The Compromise Between Translation and Time

Translation is an art form and to produce a piece of work in any art form requires dedicated time from an artist.

Kevin Coughlan, Senior Translator

In today’s world, we are able to connect with anyone across the globe thanks to the Internet. This has made advances in knowledge and understanding of cultures stronger than ever before, but has also caused people in general to become used to getting what they need with zero delay. Instant gratification with the highest convenience possible is the only way to sell to the current public. Slow progress gets lost in the dust and your product will sit on the shelf gathering it.

This translates, puns everywhere, when it comes to delivering translations. Automatic translations can be accomplished by throwing a text into any number of the available programs which will crunch word combinations and possibilities, and then fire out a fully completed translation. Hey presto, job done! And all I needed to do was hit copy and paste a few times. Unfortunately, the reality is not so fantastic. Hey presto, a translation that reads as if a five year old was describing the complexity of quantum mechanics with words they were making up as they go along.

A translator can also copy and paste a few times producing a result in minutes, but the translator would be embarrassed handing it over to a client. Clients know of the existence of automatic translation programs and figure translators must be walking compubots (automatic translation from my rambling brain) ingesting and spitting out words all day. A pretty picture to be imagined.

The difference with a translation that takes five seconds to produce and one that has been given time by a professional translator is drastic. Translation is an art form and to produce a piece of work in any art form requires dedicated time from an artist. If I produced a sculpture from a large piece of rock by wailing on it with a sledgehammer for ten minutes and then proceeded to tell you it was a fleet of ships, you might not be too impressed. Unfortunately as translators we don’t have the luxury of proclaiming, “Well, it’s abstract!”

When working in translation, the desired result is one of free-flowing, descriptive but accurate beauty, while remaining true to the original thoughts, feelings and tone. If time is not dedicated to understanding these intricacies, then we have a cold, calculated, logical mashing of word combinations without a soul, but hey, it took two seconds so what about it? The choice is entirely yours. If a translator is expected to make a work of art, a bit of time needs to be the compromise.

Kevin Coughlan, Senior Translator

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