21 de nov de 2009

Anyone can translate | Qualquer um pode traduzir

I hadn't felt offended as a translator before until last Wednesday. I was at a round table when the discussion turned to how Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol was launched. Apparently, nobody had acess to the book before it was published in English, so translators around the world had to rush so that publishers could launch it in their countries. Luckly, the person said, it was Dan Brown; any "elementary" translator, virtually anybody, can translate him - meaning he's not Shakespeare or another important writer, therefore translating him is very easy.

Well, well, well. This offense is an old one, but feels wrong every time. In Brazil, translated books represent the biggest slice of the book market. You just need to check any bestseller's list to notice that. Publishers, agents and bookshops alike would be lying if they said they don't "like" Dan Brown: his sales figures are more than welcome. It would also be logical to think that book translators should be regarded with respect, receive part of the credit for a book's success (if not royalties) and be well-paid. Nothing is far from the reality. Book translators in this country are the most badly paid in the industry of translation. But that's a long discussion.

The thing is, in a market dominated by translations, the translator is almost completely invisible. Moreover, they are undermined with comments like this, which was not just an impulse comment: it reveals a notion that permeates the public in general and the Brazilian book market in particular. The notion that anyone can translate. As any translator knows, this is not the case. Bad translators produce crap translations which no one can fix. Translators invest time and money learning a language, studying translation, buying equipment, buying dictionaries, buying computer tools, etc., etc.

Dan Brown may not be a classic, but that doesn't mean he's "easy" to translate. I'm not going to discuss in detail all the aspects because I don't want this to become a long rant! But to think that translating well is easy can only come from someone who has never translated anything. If you're not a translator and you think it's easy to keep the consistency of a 500-page book, then you should attempt it yourself. And when you're finished, post a comment here!

2 comentários:

  1. Hi!!

    I wholly agree with you on this: it looks like anyone can translate, but it is not so, of course.

    We need professional translators, just in the same way we need professional accountants, doctors, and so on and so forth.

    I have written a post on the use of USTED and TÚ in translations into Spanish here:


    Best regards,


  2. Thanks, Amelia. Translating 'you' into Portuguese is not very simple either.


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