French/Spanish to English translation

05 February 2013

Andy Martin on Translation

When Andy Martin, certified translator, attempted to produce a new French to English translation of Jules Verne’s 19th-century nautical classic, he ran into issues that highlight how even the best translators can have trouble with rich prose and vocabulary.

Martin writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times that there is a vast taxonomy of fish in the novel. He states that around page three, he starts to “drown in fish”. The typical vocabulary of most when it comes to fish (ichthyology) is limited, but translating from French to English or English to French translation is another matter altogether.

Martin is a veteran of the translation art and industry. He published in 1990 The Mask of the Prophet: The Extraordinary Fiction of Jules Verne and takes a keen interest in teaching translation, which he conducts at Cambridge University, as well as writing somewhat regular articles for renowned publications.

Martin wrote an article for a British newspaper entitled “Translation Is Impossible.” In it, he describes that there are many things that simply will not translate from one language to another. He invokes the infamous line of Groucho Marx “You’re only as old as the woman you feel,” as one of these untranslatable instances.

In English to French translation, the verb “feel” needs to function both transitively and intransitively—that is, the work needs to describe both the action to “touch” and the experiencing of emotion. In French, about the closest one can get to achieving this is “A man is only as old as the woman he can feel inside of him trying to express herself.”

This article, written by Martin, ironically enough has since made the English to French translation and was published in a well-known French magazine.

Andy Martin summarises the piece with this: “The lesson I learned from Adair, a really serious translator, is this: You can’t get it right.  So the only thing you can do is make it better.”

FAQ

What is translation?

Translation is the process of changing the text from one language to another whilst conveying the same meaning as demonstrated in the source text...

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How long does it take to translate a document?

Although dependent on the field and complexity of the translation, generally speaking, personal documents can be translated within 2-3 business days. Larger jobs will vary...

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Why should I have my documents translated professionally?

Professional translation differs greatly from machine translation (i.e. Google Translate, Babylon, etc). A professional translator ensures that the translation reads naturally and not like a translation. Accredited through NAATI...

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How to choose a translator?

a. Check their qualifications - and/or request information about their experience. Translators should only accept assignments for which they are competent and as a client, you should expect...

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