What is the Hardest Part of Translation?

The first pages… Total abyss 🙂 You generally never know what you will come up. Even if you go over the whole text once before translating, it always turns out to be harder- at least for me. In the first pages, you may have to make up many terms that you do not find in dictionaries or that do not even exist in the target language. You search the newly made up term on Google and if there is no result, you will have to think it over from the beginning until you find something that sounds natural/native.

When you get over the first pages, here comes a relatively easy part. You have all the terms translated in your hand. Of course I am just talking out of my experiences and this may not be valid for all text types. For example, technical translation keeps the same level throughout translation. If it is a difficult text, I am sorry but you generally feel this until the end. When I have a difficult text, I buy up chips and chocolates as a caution 🙂

My last translation was a performance report and I found the final part easiest because texts like reports and essays always end with a conclusion or a summary. You just repeat what you say in a more general way.

So what is the hardest part of translation process? I do not know if there is an answer of this question. However, the first pages are the hardest ones for me. I just want to know which parts put a strain on you.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. What makes a professional translator…

    Whenever someone, as an author, tries to “communicate” something to someone else, the resulting message is a combination of the author’s ideas, intentions, opinions, prejudices and emotions, including desires, neuroses and fears, all these factors being influenced by the environment, family and culture the author was raised and lived in.

    A translator, as a human being him/herself, should be aware of his/her own mind’s workings when receiving the original message, in order to avoid, as much as possible, contaminating the message with his/her own truths and opinions. Receiving a message from an author is such a complicated process, given all the aspects which have influenced its original creation, that any contribution introduced by a not-so-cautious translator will tend to produce a sometimes disastrous result.

    Texts written by someone who is not used to creating messages bring so many ambiguities that sometimes they are almost impossible to translate.

    “Writing should be done in the same manner as the washerwomen of Alagoas practice their craft. They start with a first wash(ing), soaking the dirty clothing by the bank of the lagoon or stream; they wring the piece of clothing, soak it again, and then wring it once more. They then add indigo, soap and wring once, and then twice. Then they rinse, and soak it again, now splashing the water onto the cloth with their hands. They beat the cloth on a slab or clean stone, they wring it again and then one more time, they wring it until no water drops from the cloth anymore. Only after they have done all this do they hang the clean piece of clothing to dry, on a string or clothes line. Whoever goes into writing should do the very same thing. The word was not meant to embellish or to spark like fake gold; the word was meant to say.”
    (Graciliano Ramos, during an interview, in 1948)

    Other than that… I agree with you. The first pages is where lies the hardest/most effort and time consuming part of the work.


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