Volume 9, No. 2 
April 2005


  Front Page  
Select one of the previous 31 issues.


Index 1997-2005

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
A Lifetime of Learning and Teaching
by Betty Howell

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
Why are most translators underpaid? A descriptive explanation using asymmetric information and a suggested solution from signaling theory
by Andy Lung Jan Chan

  In Memoriam
Thomas Snow: 1930 - 2005
by Alex Gross
Lessons Learned
by Wilfried Preinfalk
  TJ Cartoon
Great Moments in Languages: Character is Destiny
by Ted Crump

Software Localization
Demystifying Software Globalization
by Kenneth A. (Sandy) McKethan, Jr. and Graciela White

  Translators Around the World
Translation and Interpretation Work for the LNG Tangguh Project in Papua, Indonesia
by Izak Morin

  Translation Theory
¿Qué traducción? Los métodos de traducción en el análisis contemporáneo
Armando Francesconi, Ph.D.
Foreignization/Domestication and Yihua/Guihua: A Contrastive Study
He Xianbin

  Arts and Entertainment
The Power of Film Translation
by Agnieszka Szarkowska

  Translating Social Change
Translation Problems in Modern Russian Society
by Irina Khutyz

  Book Review
A Conversation with Ilan Stavans
by Verónica Albin
Tolkien’s Use of the Word “Garn!” to Typify a Motley Crew of Reprobates
by Mark T. Hooker

  Literary Translation
Ideological Manipulation in Translation in a Chinese Context: Su Manshu's Translation of Les Misérables
by Li Li

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
On Idioms, Intertextuality, Puddings, and Quantum Physics (all of them in simultaneous, please)
by Carlo Marzocchi

  Translator Education
Knowing Before Learning: Ten Concepts Students Should Understand Prior to Enrolling in a University Translation or Interpretation Class
by Brian G. Rubrecht, Ph.D.
Language Learning in the Translation Classroom
by Carol Ann Goff-Kfouri, Ph.D.

  Translators' Tools
Translators’ Emporium
Research on Dictionary Use by Trainee Translators
by María del Mar Sánchez Ramos, 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’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Translators’ Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal


In Memoriam:

Thomas Snow, 1930 - 2005

by Alex Gross

Tom Snow

om Snow passed away in Klagenfurt, Austria, on January 28 of this year. He was 74 years old, and the cause of death was general weakness arising from emphysema and osteopororis, leading to a final bout of pneumonia. Many translators of the New York City area will remember both Tom and his widow Almut from early NY Circle meetings. Almut seems in good spirits and agrees with me that Tom could perhaps be best described as an idealist and a perfectionist, traits many of us had an opportunity to note during his many years among us.

But there was also a more surprising side to Tom, which few of us knew. Although he served in the Korean War during his youth, he would soon take on some of the character traits common among Upper West Side intellectuals. For instance, he did not consider himself a Christian and asked for no religious rites to mark his passing, which in catholic Austria meant that Almut ended up conducting a secular service in his memory. He was also a fervent environmentalist, opposed to all forms of pollution, which did not deter him from smoking like a furnace despite his knowledge that this might cause emphysema. And although he was also a member of Zero Population Growth, he himself was married three times and during his last two marriages sired four sons. He also cared for and raised a daughter from his second wife's first marriage

Tom and I were probably as close as two men can be, so I am of course unhappy that he is no longer with us. I don't want to make what follows sound unduly personal, but I find myself unable to separate my memories of Tom from those dramatic events in 1979 that led to my earliest meetings with technical translators and even to the founding of the New York Circle of Translators. Since these events present a quite lively side of Tom, it may in fact be best to include them.

Back in 1979 I picked up a book and found a claim by former ATA President-Elect Dale Cunningham that there was ultimately not that much difference between literary and commercial translation. Since I needed some extra money at the time, I wrote Cunningham and asked how one went about switching from the one field to the other. He wrote me back telling me that it might involve a bit more work than I expected (it did), but I soon also received a letter (no email back then) from one Eva Berry inviting me both to stop by her office and to attend a dinner where New York translators would be trying to set up some sort of official group.

This is how I came to know Tom. I no sooner entered Eva's office than I confronted not only Tom but some of the other figures who would form the nucleus of the NY Circle. Steve Winfield, the gifted mimic and multilingual voiceover artist, was among them, as was il Principe Paolo, a genuine Italian prince who could tell risqué stories for hours. About half an hour later Charles Stern wandered in, and of course busily watching over all of us like a mother hen was Eva herself. Although translation can be a tedious and demanding craft, for some reason an air of joviality immediately enveloped all of us when we were together, especially during early NY Circle dinners, where we all frequently shared a table.

The laughter often became quite intense, with Steve, Paolo, and myself at its wildest center. Tom's contributions were also quite funny, though they sometimes had a skeptical undertone to them. We all began to feed small reports and announcements about translation to Eva, who would assemble and mail them off to others listed on her enormous rolldex, and out of this process the Gotham Translator, NYCT's newsletter, slowly began to emerge. From the beginning Tom did his best to give me good advice about the profession and urged me to "find a niche" where I could use what I knew best. He was quite right, and I was able to do this to some extent by translating foreign news stories into journalistic English for the World Press Review over several years.

It was Tom who also provided me with an insight into the financial side of translating. Once at the very beginning of a gala occasion in the upstairs banquet hall of a Spanish restaurant, an affair which somehow managed to combine a fabulous meal, an address by Gregory Rabassa, a flamenco recital by Eva Berry, and translators dancing the night away afterwards, Tom drew my attention to an older businessman being earnestly accosted by Eva across the hall. He explained to me that the businessman was the director of New York's busiest foreign language radio station, which owed the agency a fortune in unpaid bills. He told me that if her entreaties were not successful, everyone might go unpaid and the agency might even go under.

If I remember correctly, it was Tom who also presided over the first word processing program at Eva's agency, the IBM DisplayWrite system. This may have been in 1980, the year before the first PC appeared, soon to be followed by the first PC clones. Tom also used DisplayWrite at home and continued to swear by it even after the rest of us finally caught up with him and started using Word and WordPerfect. I don't know how long he kept using DisplayWrite, but Almut tells me that even in Austria (where he emigrated in 1998) he continued to insist on repairing an older I-Mac when he could have acquired three or four new computers for the cost of the repairs.

Almut tells me that Tom's last months weren't too comfortable but that he still took delight on Sundays and holidays in presiding over broad boards of Austrian cheeses accompanied by fruit-flavored Schnapps.

Around 1996, when I was putting together a seminar for the NYU translation program, I asked some of our colleagues to contribute proverbs, bons mots, or other summations that they felt best summed up the art, craft, or business of translating. Tom provided two such citations, which I included in the seminar and am appending below. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the tone of his voice:

"I can't pay you that much. It's more than I'm charging the client."

"I think you left out three paragraphs."

Lessons learned

by Wilfried Preinfalk

n early February, a phone call reached me as I was driving from Austria to northern Germany. The caller was Almut Snow, who informed me that her husband Tom had died a few days back. There was translation work to be done in connection with Tom's death, and I promised that I would inform the people at Flefo.

For the uninitiated: Flefo (Foreign Language Forum) is the name of a Compuserve newsgroup that used to be the most interesting on-line place for translators back in the 1990s. And in that forum, which was so enjoyable, Tom used to be the most enjoyable contributor.

When I tried to announce Tom's death on Flefo, I realized that Flefo was dead as well. What I found was a deserted successor forum, and the topic was not received as attentively as I would have expected. Instead of evolving into hundreds of messages, the thread attracted six or seven responses at best.

Following my post, Gabe Bokor, who was the system operator of Flefo in its heyday, approached me with the request for an obituary. I agreed to collect some relevant details about Tom's last years here in Austria for the Translation Journal.

Myself, I am Austrian. Tom Snow moved from the States to Austria in 1998. Around three or four years ago, we would occasionally talk on the phone. He seemed to be doing relatively well at the time, although his voice was feeble. Afterwards we were no longer in contact, mainly because I left Flefo, but also because Tom was reluctant to see visitors.

Almut Snow has now supplied me with a number of straightforward details, which I shall try to summarize in the next few paragraphs.

First of all, Tom had been seriously ill for many years. The underlying disease was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (also known as COPD). The physicians said his lungs were "burned out". He also had an incipient heart condition secondary to COPD due to reduced oxygen supply. He was hospitalized four times between last Christmas and his death on January 28, 2005. He also suffered from general weakness, simply because he could not breathe properly despite being ventilated. The immediate cause of death was acute pulmonary congestion.

Almut says that Tom was 68 when he moved from New York to Klagenfurt, Austria. That was not an easy step for him, since he was no longer a young man. Today she thinks it might have been better if he had remained in the States. Tom became overly homesick in the last years of his life, which aggravated his illness and vice versa. In fact, he developed a depression precisely at the time when his physical condition had deteriorated to a point at which returning to the States was no longer an option.

Tom was doing fine with translations after moving to Austria for a while, but then his income gradually declined. In the last two years of his life, the job was no longer profitable but earned him just enough money to cover his overhead. Still, he kept hoping against hope for another turnaround in his life. Almut says she misses his humor, which would occasionally come alive even in his last days.

Yes, humor. I think everybody who experienced Tom on Flefo back in the 1990s knows exactly what Almut must be missing.

I would also like to make a personal contribution to this obituary that is not based on Flefo history, although the train of thought that this involves will immediately take us back to Flefo after all.

In one of the phone conversations I had with Tom, he told me that his attitude about the validity of his own views radically changed in the few years that he had been active on Flefo. Views he had always held very assertively had given way to the realization that almost anything he had been thinking for decades could be challenged. He also said this was the main reason why his posts on Flefo grew ever shorter. Today, the Snowian one-liner is an established art form.

So this was a lesson that Tom learned at the age of 70. A few days ago, I sought inspiration from his track record on Flefo for this obituary. But reading a few of his posts from 1996 reminded me just how witty and insightful that man really was. It would be downright ridiculous for me to provide a brief summary of Tom's thinking based on my understanding of his posts.

The inspiration that I could not find in my archives came while I was browsing another successor forum to Flefo (www.flefo.org). Its owners, Carsten and Joanne Kuckuk, have introduced a section there that is called Lessons learned-hence the title of this obituary.

So, while it was beyond our powers to keep Tom Snow alive, perhaps we can succeed in keeping Flefo alive. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that any remotely authentic successor forum will always reflect, and keep alive, some of Tom's spirit.