sábado, 9 de febrero de 2013

"Reading the original is always better": the translator's burden

Dear readers, be aware that on occasions the entries of House of Ñ, your trusty sidekick for all comicslation matters, will have a more personal tone to it. I do not mean to tell you about my personal troubles or about the latest girl that has friendzoned me, but I do intend to reflect upon my experiences as translator that I am by profession, by training, and above all by vocation. This is one of such entries.

From time to time I will stumble upon a comment not unlike the one quoted in the title, sometimes even manifesting a distrust for translation itself as a discipline. The most recent one was in response to the recent The Walking Dead entry. As a reader, I must admit that many times I have avoided translations, since my professional (de)formation has left me unable to turn off my "translating spider sense", which is constantly reverse-engineering every sentence to find out what the original said, how it was said, and why the translator chose this and not another possibility.

On the other hand, as a translator, I am convinced that reading the original needn't always be the better experience. This conviction plays a big part in the genesis of this blog. I believe and stand for the notion that translators can and must provide translations that are agreeable to read, and that both the reader and the work can be enriched by them. Translations should prove themselves bridges of understanding between languages and cultures; they should be valuable and - as Derrida once wrote - relevant.

Among the many topics I would like to address regarding the task of the translator, the first I want to share is that conveying a message from one language to another is anything but automatic. Each text carries in itself an assortment of requirements, necessities, and problems that will need analysis, comprehension, and dedication to several degrees. And if that wasn't enough, the translator also needs to have a certain mettle to choose in each instance only one translation solution among the many, many possible ones. In that regard, conceiving a translation is not unlike the spermatozoon that has to race and defeat millions of its peers in order to reach the goal and bring forth new life. Following the analogy, the most fecund minds are the ones that produce more translation solutions to make them race and clash before choosing the winner.

It is not an easy task. Or it should not be if it is done right.

Also, it is not always gratefully received.

Another concept that is difficult to become acquainted with if you are not devoted to this labor is that for each text there is not one singular "correct" translation. Instead, a myriad of appropriate translations may exist. A translation is appropriate when it fulfills the goals set for it, but these are dependent on the intended reader, among other factors.

I acknowledge there are plenty of bad translations, for I have witnessed it, but that does not mean that translation itself must be a shadow of the original, a makeshift remedy, or an apology between users of different languages. Translators devoted to this profession, as yours truly, aim to share the wealth within a given content created in one language and bring it into another. Or we shall die trying.

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