220 When habit Jails
to language, always looking to fill in gaps in their lists, or to add to already overflowing
lists, knowing that some day they might need every word they have ever stored.
These mental lists, sometimes methodically stored in personal or corporate
databases for rapid and reliable access, constitute one essential inductive process of
accumulating semantic experiences that translators use when habit fails — when the
autopilot shuts down and they must go to "manual." But there are many others as
well: mental lists of ethical principles ("Should I correct this?" "Should I notify the
agency about this?"), good business practices ("I can't finish this by the deadline,
what should I do?" "I really need to charge extra for this, but how much, and how
do I present it?"), moral beliefs ("Do I really want to do a translation for an arms
manufacturer, a tobacco company, a neo-Nazi group?"), and so on. In each case, the
problem translators face is too complicated to deal with by rote, subliminally,
uncritically; so they shift into a conscious analytical mode and begin sifting back
through the inductive layers of their experience, exploring patterns, comparing and
contrasting, articulating to themselves — in some cases for the first time — the
principles that seem to emerge from the regularities.
Picking the rendition that feels right (abduction)
And at last, of course, they have to make a decision. Language is an infinitely
fascinating subject for translators, and many of them could go on worrying a problem
area for days, weeks — perhaps even forever. Fortunately or unfortunately, clients and
agencies are rarely willing to wait that long, and at some point translators must put
a stop to the analytical process and say "that's good enough" (see Pym 1993: 113—16).
Just when that point is, when translators will feel comfortable enough with a
solution to move on, is impossible to predict — even for the translators themselves.
The feeling of being satisfied with a solution, and of knowing that you are satisfied
enough to move on, is rarely subject to rational analysis. It comes abductively, as an
intuitive leap; the swirl of certainties and uncertainties, the mixture of conviction
("this seems like a good word, maybe even the right word") and doubt ("but I know
there's a better one"), eventually filter out into a sudden moment of clarity in which
a decision is made. Not necessarily a perfect or ultimate decision; the translator
may have to go back and change it later. But a decision nonetheless. A decision to
And in the end it does come down to this: with all the professional expertise
and craftsmanship in the world, with decades of experience and a fine, even
perfectionist, attention to detail, every translator does finally translate by the seat
of his or her pants, picking the rendition that feels right. This may not be the ultimate
arbiter in the translation process as a whole — the translator's work will almost
certainly be edited by others — but it is the ultimate arbiter for the translator as a
trained professional, working alone. The translator's "feeling" of "rightness" draws
on the full range of his or her professionial knowledge and skill; but it is in the
When habit Jails 221
end nevertheless a feeling, a hunch, an intuitive sense. The translation feels right —
or it feels right enough to send off. It is made up of thousands of decisions based
ultimately on this same criterion, most made quickly, subliminally, without analytical
reflection; some made painstakingly, with full conscious awareness, checking of
authorities, and logical reasoning; but all relying finally on the translator's abductive
seal of approval: okay, that'll do.
The difference between a good translator and a mediocre one is not, in other
words, that the former translates carefully, consciously, analytically, and the latter
relies too heavily upon intuition and raw feels. Both the good translator and
the mediocre translator rely heavily on analysis and intuition, on conscious and
subliminal processing. The difference is that the good translator has trained his or
her intuitions more thoroughly than the mediocre one, and in relying on those
intuitions is actually relying on years of internalized experience and intelligent
On the other hand, no one's intuitions are ever fully trained. Good translators
are lifelong learners, always looking for more cultural knowledge, more words and
phrases, more experience of different text types, more transfer patterns, more
solutions to complex problems. Translation is intelligent activity requiring constant
growth, learning, self-expansion.
In that sense we are all, always, becoming translators.
1 Just how rule-governed should a translator's work be? Is the translator's
creativity ever hampered or diminished by adherence to the rules of the
marketplace? If so, what should the translator who feels hampered do about it?
In aspects of translation where the marketplace does not impose specific rules
on the translator, to what extent should the translator impose those rules on
himself or herself?
2 Just how conscious should a translator's analytical processes be? Should
translators slow down their translations in order to be more analytically
thorough and cautious? Should the initial translating work be rapid and more
or less subliminal, and the editing process be conscious and slow and analytical?
Should even the editing proceed more or less subliminally, unless a problem
222 When habit fails
Translate the following text into your target language. Let yourself sink into
a reverie state while you translate: relax, breathe rhythmically, listen to music,
let your mind wander to the shirts you've put on in your life.
Buttoning a shirt: take the two sides of the shirt front in your two hands
and line them up, starting from the bottom. Move your fingers on one
hand up the shirt to the bottom button, and the fingers on the other hand
up the shirt to the bottom buttonhole. Push the button through the button-
hole. Slide your fingers up to the next button and buttonhole, and the
button it through the hole. Keep moving up the shirt, one button and
one buttonhole at a time, until you read the ladder but on and button the
top button. Or, if you like, leave the top button undone.
What happened when you reached the problem area " .. . until you read
the ladder but on"? What did you do? Could you feel yourself coming out of
your reverie state and starting to analyze? Did the two mental states feel
Suggestions for further reading
Anderman, Rogers, and del Valle (2003), Chesterman and Wagner (2001), Fuller (1973),
Jones (1997), Kraszewski (1998), Mossop (2001), Picken (1989), Sofer (2000),
Tirkkonen-Condit and Jaaskelainen (2000), Wilss (1996)
All of the links given below were live as of August 2002. Unfortunately, links go
dead very quickly, and print lists are hard to keep updated. To the end of maximizing
the usefulness of this list, wherever possible snail-mail addresses and phone numbers
have been provided as well.
Links appear here in the following categories:
1 Resource links pages.
2 On-line dictionaries, glossaries, term databases, encyclopedias.
3 Translation memory software manufacturers.
4 Translation agencies and companies.
5 Translator mailing lists.
6 Translator organizations.
7 Translation conferences.
8 Translation centers and programs.
9 Translation-related publications.
Resource links pages
Translator's Home Companion
http: / /www. rahul.net/lai/companion, html
Translation news, international news, glossaries (categorized by language),
translation engines, other resources, tools garage, translation products, find a
translator, find a job, organizations, translation agencies, education,
conferences / seminars.
http: / / www. translation. ne t /
Professional translation services, translation software, foreign language
keyboards, links to translation resources.
Translation Zone: Where Freelancers Connect With TRADOS
http: / / www. translationzone. com /
Translator tips. com
http: / / www. translator tips. com
tranmail: list of 1,800+ translation agencies around the world
tranfree: bimonthly e-zine for translators, edited by Alex Eames
eBook: How to Earn $80,000+ as a Freelance Translator
http: / /www. webtranslators.com/
Discussion forums and chat rooms on topics of interest to language
professionals, free web-based e-mail, glossaries and dictionaries, translation
organizations, translation industry news, world news, translation products,
links (conferences, education, other)
Peter Sandrini's Translation Resources
One of the most comprehensive link sites for translator resources:
universities and professional organizations, terminology, resources and
translation pages, on-line journals, mailing lists and discussion groups,
linguistics, translation and computers, technical writing, agencies and
Yahoo Literary Translator Resources
http: / / dir. yahoo, com / Ar ts / Humanities / Literature / Comparati ve_Literature
LISA (Localization Industry Standards Association)
http: / / www. lisa. org /
On-line dictionaries, glossaries, term databases,
Eurodicautom: http: / / europa. eu. int / eurodicautom / Controller
Termium: http: / / www. cetrodftt. com / translate. htm
Robert Shea: http://www.serve.com/shea/wortbuch.htm
Richard Lederer: http://pwl.netcom.com/~rlederer/rllink.htm
University of Vaasa:
http: / / www. uwasa. fi / comm / ter mino / collect / index. html
Peter Sandrini: http://translation.uibk.ac.at/termlogy/database.html
Language Hub: http: / / www. cetrodftt. com / translate. htm
Frank Dietz: http://www.jump.net/~fdietz/glossary.htm
Peter Spitz: http://home8.inet.tele.dk/p-spitz/
Dieter Wiggert: http: / / www. academiaisla. com / links / dwtl. php
Dieter Waeltermann: http://www.trans-link.com/page2.html
Translation memory software manufacturers
Atril (Deja_Vu): http: / /www.atril. com/
IBM (Translation Manager): http://www-4.ibm.com/
software / ad / tr anslat / tm /
Star (Transit): http://www.star-transit.com/en/
SDL (SDLX): http://www.sdlintl.com/products/sdlx.htm
TR AD O S (Translator's Workbench): http: / / www. trados. com / index. asp
Translation agencies and companies
Translator's Home Companion
http: / /www. rahul.net/lai/jobs, html
http: / /www. rahul.net/lai/tragsvc.html
: / / www. for eign word. com / Translators / agencies / agencies. htm
http: / / dir. yahoo, com / Business_and_Economy / Business_to_Business /
Translation_Ser vices /
http: / / www. aquar ius. net /
The Translator's Home Companion
Association of Translation Companies (ATC)
Suite 10—11, Kent House,
87 Regent Street,
London W1R7HF, UK
A free copy of the ATC members' handbook is available to anyone seeking to
purchase translation work; call the Languageline at: +44 (0)207 437 0007.
A network of groups of AIIC consultant interpreters
Japan Financial Translations
http: / / www. j fti. org /
http: / / www. proz. com /
DMOZ Open Directory Project
http: / / dmoz. org / Business / Business_Ser vi ces / Translation_Ser vices / Links_
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested