21 September 2015

The quality angel

Whether drafting, revising or proofreading, translators often engage in extended thought dialogue with an imaginary reader who is not only wise, bilingual and language sensitive, but also a severe judge of translation quality, communication skills, cultural adaptation and much more besides. She is, in a word, the quality angel on the translator's shoulder. In talking to her, translators justify and defend their renderings of important or especially challenging passages.

Even translators who have extended discussions picking through multiple aspects of key jobs with clients with communication skills approaching the quality angel's know that the angel must never be given a full hearing for fear of drowning the client in unnecessary detail. When a client query matches one of her exchanges with the translator, she does provide raw material to justify and defend choices.

So where is this heading? Well, while I haven't found an internet-accessible example of a discussion between a quality angel and a client, my readers might be interested in the following.

Quand l'anglais rend les entreprises du CAC 40 audacieuses ... par Grégoire Pinson, dans le numéro de Challenge du 3 septembre, présente une étude sur la traduction du français en anglais des messages des présidents dans les rapports annuels par Michaël Vallée, professeur associé à l’EDC Paris Business School, qui vient de paraître dans la revue Gérer & Comprendre de l’Ecole des mines. Surprise : les propos varient selon la langue utilisée. Tentative d’explication.

While Pinson's article is just a click away, Michaël Vallée's paper is not. All Gérer & Comprendre offers is the following résumé in French and its translation.

Voici le résumé :
La traduction du français en anglais transforme-t-elle le sens du discours des présidents des sociétés du CAC 40 ?
Michaël VALLÉE,
Enseignant-chercheur, EDC Paris Business School
Ce travail se propose de montrer des différences dans les traductions du français en anglais des messages des présidents des sociétés du CAC 40. Alors que la traduction en anglais devrait être le plus fidèle que possible au texte originel en français, on observe des contextes dans lesquels certains choix de traduction marquent de grandes différences. La tendance générale consiste à présenter en français l’entreprise de manière factuelle et neutre, alors que la traduction en anglais en donne une vision beaucoup plus positive et valorisante.
And here is Gérer & Comprendre's English abstract:
Does the translation from French into English of communications from corporate chairmen alter their meaning?
Michaël Vallée,
Research professor, EDC Paris Business School
The aim of this study is to show how the messages from the Board chairmen of companies listed on the CAC 40 (in the annual reports) are translated into English. Even though the translations should be very similar to the French messages, some noticeable variations can be found in English. It has been observed that companies are depicted in a factual and neutral way in French whereas the English translations reveal a more positive and encouraging way of describing it.
Allow me to add that I have read Vallée's paper closely and will have plenty to say should it beome readily accessible to the general public.

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After completing a BSc in physics and maths in Australia and extended travels in Africa I found a job in Paris that left me with considerab...