Meditation mantra

Letting go is never easy. After working on a 200+ page project over the course of 4 weeks, you cannot help but get attached. Or should I say, I cannot help but get attached. Sending off the final version can be bittersweet.
Allow me to explain.

Recently, after handing in a project that had kept me busy for a full month, the client sent back an email to inform me of the changes he had made. The top of the list was his inexplicable decision to replace certain adverbs with the adjective form of the same word. When I looked at the final document he had sent with the changes, I realized that he had quite truly hit search and replace, turning at least half of the document into incomprehensible gobbledygook. When I told him that an adverb cannot simply be replaced with an adjective without rewriting the sentence, he assured me that a “native speaker” had been present when the changes were made and he was confident. “A native speaker of what?” is what I wanted to say but resisted. Luckily most translators don’t get any credit for their work. In this case, I hope that my name is nowhere near the text.

It can be so difficult to release a translation and send it out into the world. As soon as that text leaves your hands it is no longer yours – but then they say it was never really yours to begin with…


4 responses to “Meditation mantra

  1. Man, I’ve heard a few of those like that: That a “native speaker” had been present when the changes were made and he was confident. You’ve got it right. “A native speaker of what?”

  2. ha! I love how Germans always re-write what I translate… I know that they have a certain understanding of the language, but as a native speaker, I would just formulate things quite differently, like with synonyms rather than direct translations. Oh boy!

  3. This is always a tricky one, and it’s closely linked to the issue of “the translator’s invisibility” – most of us as professionals want more accountability (and credit!) in translation, but when texts are to be modified heavily, are they even our translations any more?

  4. Though I am not yet a professional translator in any capacity, I can empathize with you on this. As the only American in my german class, I get asked for the English equivalent of a german word quite often- only to be argued with by students from other nations who also “learned English at one point”. Why did you bother asking then?? Don’t get me started on how many times I had to rewrite something for my mother [a native korean] or her friends only to have them rewrite what I rewrote. gracious.

    Ps: where have you gone? I’ve only just discovered your blog to my great delight, but it appears that you’re on hiatus.

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