Making translation visible

In this video you are able to see two translators in conversation as they discuss their decisions when translating the same text, an extract from a novel by Spanish author Eliacer Cansino. The translators are Rosalind Harvey and Daniel Hahn and they produce quite different texts. Being as good as they are at what they are doing, they help to bring the question about what is right or wrong in translation to the fore. In fact, they make us see how it is rather a matter of making decisions that can be better or worse. Our way of thinking about translation should ask rather whether is it valid, suitable or not valid or unsuitable. Between these two poles, there can be a spectrum of possibilities that a translator should explore.

As it is pointed in the introduction, for the professional translator there are also the "oh-my-why-did-I-not-think-of-that" moments, when comparing decisions with fellow professional translators. You may find this reassuring.

When the first passage is read out in Spanish first and then in translation, we find out that the two resulting targets texts are all different except for one word, which is left in Spanish. This frames very well the need to find out more. Why did they make these choices?

Even though the discussion is about the translation of a Spanish text into English, this session is equally interesting and revealing for translators of other languages, as it gives you a glimpse into the type of considerations that a translator has to engage with before making decisions. It also is illuminating as for how translating is discussed and argued. I hope you find something of value in this dialogue for your translation practice and your thinking about translation.


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