Volume 5, No. 3 
July 2001






Thank You!
by Gabe Bokor
Index 1997-2001
  Translator Profiles
The Making of a Translator
by Louis Korda
  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
  Legal Translation
La traduzione giuridica
by Deirdre Exell Pirro
  Arts and Entertainment
In the Footsteps of Giants
by Robert Paquin, Ph.D.
One Translator's Thoughts on Localization
by Dag Forssell
  Translation Theory
Translation and Language Varieties
by Magdy M. Zaky
  Translators Around the World
The First Three Years
by Timothy Howe
  Translating Social Change
Translation as Rewriting
by Berrin Aksoy, Ph.D.
  Science & Technology
A Translator’s Guide to Organic Chemical Nomenclature XXIV
by Chester E. Claff, Jr., Ph.D.
  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
  Translators’ Tools
An Effective and Inexpensive Translation Memory Tool
by Andrei Gerasimov
Translators’ Emporium
Letters to the Editor
Translators’ Events
Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
Translation Journal

Letters to the Editor

Having read Paul Sutton's excellent critical appraisal of the translating profession "Sounding the Language-Elephant's Trumpet," I would like to take up a point he raised on a translator's function when faced with a poorly written source language copy. Should translators act as copy-writers and improve on the original copy, using guesswork on the intended meaning and thus risking misunderstanding, or should they only act as translators, that is maneuver within the confines of the original template? Challenging as translating a bad copy seems to be, the latter case would even be more so, as the target language's equivalent register or idiolect (using author's expression) would have to be found. An effort in this sense would not bring the gratitude deserved, as a translator will be judged and misjudged on the basis of the end product, without taking into account the original. Thus, a translator has a vested interest in acting as a copy-writer, as his or her work will be evaluated on the basis of correctness of the target-language text. But what if a translator misinterprets the author's intentions? He or she will then have to deal with a disgruntled client.

I am inclined to consider a translator as a go-between, whose function is limited to transfer of a message from one language to another. This implies that if the meaning is blurred in the source language, so it should be in the target language. If the source language copy sounds clumsy and unprofessional, so should the target one, unless a client specifically commissions a re-write of the original copy. But should the fees reflect this?

There's always the third option—to refuse taking on a badly written copy. But if a high percentage of technical copies are bad, then that's not a real option either!

Halina Arendt, London, England

An excellent read Paul! You may even be surprised to learn that I agree with just about everything you say. Well written too, which nicely supports your thesis on writing skills. Best wishes from Lisbon and, occasionally Toulouse and the Tarn & Garonne.

Steve Dyson, Lisbon, Portugal

I concur entirely with Mr. Gerasimov's experience. Working with translation agencies can be stressful for many reasons. I have been searching for direct clients in the healthcare/medical industry, and have been attending job fairs specialized in this industry. The results in the last two months of search have not been positive. I would like to ask Mr. Gerasimov, or any one concerned reading this e-mail, for suggestions and more ideas on how to approach potential clients in the medical industry with the purpose of establishing a direct business relationship.

I have had the fortune to work as in-house translator for a prominent medical instruments manufacturer in Southern California for quite a few years. At that time, I had answered a Classified on the local paper.... I guess it lucked out then!! I still work as a freelance for this great company, but would like to expand my client database.

Michela Santostefano, Lisbon, Portugal

I would like to comment on the reasons Andrei Gerasimov has enumerated against test translations. I agree with them all, but point 5 in which he claims that somebody else rather than an applicant himself could have a hand in producing a test translation. I see no reason why this should not be acceptable to all parties concerned. A client is only interested in procuring a quality product irrespective of whether it is produced by an individual or a team of translators, as long as it is within a designated budget. If a supplier can produce a satisfactory free test piece, the assumption is they can supply a satisfactory payable translation by whatever their methods of work. I myself for instance, work totally on my own, as I do not know any other translators and even if I did, I wouldn't like to share my scarce assignments and income from them. Should a payable translation not match up the standard of a test piece, it will sooner or later become evident to the client and affect the suppliers' credibility.

I would also like to take this opportunity to confirm the statement on the Farnham-based Surrey Translation Bureau run by John Cooke, as I had a misfortune to deal with him myself and have written him off as a bad debt. Living about 20 miles away, I have heard various stories about the messy way he runs his business.

Halina Arendt, London, England

This is only to confirm that what Mr. Gerasimov says is absolutely true also according to my experience, although I couldn't say I took contacts with 2000(!) agencies.

Giuseppina Gatta, Bari, Italy