Friday, August 20, 2010

Translation procrastination...

A long while back I had translated a government memo from modern Greek to English. It was only one page and I wanted to have it be perfect! I looked up all acronyms (some of which I had no idea existed since I left Greece before being involved too much with governmental BS), but I missed the small things! I had translated "minutes" as "seconds" - bah! What an newbie mistake! I still beat myself up over it! I became blinded by perfection that I missed the obvious!

In any case, I am now back in the translation game, this time translating, for a friend, the life and times of St. Margaret from New Testament Greek to English. It's about 40 pages of New Testament Greek (medieval Greek?) goodness! Luckily all those years as an altar-boy in Greece, and my two semesters of Ancient Greek had prepared me a bit for this under taking. I procrastinated most of the summer but recently I got back in the groove. The biggest problem, again, was perfection. I was expecting to read a sentence and BAM, create a perfect translation into English with one pass - something that is impossible!

This past weekend I came to terms with the fact that it won't be perfect on the first, or second, or third time around, but just like any writing, it requires a rough draft, and tons and tons of polishing. So sure, my first draft might look like something that came our of Google Translate or Babelfish (example off the top of my head: the of the holy apostles ascension into the heaven father's (look up this word). amen" but with subsequent work you can get it into something that both make sense in English and flows like something a native would have said!

The main issue with translating ancient or medieval Greek for me is that I get the gist of what is said. I don't get every single word and construction because the language has evolved, some forms have been dropped, grammar simplified, and new words added, but I get what is said. Of course, what I understand can be boiled down to two letter-sized pieces of paper (1/20th the size of the original), so the time consuming part is the looking up of words and re-familiarizing myself with older grammatical forms that are somewhere in my memory, but not immediately accessible.

Any other translators or interpreters out there? What are your experiences?
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