Nov 07

Tre anni fa scrissi una recensione del libro di Daniel Gouadec per Language International, sito che aveva lo scopo di far rivivere i fasti dell’omonima rivista, punto di incontro nel nostro settore tra il 1988 e il 2002; ma purtroppo ebbe vita breve. Ripubblico allora qui quel pezzo.

Daniel Gouadec is a professor at the Université de Rennes 2 and a well-known author in our field (a list of his publications can be found here). His latest feat is Translation as a profession, an excellent overview of the translator’s job in the XXI century. Generally speaking, the perception of the translation profession in the eyes of the general public is that of a sort of Saint Jerome with a dusty dictionary (obviously on paper) in his/her hands. But nothing is more far from the truth, now that translation and IT have become more and more intertwined; and this book contributes to clearing up that misunderstanding.

The book is divided into six sections. The first analyzes the translation process, while the second describes the translation profession and the market. The third section is devoted to how to become a translator, and at which conditions this career is worth the effort. The fourth can be seen as the result of the previous section, looking at issues such as rates, productivity, quality, deadlines, certifications and so on. The fifth section describes the impact that IT has had on the profession. The final section concerns the training of translators.

The main merit of the book lies in its completeness. Professor Gouadec gives an in-depth view of the profession that is very useful for aspiring translators as a guide, and for actual translators to revisit and rethink their job. In some passages, the book may come across as too theoretical, but must be said that it is anything but simple to give precise data and indications in this field. Also, there are too many pointed and numbered lists that do not really make for a fluent read: there is for example a numbered list that describes the translation process (pages 57-83) 156 points long! Another flaw that, quite frankly, surprises the reader is the lack of a bibliography: the author quotes some sites, but the information would have been more complete and accurate with annotated references to books and articles on the subject.

Some specific concepts are worth noting. For example that “the translating profession has long been dominated by women. The reasons were economic (the relatively low rates were acceptable as a second income) and social (translation offered part-time opportunities and flexibility)” (p. 88): a good and plain explanation for a phenomenon that is the same everywhere you go. Or that “salaried employment in the translation industry tends to focus more and more on such activities as project management and language engineering” (p. 89): this is precisely what is happening in the industry today.

Rather theoretical but interesting is the difference between a broker and an agency: the first “simply buys and sells translations”, whereas the second “usually takes care of at least part of the translation process” (p. 96).

There is also the unfailing point that regards the prices that translators apply to their clients: “When it comes to tariff levels, translators all too often appear to be willing to dig their own graves” (p. 199).

There are some other concepts that are perhaps more arguable. For example:

– “Translation graduates are expected to be able to translate from two foreign languages into their mother tongue” (p. 89; emphasis is in the original); why two and not only one, or more than two, as may be the case for Nordic languages?

– “It must also be remembered that a translation company’s rates will always be higher than those of a freelance translator” (p. 123): this is not always true, in some cases a freelancer may charge higher than an agency for a specialized service;

– “Need it be said that the choice of premises and their location are all-important […]. Also be wary that many clients (more especially those that bring in the major contracts) will, soon or late, drop by […] and that major clients will be dismayed at the sight of substandard premises” (p. 184): this may have been true in the past, but in the current market rules have changed dramatically;

– “A good rule of thumb is that the normal pattern for freelancers is to aim to cut down their reliance on agency work from 50% the first year, to around 20% by the third year” (p. 190): it may be useful advice as a general rule, but the numbers depend on many factors. Just to name one, translators may want to concentrate on their translation duties, letting the agencies do the marketing efforts for them and be compensated for this.

All in all, this is an excellent overview of the translation profession, recommended especially for translators who are still new to the profession; however the price may be an obstacle to the circulation of the book.

Daniel Gouadec, Translation as a Profession, “Benjamins Translation Library”, volume 73, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins, 2007, pages 396, ISBN 9789027216816, price EUR 110.00 (hardbound – ebook), EUR 36.00 (paperback), available here.

Lascia un commento

preload preload preload