the invisible translator

Meet the translators: Ana, the invisible translator

Each month, Cultures Connection interviews a translator. Read our interview with Ana, a freelance translator who works with our translation agency.

A translator is a little bit like a good soccer referee: the less you notice him or her, the better. That’s the opinion of Ana, a freelance translator who works with the Cultures Connection translation agency in Paris. Ana took some valuable time from her busy schedule to answer our questions.

– What do you consider the biggest challenge in your work as a translator?

– The biggest challenge for me is to be transparent, to disappear, to make it look like my work never existed, as if I had never had a hand in the text I was given to translate. In my view, the translator should strive to be forgotten.

– What do you mean by being “transparent”?

– For me, there are two ideals at work in translation. The first is a basic principle that says that the reader should reach the end of the text without ever realizing it is a translation. The second ideal is another challenge that especially applies in the field of literary translation, but one that also applies to a marketing translation, a financial translation, or a legal translation: not putting my personal mark on the text to translate, erasing my intervention so that the translated text remains as close as possible to the original.

– How do you erase your personal mark, as you put it, when you offer translation services?

– It’s necessary to give up the aspiration of shining or showing off. It’s about putting yourself at the service of the text, respectfully, without allowing yourself to think what you could improve, for example…I believe that it is above all a question of humility and of understanding that “success,” or at least the satisfaction of the translator, is not about showing off one’s skill or one’s mastery of the source language. If that’s your goal, you’re better off being a writer.

– What is it like then being a “translator in the shadows”?

– The truth is, it’s great. I am fully satisfied with my work when I get feedback like I mentioned above, when people  say, “I didn’t even know it was a translation.” Plus, I am very meticulous, more of a perfectionist than most. So when a translation agency assigns a project to me, I thoroughly enjoy searching for the best ways to express each idea…

– Aren’t you ever tempted to try to personalize a bit of your work?

– My “personal touch” is the perfectionism I mentioned. That is, I feel like my work does have something personal. However, if I left my mark on a text through some fancy expression, some archaic term “that would just sound so good,” or even some personalized punctuation…no, that’s not for me. That would go against my perfectionism.

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This article has been written by Mathieu

Mathieu was born in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. After studying Literature and Linguistic Research, he moved to Argentina where he is currently a translator and a web editor.