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Translating for the Language Mavens

For 20 years, my friend Jun and I have disagreed about language. A one-time copyeditor, she rigorously responds to “How are you?” with “I’m well” and not “Good.” I think she’s never met a split infinitive she liked. I, on the other hand, am a follower of Steven Pinker, who says of Jun (or William Safire, […]

Customer always right?

English is a sensitive issue for many Italians. Until recently, it was infamously poorly taught in schools. Knowing English well is associated with career success, travel, and worldliness. Many Italians I know who have a solid intermediate level of English will claim to know none. However, the paradoxical flip side of the coin of insecurity […]

Review of 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know

Pithy yet potentially daunting, 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know sums up in 101 short entries what one might learn in a lifetime translation career. It underscores the vast variety of the translation landscape and the multiplicity of skills needed. Someone reading it at the beginning of her career or considering a career in translation might exclaim, “Holy […]

Ode to Mailing Lists

Early in my career, around the turn of the millennium, I was at a dinner in Washington D.C. and met a retired translator who had worked for governmental agencies translating from several languages, including Italian, into English. Though I was showing the wetness behind my ears, I couldn’t help but gasp at imagining the task […]

The Difficult Lives of Translation Clients

I’ve been trying to find a decent plumber for weeks now. The plumbers, in high demand, are holding all the cards. My toilet is broken; I don’t know how to fix it. All I’ve got going for me is a little cash with which I will reluctantly part to stop my toilet from leaking. Translators […]

Short and Sweet

I like to be helpful to my clients and welcome their requests with open arms. But it can happen that the demands of good English force me to turn down a client’s request, as I did recently when I was asked to make my English translation closer in length to the Italian original to avoid […]

Becoming a Translator: My Story

Fresh-faced, bushy-tailed translators ready to blaze their translation trail often ask experienced translators how they did it. Their accounts vary wildly (as seen in the Translation Journal’s Translator Profiles). This is mine: I was sixteen and studying abroad in the Netherlands with AFS Intercultural Programs when I first considered translation as a career. For my […]

Pesky Words

Ideas for common, hard-to-translate words and phrases – Italian to English A substantial portion of most translation is fairly clear-cut. “Zimbabwe” is pretty much always “Zimbabwe” and “cinque” is usually “five.” Then, there’s the rest of the text that takes extra thought, creativity and research. If I write “gastronomy,” will English-speaking readers imagine “gastrointestinal disorders” […]

Glimmer of hope for IT>EN quality?

Most Italian>English translations are terrible, ranging from machine-translated hilarity to shoddy, non-professional, native-tongue translations. When you come across well-translated English in Italy, it’s a pleasant surprise. When the translator is credited, it is usually a colleague I know, as recently happened when I saw a well-translated exhibition catalogue and was pleased to see it was […]

The needless challenges of searching for a quality translator

Clients and friends often ask me to suggest translators. When the translator needed is in my language combination (IT>EN) or vice versa (EN>IT), I have direct experience with quality translators whom I can suggest without reserve. But when it’s in other combinations, the search is more difficult than it ought to be. When it’s for […]