Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Client Reviews and "Signing" Translations

I recently edited a rather good, mostly idiomatic translation. A few days after I submitted my work, I received a note that the client had feedback on the translation and editing. When I looked at the file attached to the note, almost all of the changes turned what had been an idiomatic text into an almost literal translation that no longer sounded like it had been written in the target language (in this case, German), but rather like a German version of a U.S. text. I did point this fact out, but the end client has the final say ...

This was a translation for hire, so my name was not publicly associated with the end product. An article I read recently advocated that translators "sign" their work so they can get credit for their efforts. As I recall, the article further argued that such authorship declarations would counteract the proliferation of less-than-professional translators, who would not want to have their name associated with their work. I am not so sure that this argument would hold, but in any case what would I do in a case like the one described above?

I wouldn't want my name associated with that end product. In this case, I saw the changes made. Frequently, I hand a translation in and never hear from anyone again. Presumably someone is proofing/editing my work, but I generally do not know who that person is or what changes have been made. This situation is somewhat similar to that of a writer whose work is edited. However, a writer usually knows the editor (frequently the same person who assigned the article/bought the book) and may have a say in the changes being made.

The technical documents I translate usually don't even acknowledge the author(s) of the original text, much less the translator. Since such text does not require much poetic talent and was generally either written by employees or as a work for hire, that seems fine to me. Fiction -- and to some extent marketing material -- is a different story. Here the translator is more of a "transcreator" who is basically ghostwriting the original in a different language. And that effort should be acknowledged -- not only in the work of fiction, but also in any reviews thereof.

On an administrative note: Sorry for not posting last week, but we wound up having to deal with a bedbug infestation. I did get the translation I had promised out, but I had absolutely no time to do anything else besides dealing with those nasties. Next week will be missed again, I'm afraid, because I will be on vacation.

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