Showing posts with label controversial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label controversial. Show all posts

Sunday 7 February 2021

Is it a bad translation or a difficult author?

What is a good translation?

In Greece, it's common to refer to a translated book as a good translation when the text reads well. 

However, is this a good translation? In my opinion, this might not be a translation at all. When the translator glosses over certain idiosyncrasies of the author, namely his or her elliptic sentences, coarse style or difficult diction, the final product should be considered an adaptation rather than a translation of the original work. 

Besides, when we read a translated book that does not flow well, we blame the translator; as if it were possible that all translated books should be easy to read. 

I believe that readers of translated books think in the above way precisely because they expect that translators should take good care of them: they have read the book, after all, they are experts on the source language as well as on the book's subject matter, and they have taken great pains to translate this book into a new language. 

And that's why readers expect from translators the following:

  • That, where appropriate, they have made the source text easier to understand, and 
  • When the author's style and/or purposes mean that the text is difficult on purpose, the translator has abstained from facilitating the text for the target audience.

The second case is equally important, but when it is violated, you may miss it.

Therefore, as many translation theorists advocate, in such cases it may be wise to insert a translator's note, even just to comment on the author's momentary obscure style.

This way, the readers will know that the translator has nothing to do with it.

Do you enjoy reading a translated book with many translator's notes?

I do; I like them because translator's notes add to the experience of the book, especially when they explain a translation issue or a cultural conflict. 

However, some readers get distracted by too many notes and, although these notes, in my opinion, are an asset to the book and add value to it, some publishers avoid them.

Have you ever come across a difficult book? Did you blame the translator? Do you enjoy translator's notes? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Language mythologies: variation is the norm

Wouldn't it be easier if we all spoke the same language?

No need for expensive translators or interpreters. No need to waste money and time on crossing linguistic barriers. After all, with a single, unique language, we would understand each other better. 

Maybe there was a time in history when everyone spoke the same language.
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
— Genesis 11:1
Who knows, maybe our efforts to learn languages aim to reconstruct precisely this blissed state of the past. A time period when everyone was understood by everyone without the need of an intermediary. 


Variation is part of the human condition. In fact, being human means to be variant, self-contradictory and complex to understand. It easier for scientists to idealise and speak about an universal grammar, ideal native speakers, pure linguistic communities and native speaker intuition. 

We need to focus on the fact that such idealisation is practical for theoretical linguists in order to break up the linguistic system and study it more effectively. However, bear in mind that this has nothing to do with the individual linguistic performances of specific individuals that belong to a certain linguistic community.

After all, even if there was a single language from which all other languages stemmed from, each speaker used it in their own, individual way. This is the complex linguistic reality of being human.


The moment we accept the complex linguistic realities of everyday life, it's easier to make decisions. We can see that there is no ideal native speaker. No ideal grammar book. 

Besides, we see clearly that no native person can be an ideal language teacher or translator. 

Indeed, there has to be a formal education to become either a language teacher or a translator. Sometimes, even a native person can use grammar in an incorrect way while it's possible for a trained non-native individual to speak and write in a grammatically coherent way.


Again, we must accept that variation is the norm. 

Even in the same person, there can be times when their linguistic performance is low or high, according to certain circumstances. 

Besides, there is always room for improvement, when one has a growth mindset. Even a native speaker can improve their linguistic skills, even their accent. There is no clear-cut line that separates native speakers from non-native speakers.

So, if you work with language, make sure that:

  • You maintain a high level of knowledge regarding language
  • You check everything, even if it sounds okay to you as a native speaker
  • You are aware of the variations within the same linguistic system

Variety is part of human nature. Once we embrace this notion, everything starts to make sense.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Some thoughts on anxiety and overthinking when running your own business

Are you struggling with anxiety? Does overthinking drive you crazy? Cool!

Anxiety and overthinking are symptoms of a healthy brain. It may seem strange but it is true. Our brains have the best intentions: they stress over the same problems because they are trying to help. They think they are doing us a favour. They stress over the same problem over and over again precisely because they recognise this is something important and they are trying to provide us with a solution.

What goes wrong, then?


Let us imagine that our brain is a computer. A computer can help us but in order to do so we must give it a problem. But giving a problem is not enough; we must express the problem in a way the computer understands it, namely in a way that is solvable. This is the perfect trick to make our brains actually work for us, not against us. In other words, if we feed our brains with anxiety, we will not get any results at all since our computer-brain will not have anything to work with. But our computer-brain will thrive on a well-expressed practical question.


Our brains thrive on problems; problem solving is their thing. So, next time you are facing a problem, try to rephrase it in a more concrete way. If you give your brain a concrete question, you are going to start getting answers. Your brain is going to invest all its energy not in providing worst-case scenarios or anxiety-filled thoughts, but in providing practical solutions. Your anxiety and overthinking then are going to work for your benefit: all this energy will come to your rescue. Still, worrying will not disappear magically; but this trick is going to help. If it helped me, the most anxious and overthinking woman ever, it will surely help you too! (However, if you feel too stressed, seek professional help).


Imagine you have to prepare lots of invoices but you have little time for this task. The idea of preparing invoices like this would make you anxious, right? Your mind would obsess with this boring task worrying over the details. And starting the task would take forever, as well.

You could use this energy, though, to your own advantage. Instead of trying to stop this kind of obsessive thinking, you could actually make it work for you. Switch into problem-solving mode. Obsess, yes, but this time with concrete questions.

Notice what happens when you give your mind a concrete question. If you feed your brain with questions such as how to get started with your invoice task, how to do it better, what music to listen to while you are doing the task, you will start getting answers. And what is more? When you put your brain in problem-solving mode, the worrying will stop. Try it and see for yourself if it works. And remember, an anxious mind is a healthy mind.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Athens polytechnic graffiti and the subtle power of urban art

Some days ago, the residents of Athens, Greece, woke up to a huge black-and-white graffiti covering the historic Athens Polytechnic University. It was created during the night, and as you can see, it is not a clumsy job. It needs time, craftsmen, and money to create such a thing.

Who did this? And why? And most importantly, why is everyone talking about it? And not just talking about it; as is common for us Greeks, this has become a philosophical debate. This time is about art. What is art? Is this art? For some people, this is not art, because it is ugly. For others, it is not, because no one says so (it is not part of an art exhibition, that is). For others, it is not, because it is vandalism, an act of destruction.

But why is everyone so uncomfortable? For various reasons, I think. First of all it is bleak. If our journalists were more familiar with Dickens, they would use Bleak House in their headline puns. It is bleak in a deep, depressive way. Some of us can see our troubles, our fears, our worries, projected right onto these walls. No wonder we don't like it at all.

Moreover, I think people are uncomfortable because they have connected it with fear. If someone is capable of going along with such a large-scale project surreptitiously, this someone will do it again. Are our monuments safe? It's all we have, you know.

Besides, this particular building complex carries special significance for us. Athens Polytechnic University was where on November 14-17, 1973, during the military junta, the student uprising took place. Since then, the building has become a symbol; especially during the demonstrations commemorating the 1973 uprising. It has seen countless sit-ins, protest meetings, demonstrations, and in its quaint neoclassical majesty, notwithstanding its wounds, it still stands there today keeping that tragic November night alive.

This graffiti is yet another wound. And in my opinion, this is art. True art kicks us out of our comfort zone, helps us become part of the wound. It celebrates the wound. And, to paraphrase Williams Carlos Williams, the famous American poet, a new coat of paint / is one way of expressing it. However ugly this graffiti may be, since people want to get rid of it so much, it may have hit a particularly raw, raw, nerve.  

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

5 things translators do better

After a long day's toil, having worked hard on difficult translations, sometimes I really feel like reading a pick-me-up blog post! Don't you agree? That's why I chose this topic. Indeed, we should never forget what makes us special. We are versatile, diligent, and indispensable; we are translators! And here are the 5 things that we do better. Ready?


Since we always have to deal with a deadline and a bulk of text, we have learned to plan better. So, what do we do? We break the goal into small, manageable goals which seem less overwhelming. What's more, we are used to think in terms of deadlines, which makes keeping track of our goals much easier.   


As translators we know very well that it's not always possible to communicate everything with words. We are very much aware of the importance of the things that are left unsaid. Moreover, translation has made us always communicate clearly and concisely because we understand very well the importance of using the right word.


We also write clearly and concisely, making it easy for the reader to follow what we want to say. Since we have struggled so many times with obscure texts, we know very well how hard it is for the readers to follow a difficult text. That's why we always make sure that our texts are readable.


This sensitivity of ours regarding the nuances of writing makes us also better readers. We always read carefully and deeply. Besides, we usually try to work out how certain sentences would be translated into another language! This procedure is what I call deep reading! There's no deeper reading than this!


We cope better because we are dealing with the impossible. Transforming a text into a text which reads as if it were written originally in another language, for some seems an impossible task. And here we are, the most diligent workers of words, transforming the impossible into the possible. Who is more able to cope better with difficulties in life than us translators?

What do you think? :)

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Let the children play

I was very happy that so many people liked my previous post: It’s better late than never for freelance translators. However, I would like to point out that while for most things in life it’s better late than never, there are some things that must happen at the correct moment. But before I continue, I’d like to say that while I haven’t got children myself, I used to be a child, and people who are not parents should not be excluded from the discussion a priori. All voices have something to contribute, right?

So, what I’m trying to say is that while it is possible to do a lot of things later in life, it is impossible to relive your childhood. That’s why for me it goes without saying that no-one should mess with a child’s childhood.

My own childhood is a very special place that I enjoy to revisit quite often. I am capable of locating this precious feeling of being a child. I can recall how it feels to be open to every possibility, how it feels to be fresh, innocent and receptive. A certain song, a comic book, a movie can send me straight back to that special place, giving me at the same time a new lease of life, and strength to keep going. I can remember exactly what excited me as a child: a new book, learning English, exploring geography and astronomy… and this excitement is ever alive with me, even in my darkest moments.

It is impossible to experience being a child again. Our childhood happens only once. That’s why it is extremely important to let children be children. They are entitled to have this special place of their childhood to accompany them as adults. Some people don’t understand it. That’s why we see certain parents relying on their children, assigning to them roles and responsibilities that the children cannot resume. Usually these parents feel especially ‘proud’ of their little ‘lambs dressed as muttons’. But that’s just not right.

Childhood is about making mistakes. About playing. About being innocent. About exploring the world. About making silly declarations or ludicrous revolutions. I know that it is very difficult to become a good parent and that we should not judge. But when you think that it is impossible to become a child ever again, you realise that, after keeping children healthy and fed and clean, we must protect their childhood. Let the children play.