30 May 2014

Show 'em ... _11.1 or Turning a problem passage into a gem

This post is part of the Show 'em what you can do_# series.
To follow, start with Show 'em what you can do_#1 and proceed in chronological order.

For the French, see Les paris gagnés de DCN.

The last sentence of the last block poses a challenge to turn a problem passage in the orginal into a gem in the target language.

The original reads:
Constitué par des marcheurs, d'une capacité unitaire de 400 tonnes et reliés deux par deux par une poutre support, ils permettent de transférer le sous-marin jusqu'au DME (Dispositif de mise à l'eau) sur une plate-forme en position haute. Celle-ci est mise en flottaison et l'abaissement du niveau de l'eau dans le bassin, à l'aide d'un système de pompes, permet la descente et la mise à l'eau du navire. 
My version reads:
Arranged in pairs and supporting a load-sharing beam, the walkers form a ‘centipede’. Each walker can support a maximum load of 400 tonnes. When the ‘centipede’ and its load are over the shiplift, the dock beneath is drained by a series of pumps leaving submarine and shiplift plaform on the dock floor. After securing the platform, the dock is flooded again and the submarine floated out and towed to a fitting-out dock.
This is not a translation but a re-write.
What is the justification?

Assuming our translator of technical journalism articles has the customer's confidence and a good working relationship with the customer's team along with a mandate (possible more implicit than explicit, since customers seldom want to know too much about what goes on inside the translator's head...) to translate/write/transcreate for the customer's customers, then the justification is simply that the writer of the original wasn't thinking about the customer's customers enough.

The first requirement of reader-centred translation is that the text must be easy tp read and understand and, given the presence of the partially explanatory graphic, it must work well with that too. This can only be achieved by extensive internet research, some hard thinking and multiple drafts.

First, I studied the graphic closely. Next, I located, downloaded and studied the document Le sous-marin nucléaire lanceur d'engins de nouvelle génération (SNLE-NG) « Le Vigilant ». The passage of interest reads:
Une semaine après son transfert dans l'ouvrage Cachin, « Le Vigilant » sera descendu en fond de forme. Pour cela, le bassin (qui a nécessité 30 000 m3 de béton) sera rempli d'eau. La porte du bassin sera ensuite refermée. La plate-forme, sur laquelle repose le sous-marin, sera alors déverrouillée et flottera sur l'eau du bassin. Une simple vidange du bassin permettra à la plate-forme porteuse de descendre lentement, tel un ascenseur hydraulique, jusqu'au fond de la forme asséchée. Quand « Le Vigilant » sera en mesure de prendre la mer, il suffira d'ouvrir la porte du bassin, qui se remplira selon le principe de l'écluse.
This confirms several points suggested by the graphic. I defy anyone to glean from the original an understanding of how the DME shiplift works comparable with that offered by this text and, hopefully, my re-write.

Had this been a real job for a real customer, the next challenge would be to get the customer's opinion, then go through an additional review cycle. The other challenge, of course, is to maintain a good working relationship with the customer's team, beginning with the author of the original.
One way is for the translator to invite constructive criticism from the outset. In-house writers frequently have trouble putting themselves in the shoes of their readers and, as part of that process, writing for people of are both less technical than themselves and, because they do not yet understand how the system (here the DME shiplift) works, need, as a minimum, an explanation that is easy to read and understand. This is a common problem. It is best resolved through dialogue and constructive criticism.
First, the re-write must be easy to read and understand. If it can be made to sing while achieving crystal clarity then all the better. This is, indeed, the ultimat aim of technical journalism translation.
Suggestions welcome, particularly if you can improve on my re-write.

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