If you’ve been translating for a while and feel stuck at your current skill level, I have good news! It’s likely not your translating that needs improvement—it’s your editing. All first drafts are terrible. No one thinks in perfect English (or French, or Swahili) when they’re focused on forming ground-breaking, substantive thoughts. And that’s OK! What wouldn’t be OK is to release that brain dump as a final product.
Unfortunately, editing seems to be an afterthought when we think about translation as a whole. After all, translators work from finished products, right? Well… only sort of. You may be working from completed ideas and logic chains, but you need to leave yourself enough time to clean up the parts that didn’t transition easily into the target language. Done properly, the editing process can take as much time or longer than getting the initial translation down on the page (screen).
You don’t have to learn editing to translate, or to translate well. Not one of the 20 professionals in my workshop at ATA58 had ever taken a formal class in revision before (and many of them have been translating for over 20 years!). But if you want to improve your translations, you should strongly consider taking a course on how to improve your quality control.
In-person classes are often available through your local university or writers association. ATA offers my revision webinars on demand (here and here). Or, if your time is limited right now, I can personally recommend any of these books as a soft starting point:
- Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read. (Brooks Landon)
- The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. (Steven Pinker)
- On Writing—A Memoir of the Craft. (Stephen King)
- The Fine Art of Copyediting. (Elsie Myers Stainton)
I’m curious: Have you completed any training in revision? What resources can you recommend? Add your favorites in the comments below!