Bilingual Translations ZoneTranslation Pointers, Tips and Tricks
hen I am translaing a text, either from Thai
into English or English into Thai, I would first spend some time carefully
examining my original text. I will ponder upon it and drink in the style of writing.
The method is called (according to Associate Professor Dr. Somjit) an attempt to
sit in the writer's mind. I will try
to see in what mood the writer intends for the original text to be: comical, merry,
heart-wrenching, pompous, poetic, simple, tear-jerking, conventional,
unorthodox, sarcastic, truthful, sincere, insinuating, etc. I will discern
if it's a fact or fiction and try to render the mood of the destination text
accordingly using the right word choice & tone of voice.
Once I am confident that I've studied the original well enough--if it's a Thai-to-English translation--I will start the process called Mental Punctuation due to the fact that the written Thai language rarely uses punctuation marks in composing sentences, whereas English uses them all the time. Apart from Verb Tenses and Grammar, punctuations govern the formation of sentences and paragraph in English. I will use my eyes to mentally place the necessary punctuation marks into the Thai text. Then I will begin translating the text.
Maintaining Equal Register
While translating the original, I will firmly keep in mind the verbal register of the original text derived from the aforementioned process of attempting to sit in the writer's mind. For example, if the original English text is written with the poetic register or is a piece of poetry, I will translate the destination Thai text as a piece of poetry, too, if possible. Sometimes I can make the Thai text rhymed; at times I can't. Though the rhyme may not show in the Thai text, I'll make sure that the word register must remain the same or equal. The easy way to do this is that once I am done with the translation, I will place the Thai and English texts side by side and then gradually read the original on the left and move my eyes to read the destination text I translated on the right. I do it line by line. This method effectively allows me to detect any discrepancy of the language register and to be able to fix it right away.
Authoritative Knowledge in Both Languages
Apart from trying to maintain the original's verbal register while translating, I need to have the best knowledge and confidence in both source & destination languages. If it is a historical text, I must know the background of the era the text is talking about. For example, in the old English time, ladies were usually trained to be the governesses and dispatched to the those well-to-do, genteel families to educate their children. The notion of governess does not exist in the Thai society. Therefore, when translating it, the background knowledge about the British governess will efficiently help me interpret the text and translate it correctly. I would also insert a side or footnote explaining it for the readers. Some other translators who haven't studied the background of the era well enough could have been easily tricked into rendering the word "governess" as "a female, ruler, authority, controller, governor or a female figure who has predominating influence," which I simply consider a disaster in trranslation.
The Hidden Meaning between the Lines
In addition to the background knowledge about the original text, it's also essential that I have the practical knowledge about or ability to detect the meaning hidden between the lines. I need to know what it is that the writer or poet wrote that I am not seeing with my physical eyes. Though I didn't translate it into Thai, this piece of interpretive writing about e.e. cummings' poem "l" will help demonstrate how I detected the hidden meaning he placed between the lines.
Know the Author, Writer or Poet
After reading that piece of writing, you might see that the background knowledge about the era of the writing is still not enough. What is also essential is the insight about the author's life, because writing is a highly subjective work. It's highly possible that the author or poet might have inserted some own private personal feelings, reflections or experiences into his writing or poem. So extra knowledge about the author's, writer's or poet's life can go a long way when it comes to translation. Biography or autobiography will always help you on this.
The Importance of Dictionary Collection
I have also been seriously collecting dictionaries in both arts & sciences and in both Thai & English (and bilingual). For translators, dictionaries are undeniably the indispensable tools of the trade. It's impossible for me to know all kinds of words, jargons, slang, idiosyncratic parlance and whatnot, that people use. Those dictionaries are like my additional brains. I bought a great number of quality dictionaries in both printed or digital formats. They do help me all the time.
"Leave it to Rise"
Last but not least, when you mix flour & water (fat and sugar) to make a dough, you don't wack the dough into the oven right away, do you? The same rule applies here to the art of translation. When I am done with the translation, and if the time permits, I will always leave the rendered text for at least a day or two to make it "rise." When my brain becomes clear and refreshed again, I will come back to revise the translated text. By doing this--in addition to the side-by-side comparison--I can often see the better word choices, better alternatives to render part of the text that I previously overlooked, and the result is a better version of the destinaion text.