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CPD at sea!

As a translator who has now been specialising in sailing for over three years, I thought it was about time I spent some time out on the water myself, learning how to sail and seeing first-hand what all the terms I use mean, so I signed up to Good Hope Sailing Academy‘s Competent Crew course. We had some theory classes, but it was mainly a practical course, out on the water.

The first two days we didn’t get far out of the harbour, because the wind was too strong for us novices, so we spent quite a lot of time on the theory. On day 3, however, we sailed much further, and on day 4 we went right out to Robben Island. The experience has been thoroughly enjoyable, thanks in no small part to the other students and our excellent skipper/teacher Digby.

As you can see, the views of Table Mountain and the surrounding hills from the water are pretty awesome!

A brief moment to relax while heading back towards Cape Town on a starboard tack.

A brief moment to relax as we close-hauled back towards Cape Town on a starboard tack.

Terminology was an important part of the course, which is one of the reasons why I signed up. The terms we learned were related to the parts of the boat, the names and parts of the sails, the points of sail and manoeuvres, among others. Many of the terms were ones that I was already familiar with, having used them in my translations, but it was helpful to see those terms in practical use, and it was reassuring to hear the captain use certain terms and expressions in the same way that I had used them in my translations, confirming that I’d used good sources when researching terminology and collocations. For example, hearing the skipper say “Shake out the reef” provided welcome reassurance that I use the correct expression to refer to the removal of a reef (i.e. a fold) from the mainsail. I also learned dozens of new terms, such as cleats (fittings used to secure lines), stanchions (the vertical posts to which the guard rails are attached), clew (the corner of a sail between the foot and the leech, or back edge) and to pinch (to sail too close to the wind, as a result of which the sail begins to flap).

Translators will tell you that one of the causes of a poor translation is that the translator has not understood the text. Thanks to this Competent Crew course, I will better understand the texts I will be translating and will be more aware of how to use the terms and expressions in English. I also believe it will help me better engage with conference attendees when I attend sailing conferences, since I will be able to better understand the conversations between session and participate in them.

On day 3 I was feeling a little unwell, and at one point I actually felt like I didn’t want to ever sail again! But I caught the bug again on day 4, and perhaps at some point in the future I’ll sign up to the Day Captain course!


Translation, a high-performance sport

This month, I finally got hold of my copy of La traduction, un sport de haut niveau (“Translation, a high-performance sport”), which is the title given to the June edition of Traduire, the journal published by the Société française des traducteurs. It was published way back in June 2016, but with moving house it got sent to my old address and I didn’t get hold of it until October this year.

It was the first time I had subscribed to the magazine, not because I was not interested, but because I wondered when I would find the time to read it. But edition 234 was dedicated to sports translations, a field in which I specialise, so I was looking forward to reading it.

There was a mixed bag of authors: some who focus only on one or two sports, some who translate other fields in addition to sport, and some who are translators who dedicate much of their free time to sport.

The pedalling translator

In Traduire à vélo, which I will liberally translate as “The pedalling translator”, Jonathan Hine (website, blog) begins by telling a short story. He then tells us about his life as a nomadic translator who travels around North America and Europe by bicycle. Interestingly, Jonathan says that his professional profile on the American Translators Association‘s website is by far his main source of new clients.

Jonathan discusses many of the difficulties encountered by nomadic translators. Whenever possible, he stays in accommodation with WiFi, though he can use his smartphone if all else fails. Given his nomadic lifestyle, it is surprising that he did not get his first smartphone until 2014. He does rent a small flat in Italy that he uses for storage or for receiving items in the post (though more often that not, he has parcels sent to friends or hotels). If Jonathan ever wants to cycle around Southern Africa, I could recommend a few routes in South Africa and Namibia! He ends his article with a list of pros and cons, which anyone considering becoming a nomadic translator would do well to read before taking the plunge.

Mourinho, the interpreter’s nightmare

In Le cauchemare des interprètes, or “The interpreter’s nightmare”, Laurent Laget (website) writes at length about the man we all love to hate, pantomime villain José Mourinho. Mourinho is known for speaking half a dozen languages, and according to Laget, “Mourinho learned Catalan” when working for FC Barcelona as Bobby Robson’s interpreter. However, like the late Johan Cruijff, despite learning to speak several other languages Mourinho has never been heard speaking Catalan in public. He certainly learned to understand Catalan, as evidenced by interviews in which the journalist asked him questions in Catalan and he responded in Spanish, but when he went to Real Madrid, he started refusing to answer questions posed to him in Catalan, saying he did not understand.

Laurent looks at some of the press conferences in which Mourinho has reacted to the intervention of the interpreter. In one instance, Mourinho protested after “we didn’t deserve to win” became “we deserved to win”! By contrast, on another occasion, Mourinho was so impressed by the efforts of a Romanian translator that he chirped: “Who pays this guy? His salary should be doubled!” Laurent also mentions that some of Mourinho’s opponents use “translator” as a taunt, as if to insult him. We should applaud how Mourinho responded on one occasion: “Don’t call me a translator because that would be an offence to every translator.” Laurent’s insightful article concludes with some thoughts on how learning a foreign language is beneficial to players’ integration. He concludes by saying that languages are a powerful tool for integration, which benefits a player’s well-being, and therefore his or her performance on the field.

Golf and concentration skills

In Golf et traduction : de la page blanche à la balle (literally “Golf and translation: from the blank page to the white ball”, but the French title works better as it uses the same word for “blank” and “white”!), Céline Graciet (website) talks about how she enjoys playing golf and draws parallels between golf and translation. According to Céline, the concentration skills she uses on the fairways and greens (and perhaps occasionally in the rough or the bunkers!) are extremely helpful when she is sat at her desk, and she says that playing golf makes her more productive. Recently, Céline is delighted to have been regularly translating documents for a new golf club.

The power of corpora

Over the page I found a very familiar name: that of Simon Berrill (website, blog). I skipped past L’art du cliché, not because I wasn’t interested in what Simon had to say, but because I’d already read The right clichés — the original from which this French text was translated — on Simon’s blog. Simon mentions the abundance of clichés in sports writing and how using corpora can help translators working on a text about a sport with which they are less familiar. He suggests building corpora using WebBootCat and analysing it using one of my favourite tools, AntConc.

Terminology on track

Next up, Taffy Martin discusses cross-border athletics in L’athlétisme à travers les frontières. She focuses mainly on the differences between how athletes spend their formative years in France and in the United States, but I think the most interesting part is where she looks at athletics terminology. Taffy notes that certain event names in English have evolved to reflect international usage (a precursor to euro-English in the EU institutions?), such as broad jump and hop, step and jump becoming long jump and triple jump, respectively, as a result of which the French event names are transparent to English readers. Continue reading