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Translating & Localizing March 3, 2008

Filed under: unrelated and odd — Lucila Soto @ 3:07 pm

“In general, little things are a big deal when it comes to translation, because the end-goal, according to experts, is invisibility. Dialogue – written and spoken – should flow so well that viewers forget that it was translated at all.” Elena Barcia for

I’m a very lucky girl so I have many loves in my life. I have my dogs, I have my jelly-bean, I have my beloved family and a couple of really good friends. I was even lucky enough to find a job that really fulfills my life: translating.

I have always had a love for words, I try to express myself properly and I truly believe that language was created an intricate and humongous collection of expressions in order to let us express what we really mean to say in order to avoid conflict and misunderstanding. I don’t believe any word should be used lightly or when lacking knowledge on its meaning.
And, as I love meaning of things, I have always enjoyed reading, art, culture and basically had a need to see, apprehend and understand my surroundings, being they places, things or people. This, I think, lead me into having the ability and gusto of translating not only words but thought & concepts from one language to another, not by using directly translated words but making a clear distinction between the different meaning and use of words.

I do trust in the power of words, I do think that for every human action, feeling or thought there is, for each language an exact word to describe it, it is only our lack of knowledge of the vast and rich world of words that forbids us to properly make ourselves understandable.
And of course, there exists a precise equivalence between words, phrases and sayings, between Countries and traditions. I speak of equivalence, not of a mere translation, I refer to it more like a localizing process and not of an equivalence for words, let’s have some examples:

Yes, while walking on the red carpet we had an argument which resulted in him going out of the party.
If I were to only translate from English to Spanish using what I call a “babelfish style”, the result would be something like:
Sí, mientras caminábamos por la carpeta roja tuvimos un argumento que resultó en que él saliera de la fiesta.
Which is, in short, bad Spanish, a word by word translation. In contrast a good translation taking into account a neutral Spanish localizing would read:
Así es, mientras caminábamos por la alfombra roja peleamos, es por eso que él dejó la fiesta.

Words are part of a living code: language. Language is an always evolving structure, Mexican Spanish from late XVII century is as equal to Mexican Spanish from this time as Italian, references and roots are there but meanings and uses change as societies do. When translating or localizing this should always be kept in mind.

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