Translation Teamwork

In the imagination, one often pictures the translator as a lone wolf, a quiet sort of person who thrives on solitude and sits, shoulders stooped, in a lonely garret whilst poring over books and making painstaking decisions about the right word.

Although there may be some truth to the image – many of us are indeed introverts, and we most certainly do (and should!) take our words seriously – I would like to maintain that most good translation work is the result of collaboration, and that even the very best translation produced in that solitary garret would benefit from some editing, or at the very least from some feedback.

I freely admit to enjoying my own company well enough, and I might also cautiously toot my own horn and say I’m quite a competent translator; nevertheless, I like all my translations to be proofread – silly mistakes are, alas, easy to make, and once something wrong is fixed on the page in solid words, it can seem quite right and a fresh pair of eyes are needed to set me right again. What’s more, complicated, pithy (to put it kindly) texts are open to multiple interpretations, and it’s more than useful to have another opinion on what solution is most apt. So, although I always aim to deliver “perfect” (whatever that is) drafts to my proofreaders, alas – again – I have yet to succeed on a longer text.

Having a sparring partner is essential precisely for larger projects. And in addition to creating a better final product, it also makes the work itself more enjoyable. When I translated Festivals & Traditions in Switzerland, I consulted with Karen Oettli-Geddes, and her comments, edits, feedback, and support proved invaluable. She saved me from several embarrassments, held some of my worst instincts in check, and encouraged my better creative ideas. Her input was crucial when it came to translating (or not) the names of the festivals and in finding age-appropriate, fun language. In short, she played a key role in delivering a translation that satisfied publisher and author – and myself. Nevertheless, although Karen was compensated for her work, she received no mention in the final publication – a common but rather harsh fate in the translation business.

So at least here: thank you, Karen, for your excellent work and the laughs we had working on this delightful book. I look forward to the next project!

A link to Karen Oettli’s website