Sometimes the translation business raises questions.
1. Translate into English (About the painter Poliakoff):
Als 13. von 14 Kindern nahm ihn seine gläubige Mutter täglich mit in die Kirche. [As the thirteenth of fourteen children, his religious mother took him to church with her every day.]
Who was the thirteenth child, the mother or the painter? If it was the painter, why did she take him – was she superstitious? (Actually, the only Poliakoff I remember ran a mole in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).
2. Message from author: Replace Mark Rothko’s Violett Grün Rot with rot, weiß, braun. Text remains the same. (So why didn’t he stick to black and white?)
3. Client says the defendants really are copying our trademark in the Erkennungsleiste of their web site. Translator looks at website but can’t see any kind of Leiste. In addition, there is no such thing as an Erkennungsleiste [recognition toolbar?])
Client is at a meeting. Colleagues say, ‘Just write “web site”.’
4. Client says, ‘The translation was first-class. But just one thing – why did you write express agreement and not expressive agreement?’
5. Author’s English expert (a native German, Leipzig): ‘I have the impression the translator has researched the terminology very well, but her grammar is certainly not that of a native speaker, as I can tell from my university study of English.’ Translator spends several hours refuting grammar ‘errors’ that never were errors except to a non-native speaker (can anyone suggest a better tactic?). A couple of the errors were content errors though, but only 1%. The author, a clergyman: ‘This has been a helpful exercise, as the translation is now improved’.
6. Author’s quote: ‘The translator’s English is unreliable. In English, there are never commas before relative sentences, nor before ‘but’ or ‘that’.’The painting is said to date from’ should be ‘The painting allegedly dates from’. ‘It was known as the chapter-house’ should be ‘the so-called chapter-house’.
7. Some clients are very secretive and won’t tell me the name of the firm the translation is about. It becomes ‘XXX’. So I can’t get all that useful information from their website about the machinery they produce etc. Fortunately, some clients blank out the hyperlinks in the document with XXX, but the hyperlink still works. Or they leave the name of the company in the file details. (Some clients exchange cheeky notes with the secretary in the file details).