Is translating an art? I would say it depends on what you’re translating, but it can be. Is it curious? I find it so.
I’m from Barcelona and speak (and write) Spanish and Catalan (Catalan although I’ve always spoken it was not officially taught when I was very young due to…politics and the government of General Franco. That’s not terribly relevant to the post, but I’m gifted, or plagued, with lateral thinking processes). I studied French at school for a few years and then English at High School. I moved to the UK in 1992 and since I’ve spent most of my life speaking, reading and writing in English (although of course Spanish and Catalan are also there). Even my fiction, that I started writing in one form or another when I was very young, moved from strictly Spanish (less often Catalan) to English.
Now as you know I’ve taken up self-publishing some of my stories, and as part of the process I’m doing some translating. Sometimes in either direction, mostly from English to Spanish. I decided to have guest authors in my blog and as I had been posting in both Spanish and English, I’d also translated the guest posts from either Spanish to English or the other way round, depending on the main language of the guest.
It is a rewarding and sometimes difficult task. I’ve come to love the fact that you get to know the original material much better than you would do otherwise. You go through it with a fine toothcomb, trying to find expressions that might mean the same or something equivalent in the other language, and sometimes you need to determine what’s exactly being said.
Interviews in general I don’t find too difficult. Actual samples of a book are much more precious, as not only content but style come into play and some of the author’s decisions you might not agree with, or might not be easily (if at all) translatable into the other language. And what about the titles? I find titles particularly challenging. Sometimes I give up and leave the original, but even then, if it’s not just a name, I’ll try to provide a translation (in order to at least give some information to the reader). But how to know if that would be the other person’s choice?
I have written a Young Adult novel, the first in a (somewhat) planned series and decided I was going to translate it from English to Spanish. Well, it’s not that difficult when it’s your own book, because at least you know what you’re trying to say. Or so I thought. And of course, I started with the title. Angelic Business 1. Pink Matters. 1 is easy. Does not need translation. Angelic pretty straight forward too (Angélico or Angélicos if plural). But Business. Several meanings. Did I want business as an enterprise, the world of business, or as a matter (“none of your business”) kind of thing? Negocios Angélicos? I finally decided (so far) to go with Asuntos Angélicos.
But that was nothing compare with ‘Pink Matters’. Pink is the name of the main character (she’s named Petra but hates her name and as she likes the pink colour, she goes by Pink). Pink (the colour) in Spanish is rosa (as a colour). But Rosa is also a name (Rose). But I didn’t want Rosa, so I decided to stick with Pink. No reason why children reading this book (I’m not specific about the setting but it’s a world with High Schools and football players, so) would not know enough English to know what Pink is, and of course there’s also the singer. And ‘matters’? Matter again could be a thing to talk about…(sort of ‘related’ to Pink) but I like the possible double meaning, as in, the girl, Pink, matters, is important. She’s the centre of the novel. I could not think of any word similar in Spanish and I wanted to keep the symmetry. I didn’t fancy using several words and making it a really long title. So far I’m working with ‘Alerta Pink’ (yes, Pink Alert) that’s fairly different, but I like the interplay with red alert. (Alerta Roja in Spanish). And all this for only 4 words and a number. Can you imagine the whole process? Of course, the title is very important and I hope I won’t agonise so much over the rest of the book but…(so far I’ve only translated a chapter and a bit, but I’m currently translating a book from Spanish to English for somebody else. Challenging indeed!)
Yes, I would say it is a curious art, don’t you think?
Thanks for reading!
- Literal translations in English and Spanish that are nonsense. (casahispanasfca.wordpress.com)
4 replies on “The Curious Art of Translating. According to me.”
Thanks Mary. Sometimes frustrating and challenging, sometimes a joy!
I started reading Twin Evil yesterday evening, and…I was wondering if it was written in English or in Spanish. This morning I discovered your post in my mailbox. So I got an answer. Personnally I have chosen to write in French and to translate in English, asking a friend of mine (an English guy living in France) to proofread it. To add some information to your question about language , when I write official reports for my job as project manager, I do it directly in English. Cheers Francis LAVEAUX
https://sites.google.com/site/radarbre/ http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ATPVYCO http://www.amazon.com/Cheval-lAlouette-French-Edition-ebook/dp/B008IVBSTK http://intheshadowofthedragon.blogspot.fr/
Thanks Francis. I also write in English at work and for a few years now I’ve been writing fiction in English (as I studied American Literature in UK and have done some writing courses here) but there’s no escaping peculiar expressions and awkwardness (but there are also local variations anyway, so not such a thing as accepted standard so much these days). The Escaping Psychiatry series it’s only available in English but wondering about translating it to Spanish and compiling it into a single book. Twin Evils? I wrote in English first and then translated it. The Man…started life as a novella in Spanish many years back and since I translated it to English, added to it and made it a fully fledged novel and then translated it back. That’s a weird one…
I had comments from a reader on another novel I’m working on and it was about specific UK versus US expressions…Not so sure what to do about those…
It’s an interesting world and I think it keep the brain going although sometimes don’t quite know where I am!
I have ‘The Shadow’ on my list…When I finish with all the translations…