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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Multilingual Clients and Language Interference.

Multilingual Clients and Language Interference.

By Richenel Ansano | Published  02/15/2008 | Art of Translation and Interpreting | Recommendation:
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Richenel Ansano
Նիդեռնալնդական Անտիլյան կղզիներ
իսպաներենից անգլերեն translator

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By nature translators are multicultural workers. Being at least bilingual we broker cultural meaning at various levels daily. You can imagine that growing up in a quadrilingual environment and working for clients who speak between three to six languages poses some additional challenges to the translator. My experience writing, translating, editing and proofreading texts from, or into Papiamentu has brought up certain issues that might be useful for others in the translation community. Most of it is especially relevant to proofreading or when clients provide feedback that requires editing/proofreading after the translation is done.

Language interference
A great deal of what I have had to deal with relates to language interference. In the case of Papiamentu this is especially delicate because native speakers use a corpus that covers a continuum marked by English, Spanish and Dutch. Depending on various factors a user might be more inclined toward lexical borrowings from one or another of these languages. This happens because he or she cannot quite find the right word to translate a concept or because their familiarity with the other language is so great that it influences their lexical choice for native language concepts. For Papiamentu this meant unnecessary dutchisms, anglicisms and hispanicisms. On a different level code-switching and regionalisms, which might be appropriate in one project can crop up in projects in which they are less so.

Clients can become very indignant if certain concepts get changed even when, in your mind, these are clear cases of language interference. Their multilingual linguistic sense is being challenged. Even though they concede you might be an expert in your profession their multilingual background seems to weigh in more than in monolingual or even bilingual clients. To be sure, this can happen in any translation job, but my experience with several multilingual clients makes me think this is more prevalent in that market.

The multilingual setting also adds a spin to the usual issues of common mistakes in usage of expressions, improper use of stock phrases, etc. These get compounded by language borrowing meanings across languages.

Suggestions: One solution I have found is to use the latest available standard resources, be they dictionaries, standardization tables, or whatever else would be readily available to the client. This is especially important for jobs where I am listed as translator.

In proofreading I have also found it useful to attach a short note to the client. The note would include observations about common mistakes and the standard reference for checking up on this mistake. This I would only do for big jobs that require a great degree of accuracy, such as manuals destined for international use, instruction booklets, safety manuals and research reports.

Finally, I have learned to live with what all of us know: in the end this is the client’s product and I am out of the picture once my work is done.

The above limitations are real but what keeps me going back to these jobs is both the drive to have quality texts in circulation and the joys of multilingual translation. Just the degree of nuanced meanings is immensely satisfying. Translating poetry gave me that experience when I did it more regularly a few years back. However, multilingual clients I have had in the past were sensitive to nuances in other fields as well. This has sharpened my sense also for jobs with other clients and helped me develop more of a feel for the cultural persona behind a text: I end up working more directly with the author’s tone, intent, and voice than just the text

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