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In my experience, one of the most common misconceptions about translation is that knowing a foreign language is all it takes to be a good translator.Vintage brown & white enamelware enamel tiffin bento box carrier rare Especially in the Netherlands, where everyone learns English in school and more and more university courses are taught in English, a lot of people seem to think that this is all it takes to become a translator. “I always read books in English,” they will say. Sounds convincing, right?

Wrong.

First of all, “knowing a foreign language” or “being fluent in a language” is very subjective. A lot of people claim to be fluent in English because they are able to read books in English or to have a successful conversation in English. But you don’t have to have a perfect grasp of the English language to read a book, as long as you get the gist of the story. And you don’t have to speak English fluently to have a successful conversation, as long as you understand each other. When it comes to translation, however, this is not enough. To be able to translate a text, you have to understand it perfectly: not just every word but every nuance in meaning, every idiom, every cultural reference, even regional slang (if you translate literature).Vintage Cansister Set Sugar Tea Coffee Storage Jars Lidded Kitchen Grey

And that is not all.

The next step is to transfer the original message with all its nuances and references into your own mother tongue. That is a skill in itself and doesn’t come “automatically” with learning a foreign language. Even people who have been raised bilingually and speak and understand two languages perfectly aren’t necessarily good translators, because they may lack this specific skill: how to describe the message from one language in the words of another language.

Vintage CLP Italian Milk Glass Set Tea Coffee Sugar Canisters Storage Jars VGCThat is quite a lot to ask from a translator, isn’t it? But we are not there just yet.

Just putting a message into words (which is often already hard enough!) is not good enough when you are translating, especially when it comes to more creative texts, such as advertising material or literature. The text needs to be attractive too; after all, you want people to read it.VINTAGE CZECHOSLOVAKIAN 9 PC blueE AND WHITE CERAMIC CANISTER CRUET SET If you are going to advertise a product, you don’t want your potential clients to get bored after a few sentences and forget about your product altogether. And people who buy a novel usually want more than just a story, they want to be dragged into that story. To achieve that, a translator needs excellent writing skills to be able to produce a translation that is just as compelling as the original, using the right style and tone of voice for the intended target audience.

There are of course other skills a good translator should have, such as specialising in a specific subject area, but in my opinion these are the three basic skills: an excellent command of the foreign language, the ability to translate the message into your own language, and excellent writing skills.Vintage Edison Bulb - 25 Watt - T45 - Squirrel Cage Filament - Dimmable - 8...

Who knew translation could be so complicated?

I was recently interviewed by Tess Whitty from Marketing Tips for Translators about a AiRunTech Upgraded No Bounce Hydration Belt Can be Cut to Size Design Strap for I held at the 56th Annual ATA Conference in Miami last November.VINTAGE FRENCH BAGUETTE BATON BREAD PROVING BASKET LINED SHABBY 28 1 2 The subject of my presentation was how to improve your writing skills because, as translators, we are expected to do more than just convey the meaning of a text into another language, we also have to be excellent writers. In the interview, I talk about some of the methods that I have worked for me, both in improving my writing skills and in marketing my services.

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This is the article, titled “Translating Fashion”, which I wrote for the Spring 2015 newsletter of the British Costume Society (click the image for a more readable version):Vintage Heavy Glass Canisters Apothecary

 

 

One of my main areas of specialisation is fashion. Last year I joined the British Costume Society, because they offer a lot of useful information on both historical and contemporary fashion and they regularly organise events on the subject of dress, fashion and textiles. They also publish a newsletter for their members. Last year I contacted the editor of the newsletter to ask whether they would be interested in an article about translating for the fashion industry and they said they would be.

I decided to focus on the translations from English into Dutch which I did for the exhibition “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier”, Vintage Iron 4x1 Slicer & Grater kitchen fruit and vegetable chopper and Peelerwhich was held in Rotterdam in 2013, since the previous Costume Society newsletter contained a review of this exhibition, which was on display in London in the summer of 2014.

The aim of my article was to show how a translator works and what he or she needs, so I started by explaining that I need to know what kind of style the client is looking for and that it is helpful to have previously written texts, glossaries and/or style guides as a guideline. I then went on to explain how important it is to have proper visuals, especially if you have to translate detailed descriptions of the designs, as was the case for this exhibition. I gave a couple of examples of texts that were really unclear without visuals and how I was able to solve this (I sent them photographs I had taken myself at the exhibition to illustrate this and they were printed along with the article).Vintage LED Bulbs Edison 60 Watt Equivalent 6W Dimmable Filament Light 600 Lumen I ended by listing some other problems I encountered, such as typos in the text and phrases that were in French instead of in English (my working language; I do not translate from French) and how I managed to work around those issues.

Before I sent the article to the editor I had it proofread by Elise Reynolds, as English is not my native language.

I really enjoyed writing the article and I hope it gives people who have never worked with a translator before some idea of how translators tend to work.Vintage LED Edison Bulb, 8W Dimmable Filament Light ST64 940 Lumen Daylight Base