Thursday, December 1, 2011

“Mind All the Gaps in Spanish>English Technical Translation”, reviewed by Karen Tkaczyk

At the end of a packed Friday at the annual conference in Boston, Kevin Costello gave us the benefit of his considerable experience in technical translation. He is Instructor of Spanish-English Translation in the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures at James Madison University in Virginia. His session included examples taken from work while at a prior position at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain. The title of this entertaining session contained a cultural reference close to my heart. In the London Underground (rail subway system) the loudspeakers always tell us to mind the gap before we board. Kevin is British, as am I.

Kevin started with a little background: our need to bridge linguistic and cultural gaps and thus minimize translation loss, as is the case for all translations. He went on to describe a third stylistic gap specific to technical translation. To bridge this stylistic gap, Kevin said we need to apply simple, powerful techniques of stylistic editing while translating. Anyone who has spoken to me on the subject of technical translation will be aware that I also encourage this. Hence I was an eager attendee, excited to hear Kevin’s opinions and see his examples. Kevin said that if we can become "bistylistic" as well as bilingual and bicultural, we will achieve both our primary aim of minimizing translation loss and the secondary aim of maximizing translation gain.

Kevin listed characteristics of good technical texts.

·         Clear

·         Simple

·         Direct

·         Concise

·         Personal

·         Communicative

He covered some of the typical problems that come from Spanish as a source language, for example, reflexive, passive and impersonal language. He used the Gunning fog index to score poor translations. At first this is just entertaining, but then quickly I saw that it was an effective tool for measuring clarity, especially where there was none. Kevin then described seven methods for improving texts.

·         Write shorter sentences

·         Prefer the active voice

·         Use a personal style

·         Use verbs

·         Use consistent vocabulary

·         Use parallel structure

·         Remove redundancies

He then gave us helpful, clear examples of bloated, pompous, wordy texts that he had worked on, mainly written by Spanish professors, with examples of ‘draft’, fairly literal translations and ‘edited’, optimal translations. It was clear to the whole audience that applying these seven techniques works. This was just the sort of insightful, well-organized, practical conference session I enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Being "bistylistic" is indeed a skill required for translators. In my experience I found that Spanish syntax can be really thorny and applying these seven methods would be really helpful, especially for technical translation. Thanks for sharing it!


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