Sunday, 16 February 2014

Valuable advice from professional translators

Hello! I know I have not written for quite a while here and today I decided to dedicate this post to my students. I have been teaching future translators for almost two years now. Together with my students I’ve learned a lot of new things in the world of foreign languages and translation theory and practice. I entered the field of  Translation Practice which was completely new for me. It has  been very challenging and I have enjoyed it immensely. The first students  have recently graduated our new three-year course "Translators in the sphere of professional communication". I am very proud of those students who worked hard, dedicated their time and energy to mastering the art of translation. This post is dedicated to my students who have already finished the course, as well as to those who are presently studying.
I recently came across an interesting piece of information which I would like to share with you all. It consists of advice from professional translators for those who are eager to master translating and who are keen to do it effectively. I decided to translate it from Russian into English, summarising the key points. I hope this post will be useful. Enjoy!
1. Learn GRAMMAR instead of learning separate words.
Once you understand the underlying grammatical system you will be able to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words as you encounter them. Without knowing grammar perfectly it is impossible to translate correctly. It is far better to spend extra time revising tenses than to learn yet another unfamiliar word. Context will help you understand the word which might be new for you but without systematic knowledge of grammatical structures it will be very hard to understand the text let alone to render a valid translation.
2. Don't rush to look up an unfamiliar word in a dictionary.
Nowadays, with such an abundance of online translation tools, many people are addicted to Google and the like. Thus, instead of analysing the structure of a given sentence, many people prefer to type it into an online translator in order to get the answer as quickly as possible. The danger of this method is, of course, quite obvious. Words learned using this "express method" will be forgotten as fast as they are learned. Another thing to consider here is whether the text in question was selected according to one’s own level and abilities. It is impossible to grasp the overall meaning of the text by simply looking up every word in the dictionary. Instead, it’s a good idea to try choosing reading materials in which the majority of words are familiar or can be guessed from the context.
3. Turn off the subtitles.
Watching films in English with English subtitles is an effective way to enlarge one’s vocabulary. Bear in mind, however, that this method also has its drawbacks. When it comes to foreign languages, it is generally easier for the brain to understand written text than the spoken word. If you continue watching films in English with English subtitles regularly you will subconsciously focus more on reading rather than listening and as a result listening comprehension skills will not be developed. Instead, try watching films in English without the subtitles, listening carefully to all the dialogues. If you fail to understand certain parts of the film, it is always possible to check the transcript later on.
4. Try translating "blind folded".
Try to interpret the meaning of an abstract or a text without looking into the text itself. In order to do this, read the text once or twice from beginning to end trying to understand the main theme and memorising the key details. Following this, try to summarise the text by providing the general idea expressed instead of translating each word and phrase separately. Of course the translation may subsequently be modified and corrected as necessary; however, such practice will help you avoid loan translation (калькирование), which makes the translated text sound somewhat rigid.
5. Learn to love the Russian language.
If you really want to be proficient in translating from English into Russian (and vice versa) you should make an effort to appreciate both the beauty and the subtlety of the Russian language itself. Try to read classics and high-quality newspaper articles published in Russian. If you want to develop greater stylistic capabilities, then it might also be worth trying to copy abstracts from your favourite books. This will help you to develop your vocabulary and gain a better feel for the language.
Finally, I would like to mention once again that these recommendations are not originally my own; given their usefulness, however, I decided to translate and publish them on my blog in order that aspiring translators whose native language is Russian might access and benefit from them. To add to what has already been mentioned, I fully agree with most of the ideas presented. While working with a group of translator-students I myself realised how important it is to teach them grammar and, most importantly, how much better their translation skills become when their knowledge of grammar is more fully developed.

English is a wonderful language. Good luck improving it!

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