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Friday, February 16, 2007

The Goalie

They say that in sports like soccer (football) and hockey offensive players may make any number of mistakes, which are immediately forgotten. One goal scored, however, brings them glory and the applause of the spectators. On the other hand, goalies may brilliantly defend any number of shots; one mistake resulting in a goal against their team, however, will draw criticism from the "experts" and boos from the spectators.

Are we translators like goalies whose hits are unappreciated but whose misses are immediately criticized? Who among us doesn't have customers who never say a word of appreciation for many a brilliant solution to difficult translaton problems, obscure terms found after hours of research, and errors in the original text detected and corrected, but send you an indignant e-mail calling your attention to a single word omitted in a 30-page text?

Yes, translators are the goalies of the written word. Credit for a flawless style often goes to the orignal writer, but the translator gets the blame for a hard-to-read text. The penalties we suffer for errors are in no way commensurate with the appreciation we get for a faithful translation or even improvement on the original.

Are there any "goalies" out there who don't feel this way?


Blogger Olli Carreira said...

What about giving then the fraking hell? Just after getting the cheque, of course XD

2:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As a translator and a goalie (occasional only, I do prefer playing in midfield), I agree that this can happen. This is why it is very important to make sure you find a team which is ready to congratulate you on your achievements (a fine catch on a tricky corner, a well-turned sentence) and support you when you happen to make a mistake (sometimes a ball, and a text, can be slippery). A good team will also be keen to point out when they think you're being a tad complacent and maybe not giving 100%.

After a few years between the lines, I'm lucky enough to be able to choose my teammates, most of whom provide me with all of the above, but I do remember the days of being unappreciated, and I'm very happy that they're behind me.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Dmitry Tarakhno said...

And who are the offensive players of the written word?

12:35 AM  
Blogger P A Ramchandra said...

Being a translator by profession, I fully share the sentiment. However unlike a goalie, the translator may even have to face anonymity. Find solace in Caro's lines, thus:
" Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air''

12:32 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

In my modest opinion, translators should prepare themselves for this when they start in the profession. They are not only anonymous in most cases, but will probably never hear good or bad comments regarding their work. In my experience, I have had to deal with clients that prefer "allow" to "permit" and consider it an error to use certain words, but I never took that type of thing personally. Translators are lovers of words, and should enjoy spending hours looking for the correct translation of a sticky term, without expecting applause from anyone. Just for the love of it!

1:20 PM  
Blogger S.M. said...

It's true that the highest praise a translator can get is not to be mentioned in the review.

Colleagues of mine and I joke about the "adverb" that the translator gets in book reviews--by reviewers who have no idea what a good or bad translation would be for the book they are reviewing but who nonetheless feel compelled to make some kind of adverbial comment on the translation, e.g. "fluidly translated by," "lyrically translated by," "stiffly translated by," etc. We collect our adverbs and put them on the wall; for a translator, one nice adverb is like a thousand other words.

10:52 AM  
Blogger eoco said...

Nice analogy!

In answer to Dmitry's comment above, I think the offensive players of the written word would have to be wrtiers/journalists. Thousands of pages of dross and bad copy get published every year but nobody really thinks twice about it. They may even have been backed up by a midfield of editors and proofreaders but still foul the ball.

9:12 AM  

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