Today I am interested in taking some notes regarding my observations on the art of translation. To preface these observations I first wish to express a lesson which I have learned through experience and which I am putting into practice in this new line of work. That is, that there is no substitute for experience – direct experience. That is to say, one can talk theory all day, dive into books, and attend classes, but it is all for nothing without experience. As an example, I give you my writing. There was a time, when I fantasized – nay, romanticized about being a writer; and I took notes on books people recommended on the “profession” of writing, and watched how-to videos and writer interviews.
Ultimately, of course, I discovered that all that time I could have spent writing, and that once I did begin writing, I could hardly hold all of those lessons in my head at once and put them into practice. The true artist practices the art first, and then later produces the method. Using the designs of others leaves our work hollow, if at all attempted. But, direct experience, though naked and novice, is true art.
That being said, I am delving into translation blindly, with little to no advice on the topic. However, I am finding myself, slowly but surely, running into a few folks who have tried their hand at the task, and can corroborate some of my experiences. Today I was offered a small project to translate a advertisement for a kung fu school in Guangzhou (Canton), China. Because of the smallness of the project, I decided to take it on immediately, and to try something new that I had recently heard about: an internet translation software run on China’s servers called, 在线翻译 (online translator).
Of course, there were several errors in the translation. I copied the text into a word processor and began to analyze. I found one immediate advantage to the translator, and that is that in some cases it suggested some great idiomatic English expressions which, I must admit, I would not have thought of on my own. As for time, I don’t think any was saved. I still had to go over the whole thing with a fine-toothed comb, and most of the sentences had to be rewritten somehow, and in many cases, in their entirety. I still had to check the dictionary several times as well. I think, overall, while the software seemed to produce an immediate and helpful result, its use was actually of detriment to my practice. With no time saved, I think this approach may have diminished my own learning, in that I did not have to rely so heavily on my own creative approach to the project, and lost out on that practice. I also lost out on the practice of more deliberately learning new vocabulary. While I finished the project, I cannot at this time recall a single new word that I learned, though I had consulted the dictionary several times.
These are my observations for today. Until next time,
The Solitary Interpreter