• Magnette Coetzer

Translation as a Craft and An Art

An interview with our translator


How long have you been translating?

Altogether, I have translated full-time for about 7 years. In between full-time translation, translation was a part of my duties in all my work, but not the focus.  That's why never really lost my skills. Altogether, over the years, I have applied translation, language, and writing skills for over 20 years.

My work has always entailed writing and using language in creative and persuasive ways.  I started off as a language trainer, then worked as a full-time legal translator/interpreter in my 20s. In my late 20s, I started my longest career path to date, as a TV and Film Producer in Europe and South Africa. From the late ’90s to 2016.

Writing persuasive pitches, scripts, and marketing copy was a large part of my work.  In multiple languages.  Film is, in fact, a language in itself. It tells a story through visuals, sound and language. Lighting, angles, pace, framing etc. are all aspects of this language. It’s the punctuation of film.

2. What made you decide to become a translator?

As already alluded, I worked as both a language trainer and a TV and Film Producer. I have had three distinctive, yet related, career paths in my life to date.

In 2016 I decided to travel more, to live bi-continentally, so I needed a career that would give me absolute freedom of movement. So, I decided to become a full-time translator. I love to write, I love to research. It's a match made in heaven.

3. What technical developments did you experience and how did it influence your work?

Well, when I translated in the 1990s, we didn’t have CAT tools or any of the AI (Aritificial Intelligence) and MT (Memory Translations) we have today. I worked with hard copy dictionaries and thesauruses only. Thankfully, in my TV and film career, I kept up with the digital transformation and ever-changing software out there. So, in 2016, when I embraced the new technologies, I was thankfully able to internalize and apply various software and technology quite easily.

4. Tell us about your translation process.

I read through the original text. Then I ussually insert the text into CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) software. I translate line-by-line,  checking typos, spelling, and grammar as I go, but concentrating on the content.  

After completing the translation, I done pass for technical issues (spelling, typos, syntax, grammar, structure).

I then do a second pass where I ensure that the translation flows well, and double-check any terms I’m unsure about, replacing words that I feel aren’t spot-on.  I always work with a thesaurus.  The correct choice of words, to suit the tone and spirit of the original text, is incredibly important. Especially in English, as it's a very connotative language.

5. What is the most difficult part about translating?

I find specialized technical texts challenging, as I need to constantly research specialized terms, often in context, so not just via a dictionary. It’s tedious and time-consuming.

6. What do you like most about translating?

The writing. Undoubtedly. I enjoy crafting texts, bestowing meaning to mere words, loading them with emotion. The second most amazing part is that I do not have a boss breathing down my neck, nor do I have the high-stress levels of working in media production. I can work from anywhere, as long as I have an internet connection. And I am FREE to trave.  I also relish the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment after completing a challenging job.

7. What can you do for a translation that machine translation can’t?

I have always understood that language goes beyond the spoken and written word. It is very much about tone, about subtext, about body language, and cultural attitudes. It's the use of communication in all its forms. The way in which a text is written conveys a certain spirit or message. In any visual story, or film, the script is the basis, the writing is always the most important aspect. I am fascinated by the various aspects of language. Translation work offers the opportunity to stretch and flex many of these muscles.

8. What makes translating an art?

Translation work is both an art and a craft. The two aspects are inextricably linked.

You can certainly learn aspects of the craft; in fact, one should always keep improving one’s skills. It's a continuous process. Understanding linguistics, syntax, structure, and so forth, improve your craft and skill set.  

The art comes in when you are able to translate the spirit of the original, to ensure that the message is beautifully crafted and has the intended effect.

We hope you enjoyed the interview with our translator (NL, DE>EN) Magnette for

Categorie: Blog

Tags: #translatetranslation #agencytranslation #dutchtoenglishtranslation #Germantoenglishtranslation #Projectstranslation

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