Monday, June 01, 2009

Losing one’s cool

This moment when an interpreter on CBC lost her cool because she couldn’t hear the feed is going to be all over the internet presently.

Except that it’s billed in the popular media as a “translator’s” goof. But it was an interpreter. A translator translates the written word, and an interpreter translates the spoken word.

Sometimes a translator might lose her cool. Sometimes she feels like asking the author-client, “Were you asleep in elementary school? Have you never heard of punctuation and capitalization rules, sentence structure and dictionaries?” But she doesn’t. Sometimes she comes close, skirts the thin line, asks the client, “did you perhaps mean ‘[trace metal] calibrations’ when you wrote ‘castrations’? Did you actually mean ‘units selected at random’ when you wrote ‘units selected at citrus blossom’?” Does it really matter that my translation of your novel is ‘not poetic enough’ when the original is misspelled, incoherent and boring? (OK, we bit our metaphorical lip on the last one, and agreed to up the poetic quotient.)

And that’s why I blog anonymously.


At June 03, 2009 8:43 a.m., Anonymous Susanne Aldridge III said...

I was just about to blow a fuse after receiving the 6th revision of a simple readme file, which is still littered with mistakes, bad formatting etc. I just want to say nothing because often my feedback receives such a bad attitude, but the problem is that with every version I have to manually apply the fixes to my own version and it is time consuming. Unfortunately, every time you tell them about mistakes, it only results in yet another version :-)

At June 03, 2009 2:36 p.m., Blogger Mago said...

There! I hope you feel better now.

But seriously, there are clients who do appreciate corrections to the original. One of the skills we have to develop for good customer service is the intuition to tell which ones do and which ones don’t.

In general, the ones who don’t are the ones whom I prefer to deal with through an agency; i.e. no direct contact. Otherwise they filter down to the bottom of my “like to work with” list.


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