LINGUIST List 15.2324

Wed Aug 18 2004

Review: Translation: Samuelsson-Brown (2004)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <naomilinguistlist.org>


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  1. Irmeli Helin, A Practical Guide for Translators, 4th ed.

Message 1: A Practical Guide for Translators, 4th ed.

Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 13:11:42 -0400 (EDT)
From: Irmeli Helin <irmeli.helinhelsinki.fi>
Subject: A Practical Guide for Translators, 4th ed.

AUTHOR: Samuelsson-Brown, Geoffrey
TITLE: A Practical Guide for Translators (Fourth revised edition)
SERIES: Topics in Translation 25
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters Ltd
YEAR: 2004
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-1593.html


Irmeli Helin, Department of Translation Studies, University of Helsinki.

The book is the fourth edition of ''A Practical Guide for
Translators'' first published in 1993 and now revised and updated by
the author. It is intended for students as an introduction to the
world of professional translation, but also for practicing translators
and especially for buyers of translation services. It is a gold mine
of advice for students wishing to go freelance but also useful for
staff translators. It gives advice about becoming a translator and
about running a translation business, arranging the working
environment and purchasing right and relevant initial equipment. An
important point is finding clients and serving them well, but the
client's viewpoint is not forgotten, either. Even advice about
practical text production is given as well as suggestions how to avoid
shortcomings as being late or taking a task outside your own
competence or not getting paid in time. For British translators it is
also a source of professional organizations and awards and grants,
some of them useful for foreign translators as well. The instructions
for marking up texts when proof- reading and editing are also
international and so useful for many readers. The foreword to the
fourth edition has been written by Gunilla Anderman, professor of
Translation Studies at the University of Surrey.

I was very pleased to be able to review this book since last year the
project of Multilingual Communications of our university published a
book on Finnish translators running a translation business of their
own (Helin 2003). The book was authored by lecturers of a
corresponding series of guest lectures at our university and edited by
myself. So I was very interested to compare the situation in Britain
and Finland and to see which points are considered as important for
the translation business in each of the countries. It was also nice to
see that this book, with some localization, could be translated into
different languages to help students to make decisions about their
career and about starting a translation business.

Comparing the contents I could say that in both books there is much
information about working as translator and running a translation
business. Bilingualism has not been handled in the Finnish book and
sources of reference have only been mentioned. Professional
organizations for translators have not been listed in the Finnish
book, nor the awards or grants available for translators. Contrary to
that, Finnish authors write about copyrights of translators, forms of
translation business and taxation problems as well as about social
insurances to be taken out when starting to run translation business.
Otherwise the highlights and problems seem to be the same.

The author starts by pointing out the importance of a revised edition
of the book due to the fast development of the trade, especially of
the computational technology and electronic communication and data
processing and searching during the past ten years. Then he starts
explaining how to become a translator and gives quite a lot of
relevant information about the ''everyday life'' of a translator. He
also gives advice to help students to decide, whether they want to
work as a staff translator or as a freelance recommending a start at a
large translation company and then moving on towards an own
business. In this way new translators can collect both experience of
the practical work and a starting capital to be able to buy initial
equipment, about which he gives good and profound information in
chapter 4. Before that he contemplates the immaterial capital of
translators, knowledge of several languages and especially the myths
and the truth about bilingualism from the translators' point of
view. This is naturally very important if we think about the position
of source and target language in the work load of translators of
''exotic'' languages, as well as about the wish and claim that
translators should translate into their mother tongue only.

In chapter 3 the author takes up translation activities from the
client's viewpoint. A translator should be able to ''teach''
prospective buyers of his/her services but also to understand why
clients easily forget the preliminary measures and research work
needed for a successful and satisfactory translation and have
difficulties to accept a relevant price for the total of the work
done.

In chapters 4 and 5 the author goes into practical details about
running a translation business at home or at an office elsewhere, not
forgetting invoicing and price quotations to cover cost of advertising
and marketing but also that of regular working times and holidays. It
is important that a translator working at home still keeps in mind
that he/she cannot work without enough breaks. The book also gives
good advice about purchasing right equipment to start with and even
about ergonomics of a good working environment.

In the next chapters the author speaks about dictionaries, glossaries
and other sources of reference and data as well as about compiling own
glossaries and collecting an own translation library, both in
electronic and paper form. Then he takes up the problem of quality
control from different viewpoints, such as source text difficulties,
urgency and production capacity of the translator compared with the
usage aim of the end product (publication, internal information,
advertising etc.). He points out that ''quality takes time and costs
money'' and that splitting an urgent translation between several
translators is not always an optimal solution because of problems of
terms and style.

In chapter 8 the presentation and delivery of translations are dealt
with, and even if these may seem well known for every translator I
think that the decision to speak about elementary things is a good
one, since during the courses on translation they are often ignored.
Attention should also be given to the appearance of translations
forwarded to clients, since nowadays it is quite normal that
translators provide texts ready to be published, electronically or in
paper form, not only as to the quality of language but as to settings
and appearance as well. The knowledge of different computer programs
and CAT systems is also necessary together with managing the
electronic mailing of data.

In chapter 9 the author contemplates measures to prevent things from
going wrong and gives advice what to do in case of a dispute with a
client about the quality or late arrival of the translation or about
late payments. In the next chapter he then gives a list of
professional organizations for translators which may be able to assist
members in such cases. This is naturally very important for British
translators, but useful for foreigners, too, as is the information in
appendix, of which I especially prefer the instructions of marking up
texts when proof-reading or editing. This is also a field which is too
often ignored during studies because of the large amount of other
important material to be taught and learned.

As a teacher of translation studies I also found the glossary of terms
very useful for my students.

To conclude my review I am pleased to be able to confirm the opinion
of the writer of the foreword that the book ''will be of benefit to
anyone with an interest in translation, on course to become an even
more highly skilled profession in the years to come.'' For me
personally it was a pleasure to read the Swedish examples given by the
author, since he has been working several years in Sweden and is a
translator of Scandinavian languages.

REFERENCE

Helin, Irmeli (2003 ed.) K��nt�j� yritt�j�n�. Itsen�isen k��nt�j�n
opas. (Translator as runner of business. A guide for an independent
translator.) Publications of the Multilingual Communication Programme
(MonAKO) of the University of Helsinki. Helsinki University Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Irmeli Helin is Professor of Translation Studies and Head of the
Department of Translation Studies at the University of Helsinki. She
teaches German translation and interpretation and is a docent of
terminology and German translation. Further she is the owner of a
translation company running since early 1980s and has translated a
large number of documents and about 270 different books from English,
German, Italian, French and Scandinavian languages into Finnish.
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