In our previous post we told you about the things we like. Today, we’d like to tell you more about what we translate – and what we don’t.
When we first meet a new person and he or she asks us what we do for a living, the usual reaction to our reply ‘We’re translators’ is ‘Ooooh! So what’s the latest book you’ve translated?’. We’re not surprised to hear that. Most first-year students of translation or philology share this enthusiastic and optimistic vision of their future career path – dozens of translated novels, their name on the cover, profound themes, and literary awards galore. Well, this is possible, too. However, what the university teaches from the very beginning is the division into literary and non-literary (or applied, liked in applied graphic design) translation. This division does not imply that one cannot handle both at the same time. What it means is that graduates of translation studies must be aware that these types of translation require slightly diverse sets of skills and modes of work – this way, it is easier to make a choice and decide what you want to specialise in.
The literary/non-literary division is just a just a drop in the ocean of the possible classifications, and a rough one, for that matter. In this text, my goal is to specify the types of translation that Translatorion deals with on a daily basis. I hope this will show you what we can do for you in an accurate and comprehensive way.
Well, this category is not particularly specific, I’ll admit. And yet, I’ve started with this simple headline to emphasise the fact that what we do most often is written translation – textual translation. The word itself – ‘text’ – is beautifully broad in meaning and scope, as it covers everything from research papers and mobile app command lists, to slightly poetic event announcements or fancy restaurant menus, to interviews with artists and online shops’ terms and conditions. In a nutshell – anything that could be defined as a coherent and cohesive combination of phrases. We’ll take care of it!
- Specialised texts
When you look for a person to translate your text, you may come across this phrase, usually determining the price and time of the translation. The translator, after analysing your text, will tell whether it is standard or specialised. What does it mean, in fact? The border between standard and specialised texts is pretty blurred and vague. Normally, the latter require specialised expertise in the field they touch upon, as the contain plenty of specialised vocabulary and terminology. It is usually impossible to get a grip of them without at least basic knowledge of their subject. Basically, all texts that are not specialised are standard. Why is this so important? A professional translator should not accept a job concerning something he or she has simply no idea about: that would be utterly irresponsible. That’s why we are glad to translate academic texts (mainly research papers) and we do it quite frequently but we only accept texts which refer to the disciplines we are familiar with.
- Creative texts
Non-literary texts are not just dry terms and conditions or impersonal instruction manuals. This category also includes a wide array of creative texts, where vivid imagination is necessary both in the process of writing and translating. Then, the literary knack comes in handy as well. Descriptions of exhibitions and exhibits, tourist leaflets, product catalogues, promotional texts for websites, press articles: anything at the crossroads of arts, design, culture, marketing, and communication poses a translatory challenge which you can face provided you know and feel both the source and target language at a native or native-like level. To create an apt and natural message or to accurately express a complicated pun or wordplay used by the author of a source text, you often need to exercise your mind quite intensely, even when it comes to translating a simple note introducing a new product on the market. This brings us to transcreation: a type of free translation which combines copywriting, creative writing, storytelling, and content marketing: based on the crucial elements and ideas of the source text, whose goal is usually to advertise and sell something, the translator must – in a way – create it from scratch, adapting it to the new cultural and social environment. Our blog and fanpage could serve as an example of that – although the Polish and English texts are strikingly similar, what we do with them is more like transcreation than translation as such, as we adjust them all to a particular style and to particular readers.
- Technical texts
To be precise – the technical texts which reach our office are translated by Paweł, who has the best technical skill and sense. He regularly translates instruction manuals, technical documentations and specifications, texts about new technologies, manuals for the users of industrial software, descriptions of scientific experiments, and material safety data sheets. He’s also experienced in the translation of occupational health and safety procedures, contracts concerning the scope of construction works, and quality assurance reports. This is where translators’ work partly overlaps with that of technical writers. As you see, even in the case of such mundane and matter-of-fact subjects, a translator is a bit of a writer.
- Audiovisual texts
We translate subtitles for videos, animations, and games. If necessary, we can transcribe the recording and synchronise the subtitles in the video file. We can also prepare the voiceover version of the text to be then read aloud by a voice actor. This category could also fit in the ‘creative texts’ section – even in the case of very short films, to translate the dialogues or the narrator’s voice, you need to adapt the text creatively to the target culture and to employ numerous AV translation tricks so that the subtitles are easy and quick to read – or barely perceptible.
I know, I’ve repeated the word ‘text’ ad nauseam in this text [sic!]. That’s because we do love all kinds of texts and it makes us happy to translate even the most (seemingly) neutral and undemanding ones. Language is never obvious or unambiguous – translation of any kind of message, from simple to complex, is continuously creative and complicated work.
The list I’ve drawn up here is not exhaustive, of course. What’s more, it gives room for another interesting issue: since you already know what sorts of translation we perform, in the next text (😊) we’re going to tell you what kind of translators we are – and which we are not.