Writer style in translation

Writer style in translation

Working as an in-house Translator and Project Manager Assistant, liaising with clients and other translators, I am facing one of the most difficult challenges of the translation field: the clients. Yes, it may look ironic, but who works with customer service of any kind knows the struggle. There are many misunderstandings between the client-Translator-Project Manager, however the one that makes me more sad is that people don’t understand that there are different personal styles in translation. According to one of the definitions in Dictionary, style is:

the mode of expressing thought in writing or speaking by selecting and arranging words, considered with respect to clearness, effectiveness, euphony, or the like, that is characteristic of a group, period, person, personality, etc.

Translation is not a logical field, which means that every single person has a different written style. One sentence, expression or sometimes even a word, it’s not going to be translated the same way by different translators. And that does not mean one of this translations is wrong. And yes, that also applies for formal documents and texts. The same way there are different written styles in literature, this is what makes the languages field even more magical. I am asked to change things in my translations from turchoise to blue, because some clients want it exactly as they would translate. Besides being ironic – you paid for a service and end up doing it yourself – it is also quite offensive. Even though my work colleague said to me “le client est le roi“, I think there are some limits and I should stand for I believe is right and question what I think is wrong. The moment you ask me to modify my work – when there’s nothing to do with grammar and spelling mistakes -, you are taking from me all the fun, power and magic that the language gave me, that is to choose my preferable vocabulary and structure and put myself in that translation. When I change, it’s not me anymore. One of my favourite quotations from the poem of the Dead’s Poet Society movie, summarised the inner me and made me choose to work with languages. And it also may summarise how I feel about this topic:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”


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