you have a stock answer, information on your website, an email template, etc. dealing with the question, or do you pretty much never have to deal with this question?
‘Tis the season for many things this time of year, but unfortunately not peppers.
Around this time every year I start to get a real craving for pimientos de Padrón. Maybe it has to do with the fact that it’s now been about four months since I had any, maybe the fact that it will be another four to six months before I can have any more. Maybe there’s something else… missing Galicia, Santiago, and the people I came to know and love–especially at this time of sharing with family and friends.
I was in Santiago just as the peppers were ripening and appearing in the markets. As a vegetarian in Spain (as in many places in the U.S.), it was difficult at times to find something to eat at restaurants. And as a student I found the cafeteria’s vegetarian option to be less-than-balanced nutrition – especially since I was pregnant. But at almost any restaurant I was sure to be able to order a big plate of pimientos de Padrón.
Now, you must understand–I DETEST cooked bell peppers. I enjoy their juicy, sweet, tart crunchiness when raw, but when cooked, bell peppers release a particular flavor that permeates the entire dish and that gives me the shivers.
So it was a great leap of faith for me to even consider trying the pimientos de Padrón, but I steeled myself, nibbled at a small one, and was hooked. They became a staple of my diet while in Galicia – a true comfort food (and as an added bonus, peppers are high in B vitamins which help reduce morning sickness!).
These tiny green peppers are named after the town of Padrón on the coast in Galicia where they are grown. They are picked early, fried in olive oil until they puff and begin to shrivel, then they are drained (I pat them with paper towels) and salted, preferably with coarse sea salt. They are small enough to be eaten whole, bitten off the stem.
Oh, los pimientos de Padrón! Algunos pican, otros no.
About one in ten or so are HOT – some mildly hot, others blisteringly so. Some people swear it’s the large ones that are hot, others that it’s the small ones; it’s impossible to tell. Among the growers here in the U.S., I’ve heard many stories of Padrón peppers left to ripen (turn red) by accident, and these stories invariably tell of blistering heat.
Although I’ve been able to find some seeds here in the U.S., none of the local farms where I live grow them, and I have been unable to grow them in sufficient quantities to satisfy my appetite. While my plants were healthy and produced for a long time, they only gave me a few at a time. Last spring, however, I put myself on the list to be notified by La Tienda when their pimiento growers in Virginia were ready to harvest. I ordered enough to keep me happy for a few days. Now I’m waiting for next year’s crop, and remembering all of the cafés and restaurants – and the people inside.
Frogs and other amphibians often serve as ”canaries in the mine shaft” for the environment in general, due their sensitivity–they breathe through their skin, which makes them particularly vulnerable to pollutants. For a number of years now, there has been a huge surge both in the numbers of new frog and toad species being discovered and in the numbers of those species dying, many to the point of near extinction–frogs and toads all over the world, but particularly in Central and South America, are dying. According to many herpetologists, this could very well spell trouble for humans as well, in much the same way that the death of the canary warned miners, signaling risky levels of toxins in the air and water all around the globe.
In general, I’m not the kind of person to get up on a soapbox and preach to the masses: “BEWARE!” I tend to do what I can to help others carry on the good fight–I’m a support person, not a front-liner. That support does include some education, but having worked with kids for many years, I try to make that education fun or at least relatively painless. One of my favorite sources for great activities has always been Project WILD (www.projectwild.org ), so as I was browsing the web, I was excited to see they now have an activity guide for kids ages 3-7, as well as their guides for older kids.
But frogs have been on my mind recently. As my toddler practices his wide range of animal sounds, I get a daily chorus of, “Cow say, ‘moo!’ Horse say, ‘neigh!’ Frog say ‘ribbit!’” So as I combed other translation blogs this fall, this posting caught my eye: http://nothingforungood.com/2009/06/09/germans-are-bad-listeners/ Among the ensuing discussion posts was this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-linguistic_onomatopoeias#Frog_croaking . Now this list is all well and good, and a great resource to have, but my first thought had been to reply that frogs not only say “ribbit,” but also “croak,” “knee-deep,” and “peep peep.” And although I don’t know quite as many variations in Spanish, I do know that frogs say “co-qui” in Puerto Rico in addition to the standard “croac” that’s in the Wikipedia list. (This kind of variation in animal sounds are particularly evident with dogs—check out one of our favorite board books by Sandra Boynton, Doggies–but I digress.) This site: http://www.dendrobates.org/species.html has an amazing list of poison dart frog species, mainly from Peru, and many with sound clips, proving that these frogs don’t say “ribbit” or “croac.”
Frogs are a particular favorite of my son lately, as he plays with his collection of tiny plastic poison dart frogs. He has a blue and black Dendrobates azureus, a green and black D. auratus, and a blue jeans D. pumilio. While the last two are doing fairly well in the wild, D. azureus is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Azureus breeds well in captivity and is a popular pet, but its range is very limited in the wild. As with other exotic animals, prospective buyers should be aware of the threats posed to wild populations by smuggling for the exotic pet trade (just as prospective dog owners should be wary of buying from pet shops who often get their animals from puppy mills).
We prefer the plastic variety at least for now, not least because they can be handled a bit less carefully, and he’s learned to recognize the calls from the dendrobates.org site as frogs too. Next we’re working on bird calls… have you every really heard a bird say, “Tweet”?
Welcome to the new blog for Ljm Translation! I’m Ljm—Laura J Melbourne—and I’m starting this blog and a freelance translation business in Spanish to English while I finish my Master’s degree in translation at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.
My initials are “Ljm,” but I’ve been trying to come up with a phrase that fits too, such as “where Language Joins Message.” Translation is not simply a matter of knowing the basics of two or more languages, and a literal translation is usually not the best one—a good translation takes into account the meaning or message behind the words. I also like the subtle play on the word “joins” since a joiner is a carpenter, and that brings to mind all kinds of good building metaphors.
On this blog I plan to post information on translation and on my various specializations and interests. Upcoming topics include frogs and toads, paella variations, and some ponderings on the future of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Don’t worry if you can’t quite see how those connect to translation—that’s the beauty of a blog: hopefully if it makes sense often enough, you’ll keep coming back and even join in the conversations—and that’s the purpose of a blog.
I’m excited to be the new kid on the translation blogger block, and I hope to make some great connections. Please join in the conversation!