Guest writer Oliver Lawrence has written this great post for us. His next Clear Writing course will be in 2018 on a date yet to be fixed. You can join the waiting list if you are interested.
So. What is it that you do? What do you make?
You translate, ergo you make translations, but what is a translation? Well, it’s a piece of writing. A text in the target language, a collection of words that you’ve chosen so that they do exactly what the words in the source language do. Which might be to inform, to persuade, to entertain. Or even all three. And you’ve chosen those words to do that within the context of the target genre, the target culture, and the target group who will be reading your translation. Or at least they will be if you write it well.
All that applies regardless of the source language(s) you work from, the subject fields you specialise in, and where you’re at in your translation career. We don’t all have to know Farsi or physics, pottery or Portuguese, but we do need to write. And well. For the machines are getting better, so we need to keep getting better, too.
Good writing is a craft and is often not taught properly
Writing is a great skill, but it’s easy to overestimate your own ability, to be blind to your shortcomings in certain aspects of the craft – for a craft it is. Many of us haven’t really been taught how to write properly, beyond the prescriptive exhortations of a well-meaning schoolmarm or professor many years ago. But that’s not enough. Nor is being a native speaker of the target language.
Writing well is about using words as a precision instrument to reveal meaning. It’s about choosing words with care, doing the legwork to relieve your reader from the unnecessary cognitive burden that lazier writers inflict on them. It’s about creating something crisp and clear, elegant and effortless, stylish yet unselfconscious. Something that will do the job that our clients (and our readers) want it to do. Something we can be proud of – and well paid for.
There are many ways to cultivate the skill of writing. One is reading. One is focused, assiduous practice. And another is to take a course. Speaking of which, I know someone who can help you there.
Lucy: Thanks for a great post Oliver! Even the most practised translators (aka writers) can learn to write better. So it’s worth attending Oliver’s Clear Writing course with eCPD. It starts on 5 June and is divided into 3 lessons, each of around 60 minutes, that take place during the same week. You can also try your hand with an optional assignment. Oliver will check it and give you his feedback.