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So You Want to Be a Technical Translator - 5

June 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 178

A key element of being a successful French translator is to know your native language. This might sound like a statement of the obvious, but it is worth thinking about exactly what this means if you are in the business of providing quality English - French translations. Remember that what you don't want is that the person who reads your translations will be thinking "My, this is a good translation". What you want is for the reader to not even notice that it is a translation - it should read so naturally to them that it is just the same as if it had been written in that language. This is, of course, the main reason that most professional translators translate into their first (native) language.

I think I can claim with confidence that in many pieces of work the quality of my French translation is an improvement on the quality of the original English text I have worked from. I always do my best to ensure that it is readable and flows well. Occasionally, the text I am working from is so unclear that I ask my English wife to look at it. If she says it is "gobbledygook" I know I need to contact the client to clarify what is meant, so I can be absolutely certain that the meaning is accurately put across in my French translation.

It's important to realise that for the French in particular the quality of the language is very important. In English quite often there is a casual attitude to the grammar used (how often do you hear "they was" or "we was" in English?). Slack or lazy use of grammar (like confusion between the use of singular and plural in verb endings) in French gives a very poor impression. This is not a class issue in France, as it might be in English! French people working in all sorts of occupations remark upon the good quality of language. Those elderly famers discussing animatedly in the bar in a French village might well be having an argument about the correct use of the subjunctive! Also, it is very important to ensure that in English to French translation the French used uses the right technical language for the purposes of the text, and no slang or informal language is mixed into it.

Some of the differences in the way French and English speakers use language are quite subtle, but it is easy for a non-native speaker to make errors which give a negative impression - for example, using the familiar "tu" instead of "vous" can seem inappropriate or even rude. This is linked to the style or voice used: the effective English to French translator will carefully "tune in" to the right impression the writer of the original text is trying to give to make sure that translation accurately reflects that mood or style. It will then flow as naturally as an original piece of writing in French. The technical translator

A final thought - to make sure the work is authentic; the punctuation needs to follow the French conventions, which are quite different from those in English.

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