Translator’s life

BOOK EDITING AND PUBLISHING – WHAT DID I LEARN AT UNIVERSITY?

With my inner inclination towards being an eternal student, I’ve always wholeheartedly endorsed the idea of lifelong learning. As a translator, I cannot survive a day without learning something new, but apparently that’s not enough for me. That’s why I enrolled on a post-graduate course in book editing and publishing last year, and I have just officially earned my diploma. I did the course at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. This is also where I got my degree in English and Spanish, I know the school and I like the city, so the choice of the university was pretty simple.

Why this particular programme?

Text editing and proofreading as well as translation revising and reviewing are a regular part of my job now. I am quite confident about my skills and experience in all matters linguistic but I kept feeling that what I knew and could do was not sufficient to be fully professional. Being a native speaker does not provide one with superpowers concerning conscious use of a language. As a linguist, I know what I am doing language-wise probably much better than a regular Polish native speaker but nevertheless, I wanted to consolidate and standardise my knowledge.

books red covers typography
Karakter, D2D, and their beautiful publications

I’ve analysed a number of specialist grammar books and style guides and I’ve read heaps of non-fiction and fiction books which polished my Polish. Also, my MA studies in translation and intercultural communication included a course on Polish language for Polish native speakers. But I needed something more. What’s more, the area of book editing and publishing has always had a special appeal to me: I’ve often envisioned myself working at a publishing house or as a full-time freelance copyeditor. I’d like to participate in the process of book creation at various stages and in various roles. Desktop publishing has also attracted me for some time. All in all, the decision to take up this subject in a formal way was simply inevitable.

What did I learn?

To sum up – my goal was to organise and extend my knowledge concerning my native Polish language; to become better acquainted with the world of book editing and publishing; and to get familiar with the software and good practices necessary for DTP operators.

During the two semesters, I took part in the following courses: the linguistic rudiments of text editing; bibliography; academic text editing; technical editing; printing techniques; DTP and typesetting; book design; design for publishing; copyrights in publishing. These were accompanied by a year-long seminar, completed with a diploma project. As you can see, the studies covered a wide range of subjects, which was both their bane and blessing. The students are able to learn a bit about every subject but it’s impossible to explore any of them in detail.

Nevertheless, I’ve discovered plenty of areas of development for myself and got interested in subjects which I’d had only a vague idea about before. I’m certainly more aware of all the particular stages of book creation and of the duties of the particular persons responsible for them: not only writers, translators, or marketing specialists, but also proofreaders, editors, graphic designers, typesetters, printers, and publishers themselves.

I feel I have improved my editing skills, as we learned a lot concerning the linguistic and typographic aspects of texts. There were lots of practical tasks to do, too. We dealt with various types of texts, from casual press articles to complex research papers. I also had a chance to get to an ample source of reference materials. The numerous ways of annotating texts should not be a mystery anymore as well.

Kraków UJ Polish studies
Studying in Kraków? Definitely recommended!

During the two semesters, we had quite a lot of classes related to book design. We worked with Adobe Creative Cloud, in particular with InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Apart from books and their covers, we also designed posters, leaflets, and magazines. We learned about colours, proportions, paper, and desirable typeface combinations. We found out how a book is structured –when it comes to both its technical elements and those which constitute the text as a whole.

The seminar and the thesis revolved around textual criticism and preparing critical editions of 19th-century texts. We transformed into investigators searching for linguistic, cultural, and historical references and we learned how make the right decisions concerning modernisation of old texts.

Jagiellonian University walls
The spirits of the best Polish writers literally permeate the walls of the university

What both surprised and delighted me is how all those fields are interrelated. Some of the notions appeared practically at all the classes and we returned to them very often. The work of an editor is not so easily separated from that of a proofreader; a proofreader must know quite a lot about book layout and design; a designer needs to pay attention to some textual and linguistic matters as well; a DTP artist should combine graphic and linguistic awareness. That was really enlightening and inspiring!

What’s next?

Although the course was not entirely perfect, I am definitely glad that I took part in it. I know my Polish better now, having dived deep into its convoluted structural and semantic secrets; I have more confidence when it comes to general organisation of text and publications; I know which dictionaries and websites to use, and which not to. I’ve become immensely interested in the subject of DTP and typography and I’m planning to do more courses on that to be able to deal with that professionally.

We are now able to offer our services to various publishing houses and other companies of this type. Translation, editing, revising, proofreading – they are all related to each other and as Translatorion, we are happy to help you with all of them. In the future, we may also boost our offer and add some other book publishing services. Languages, texts, sentences, words, letters – we love all of them and we enjoy working with them!

Martyna

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