Translation is exacting work that requires not only a good working knowledge of least two languages and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, but also excellent writing skills. As respected American translator Edith Grossman has recently noted, “every competent translator has to be a writer, because that is what we do. We write, in the guise of the person we are translating.” When asked what someone could do to become a better writer, Spanish novelist Javier Marías turned the tables, saying, “I’d recommend trying translation . . . to anyone who wants to write . . . I’m aware that my own skills as a writer have improved thanks to translation, which is a marvelous literary exercise.”
Gaining a good sense of how information conveyed in one language should be expressed in another requires years of comparative reading. Translators must be lifelong students, always striving to improve their writing skills and their knowledge of the sectors they translate for. They should also be prepared to bring a wealth of personal knowledge and experience to their professional projects. To quote Carol Fisher Saller, the author of the delightful book The Subversive Copy Editor, a person who works with someone else’s words should be “liberally educated and culturally literate.” Everything that translators have heard, read, or observed throughout their lives―from the fine print in a contract to a favorite line of a beloved poem―contributes to the quality of the work that they do.
Translators provide a key link between authors and their audiences. They should be treated as communications professionals and be expected to produce documents that meet high literary standards.
My work as a translator takes me on many fascinating mental voyages. So far this year, I have worked on texts related to everything from life in ancient Judea, education, EU policy, human rights, press coverage of ETA terrorism, children’s advertising, and young people’s media consumption habits to luxury travel, fine wines, haute couture, and exclusive perfumes. I’ve created this blog to share the marvelous day-to-day experience of being a wordsmith with others. I hope you enjoy it.
I also invite you to have a look at my professional website.