According to the back cover of Don’t Trust Your Spell Check, “Everybody makes mistakes”. Unfortunately, its author, Dean Evans, is no exception. In a book that promises “pro proofreading tactics and tests to eliminate embarrassing writing errors”, nothing could me more disappointing than finding some of the latter in the body of the text and the tests. Given that this is an independently published book, I guess there was no money for a copy editor and/or proofreader, which is a shame.
Having said that, as an experienced editor and content writer, Evans describes strategies and gives explanations that are well worth noting. And the many tests in the second half of the book are extremely helpful as a training exercise. Although it would be more useful to discuss differences of opinion in person with an experienced tutor, tackling the tests is far better than doing no practice at all.
Perhaps the first thing you should do when you open your copy of 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know is skip to the final few pages and be awed by the credentials and careers of the colleagues that put it together. Eighteen contributors are listed, although apparently the WLF Think Tank behind the book includes more members. Once you discover who you’re dealing with, then you can turn back to the beginning with the realisation that this is a meatier tome than the simplistic cover and drawings might lead you to believe.
No puedo evitarlo, de verdad que no puedo: cada vez que alguien habla del bright side pienso en la canción de los Monty Python al final de La vida de Brian. Este bright side, sin embargo, no tiene nada que ver, no se trata de encontrarle la parte buena a una situación negativa. Trata de compartir las experiencias de compañeros que se han dado cuenta de que «las soluciones a los altibajos, las recompensas y los problemas de la vida de todo traductor autónomo están única y exclusivamente en sus manos, que se ponen manos a la obra, se niegan a quejarse y sacan su trabajo adelante». Esta atrevida declaración, que para muchos describe un estilo de vida, también resume por qué este libro no ha sido bien recibido en todos los rincones de la esfera traductoril (sobre todo porque parece que muchos de quienes lo critican no leyeron más allá del primer párrafo de la introducción, donde aparece esta cita). No solo ha inspirado a Herman Boel para escribir una serie de entradas en su blog Alta Verba llamada The Reality of Our Profession (La realidad de nuestra profesión) también podría explicar por qué el nuevo eslogan de la conferencia de IAPTI que se celebrará en septiembre en Atenas es ahora «Ni nihilistas ni ingenuos». Está claro que hay cosas que se escapan de nuestro control y cambian nuestras circunstancias. Me viene a la mente, por ejemplo, la reciente crisis económica, por no hablar de la traducción automática y los efectos que tiene y que seguirá teniendo sobre varios segmentos de nuestro sector.
Para qué engañarnos: he de reconocer que la primera vez que oí hablar de este libro, lo que pensé fue «¿Y por qué hay que diversificar?». Al fin y al cabo, dejé de dar clases para traducir porque estar fuera varias horas diarias no era compatible con traducir a jornada completa, o al menos no para mí, y la verdad es que tampoco me gustaría verme obligada a dar clases a tiempo parcial. Dicho esto, entendería que os sorprendiera que me lo haya acabado comprando. ¿Por qué sentí la necesidad de leer un libro cuya contraportada anuncia que «servirá de inspiración a los traductores de hoy día y los preparará para el éxito más allá de la traducción»? La cursiva, por cierto, es suya.
I can’t help it, really I can’t, but every time someone mentions the “bright side” I think of that Monty Python song at the end of the Life of Brian. This “bright side” isn’t quite the same, however. It’s not about finding the positives in a negative situation. It’s about sharing the experiences of colleagues who have realised “that the solutions to the ups, downs, bounties and challenges of life as a freelance translator are in their hands, and their hands alone, who buckle down, refuse to whinge and get on with the job”. This bold statement, which for many is their philosophy of life, also sums up why it has not been well received in all corners of the translation sphere (especially as it seems many critics didn’t get much beyond the first paragraph of the introduction, which this quote comes from). It has inspired Herman Boel to write a series on his blog Alta Verba called The Reality of Our Profession. It might also explain why the new slogan for the IAPTI conference in Athens in September is now: “Neither nihilist nor naive”. Because obviously things happen that are totally beyond our control and change our circumstances. The recent recession springs to mind, and let’s not even get started on machine translation and the impact it has and will continue to have on various segments of our industry.
Honesty is the best policy, so I will admit that when I first heard of this book my reaction was firmly in the “why is diversification necessary” camp. After all, I gave up teaching to translate because heading off to classes for a few hours every day was not compatible with being available to translate for clients full-time, at least not as far as I was concerned. And I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to teaching part-time out of necessity. It might surprise you then that I bothered to buy it if that was how I felt. Why did I feel the need to read a book that announces on the back cover that it “will inspire today’s translators and set them up for success beyond translation” (their italics, not mine)?
The Chicago Manual of Style is a much thicker tome than New Hart’s Rules, the guide I normally use as it refers to UK English. Chicago’s index is also far more comprehensive than the index in the UK book and it is relatively simple to use.
However, it is far easier to turn to the online version of Chicago to find specific answers to queries quickly, even if you cannot see the full text unless you subscribe ($39 per year). Although it is handy to have a print copy of the book, when the next edition is published I will probably opt for online access.
Explanations in Chicago are far clearer, easier to find and laid out in a far more accessible manner than in the rather dense text of New Hart’s Rules. Chicago always leaves me feeling that I have understood what to do and when, while New Hart’s Rules is sometimes quite unclear and could definitely do with explaining everything in more detail. Sometimes the only way you can glean a rule is from an example.
I’m also impressed by some sections in Chicago, such as 5.220 Glossary of Problematic Words and Phrases, which is often useful, and 7.85 which is a hyphenation guide for compounds and words formed with prefixes in a table format. There’s certainly nothing like these sections in New Hart’s Rules, which is a pity as they make everything so much easier to understand.
Obviously, if you’re writing into UK English, you cannot follow all the rules in The Chicago Manual of Style, but it’s definitely a far better resource that its UK counterpart.
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The problem with revising or reviewing other’s translations or original work in English is that you need to justify any changes you make. This is easy when there is a simple mistranslation, or another phrase sounds better because it is less clunky or more common in the context in question. But there are many other occasions when proclaiming that your version is preferable without an explanation just won’t cut it. That’s where a style guide might come in handy.