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Editors and translators: a conversation at the October member meeting

From left to right: Kerry Davies AE; AUSIT members Dylan Hartmann, Sam Berner, Mariam Elliott; Glenine Hamlyn AE, Lee Ellwood

by Lee Ellwood

Editors and translators have something obvious in common: they both work with language. However, the similarities between the two professions extend much further than that, as editor Glenine Hamlyn AE and translator Renata Oliveira discovered when they met some months ago. They thought it would be good to initiate a conversation between the two professional bodies they belonged to.

Renata took the idea to the Queensland committee of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT), who were enthusiastic. As a result, Editors Queensland members attending the October meeting shared a very conversational evening, jointly facilitated by Glenine and AUSIT's Queensland branch chair, Sam Berner, who was supported by branch secretary Dylan Hartmann and committee member Mariam Elliott. And it just happened to be the week of International Translation Day (30 September)!

An Arabic–English translator who originally trained as an English language teacher, Sam has been an accredited translator since 1996, was former National President of AUSIT and has worked on several non-fiction books. Dylan is a Thai–English translator who lived in Thailand from a young age and began translating during his studies at ANU. Mariam is an Arabic medical interpreter and committee member of AUSIT in Queensland.

It was a fun, positive, animated evening. And just what did we learn about each other? Read on!

AUSIT was formed in 1987 to establish accreditation for professional translating. In time AUSIT's certification operation became a separate entity, the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). AUSIT offers professional development, including national webinars and an annual conference, and its code of ethics is fundamental to the profession. Applicants for membership submit references from clients and peers along with a CV. AUSIT has affiliations with the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI), the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ASLIA) and most of the Australian universities that offer courses in translation. AUSIT's member base reflects around 220 languages, of which 70 are certified. Anyone with a language other than English can become a member of AUSIT if they can prove they are translating or interpreting professionally.

How to do literary translation
Dylan is a literary translator. After he has completed his translation, the work will be reviewed by a bilingual proofreader, who will read the two texts side by side, comparing each original sentence against each translated sentence. The next step, 'quality assurance' or 'quality checking', is what we'd call editing, done by a monolingual editor who will highlight any issues to be resolved by the original translator. Dylan uses both online and print Thai–English dictionaries, as a print dictionary will translate a word but not a whole phrase. He also uses CAT (computer-assisted translation) software.

Dylan asked the editors about 'localisation', a term unfamiliar to us until he explained that it referred to the process of turning other Englishes into Australian English! He has worked for Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, turning their US- and UK-based web content into the Australian equivalents. Dylan admitted initially doubting that he could do any better than Word's spellcheck could – until he realised that spellcheck wouldn't rescue 'Escape the cold this Christmas, come inside and play these new games' for an Australian audience! Dylan found his first localisation work through a translation agency; many clients don't realise how similar US and Australian English are and they approach a translation agency to find professional help. If this sounds like editing work you'd like to pursue, he recommends approaching some translation agencies directly.

Questions from editors

'Is ambiguity impossible in translated fiction, because the author and the translator work so closely together that the act of translation ensures no ambiguity in the text?'
Not necessarily! Sam noted that authors can choose to use ambiguity in fiction as a creative tool, and Dylan recalled having to find ways to replicate intentional ambiguity to preserve authorial purpose.

'How can an author be confident that what the translator has done is accurate? How can they check, if they don't speak the language themselves?'
Sam explained that firstly, the translator works closely with the author while translating, and secondly, that the quality assurance step ensures any inaccuracies are picked up. Sam called translating accurately a 'collaborative activity'.

Questions from translators

'How do you define "editing"?'
Glenine explained the structural, copyediting and proofreading levels of editing, and how each can vary with the type of text (fiction or non-fiction, for example). She also described manuscript appraisal, particularly for fiction works.

'Do editors specialise, perhaps in different genres or fields?'
Yes, some do, while others prefer to generalise. Even the word 'editing' has different meanings in English (e.g. newspaper editor, book editor, even film and TV editing) and editors might perform other tasks like obtaining permissions and project management.

CAT software
Sam demonstrated her computer-assisted translation program, memoQ, and how it helps her work from the 'source' text across to the 'target' text. The CAT highlights terms that she's translated before, thereby identifying any other terms for her to work on. The example was of ingredient lists on food packaging that must be translated to Arabic from English before the items can be exported; in such a case, translations cannot vary – the same terms must be used every time for the ingredients. The CAT also plugs into a paid version of Google Translate, which Sam considers to be a very fluent translator but one that doesn't necessarily produce the same meaning in the target language! The quality assurance step, undertaken by another translator-editor, applies valuable human understanding to the machine translations.
Sometimes Sam's author may have their own bilingual glossary from a previous translation, which can be uploaded to the machine. The CAT also acts like a corpus by collating all Sam's previous uses of a term and phrases to help her decide which translated version she should use in the current context.

The conversation was very much two-way throughout the evening, with many questions asked on both sides by audience and facilitators. By the end of the evening, the idea of pursuing a formal relationship between IPEd and AUSIT was on the table, although we recognised that it would need to happen at a national level. Sam proposed a reciprocal visit by Editors Queensland to an AUSIT meeting next year, and our committee will follow up on this. Meanwhile, Editors Queensland extended an invitation to AUSIT to attend our end-of-year dinner on Friday 29 November at Caravanserai in West End.


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