How Translation Shapes Our Lives
A book by by David Bellos, translator, biographer and lecturer in Comparative Literature at Princeton University, Is that a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything, published by Penguin Press this month.
as well as podcasts … and so much more!
Order it now!
When I first began teaching English in France, I heard an expression I had never encounterd before: False Friends. What in the world could that mean? Only a Frenchman would know … that he meant look-alikes or even worse, imposters or traitors!
There are quite a few words which, in French and in English, have the same or similar spellings, maybe the same roots but which are not used in the same ways in the two languages. As with wild mushrooms … some look-alikes … are dangerous.
If you hear a Frenchman say “actually” in English … you can be suspicious. The word slips into a sentence easily and isn’t illogical in most cases. If the Frenchman knows that the word means “in fact” and he uses it that way … that’s fine. BUT if he thinks that “actually” is the faithful translation of the French word “actuellement” … we’re mistaken and into … look-alikes: A fair translation of the idea of “actuellement” would be “now, at the present time.”
We are thus facing not just two words but two different concepts.
The French word, actuel, expresses a concept in TIME; the English word actual expresses the concept of fact, of ACCURACY.
Misunderstandings are born of … assumptions. Beware of look-alikes!
Fortunately … “false” friends aren’t the only kind … There are thousands of real ones, those you can count on, including the TV series …
When you’re not involved in these worlds of multilingual communication, these words seem to be synonomous because they have something important in common: rendering meanings from one language to another.
What’s the difference then?
Interpreters speak. Translators write.
And that’s where it begins!
Choosing a translator or an interpreter is not as simple as opening up your ibrowser. Here are just a few of the vital basics:
The original: Provide a quality original. Many translations appear to be poor translations … only because the original is not up to standard.
Language pairs: The translator or interpreter goes from a foreign language to his/her native language. He is writing or speaking to others who understand his native language.
Competence: He/She must know the subject matter in depth. Don’t expect a generalist to translate or interpret a legal contract or a manual on using agricultural machinery.
Experience: It takes many years to provide quality at an acceptable speed. A professional translator translates about 10 full pages/day in his speciality.
Think ahead: Most reputable professionals are in high demand…and are under high pressure. Don’t expect them to be available at the last minute. Reserve their time in advance.
Proofreading: Nobody’s perfect. It’s best to plan on your own proofreader who can work with the translator.
Proofreading 2: How many people will read what’s printed? That should be a determining factor in how many proofreads are necessary. Your audience will spot ANY errors. If your document is important enough to be shared, try to get it … right! If it’s going to be distributed to 50 people, you have 50 potential error-spotting critics … How much more if you have 500, 5 000 or 50 000 potential readers??
Costs: You get what you pay for!
In this field, remember the golden rule: No guessing.
I can’t say that this question prevented me from getting a good night’s sleep but maybe it should.
Nonetheless, when I woke up, the question was going through my brain: Just what do they mean when they talk about “sustainability” ? Is it ecology? Is it perennial? Is it anything “green”?
“Acting responsibly in accordance with what we know about our environment” is sort of what I come to. Here’s what a specialist has to say:
Thank you for helping us out, Judy.