Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Translation Is Not A Shameful Secret

One would think that most of such theoretical considerations: 'foreignization' (I maintain it's not a valid word) versus 'domestication', should the translation read like an original or like a translation (no, there is no one and only pre-ordained answer to this), should you cover your tracks as a translator or not — belong to the word of literal translation only.

Heck no. That's not true. Only, they are seen and judged through the perspective of literary translation, which is what probably 90% of practicing translators are not doing.

Maintaining that full-on domestication is the only right way of translating is a hoax, along with the resulting sentiment that it is good to disguise your translation even at the expense of sacrificing accuracy with no corresponding gain in beauty or quality, just to make your text farther removed from the original, less traceable to it. Like that's even a legitimate goal!

(Which it is not, it's hoax.)

The translator's job is to translate, not to validate and promote phobias (including xenophobia) and superstitutions, and a lot of modern translation creed is superstition that has little basis in real science. It just gets repeated over and over and dressed in the trappings of ethical precepts That Must Not Be Questioned. They just get repeated over and over.

This collection of attitudes is harmful to us. It reinforces our clients' beliefs that were shameful, best not mentioned, best swept under the carpet, you know, like in that Bismarck quote:

Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made.

Seriously? Why should one willingly allow one's profession, one's calling, one's job, often one's hobby or passion, to be held in that sort of prejudiced regard?

It is also consistent with the business model and business interests of translation agencies. Think about it: To whose benefit is when translators are nameless, invisible, tucked in the shadow, swept under the rug, in short: they supposedly don't exist?

And which kind of client is being wooed when appeasing and actively catering to and feeding xenophobic feelings is the value proposal? — Parochialism would be the most charitable description of that sort of thing.

Just like you don't need to be ashamed of your core service and core value in your value proposal and price justification, you don't need to be shamed of your work in, well, your work.

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