I’m currently doing a job that involves translating, editing and correcting academic medical articles written by Spanish researchers for eventual publication in English language journals.

I’m finding the work itself enjoyable, and so far even the limitations of my rather poor Spanish haven’t really been a problem.

But is there anybody else out there actually making a living doing this kind of work, or who has a working knowledge of the wider implications, problems etc (from either side of the fence, so to speak)? How closely do you work with clients, how “freeform” are your translations, how do you find work, how much do you charge?

6 responses to “Translating

  1. In some cases the need for a serious rewrite is obvious.

    “that is to say, that whichever smaller was the greater FEV1 was the lactoferrina liberation, and vice versa.”

    I mean, you couldn’t make it up, could you?

  2. Something I´ve been thinking about when having had the help of a native english speaker at similar occasions is “how important is knowledge of the subject?”

    I mean, my grammatical mistakes and obvious misunderstanding of words are probably easy to spot and correct. But if I have difficulties in explaining things scientifically due to my non-nativeness?

    Will a native speaker, with good knowledge of her/his language, be able to write a scientifically correct text without being “in the field”?

  3. You make a good point, dq.

    My Spanish is way better than Nog’s, yet he is much better at translating these medical papers than I am, because he understands the subject matter more than I do and he also finds it quite interesting.

    What I do to help him is first go through the articles with a Babel or Google translating tool and cut and paste these into the text. So for Nog it’s a bit like correcting a (very!) badly written paper in English. But also having the Spanish text means that when he isn’t sure he can ask me to check the Spanish grammar against his correction. And this is where it gets tricky because just changing one preposition can change the entire meaning of the sentence. When there are any serious doubts like this we leave them marked in red and also list them at the bottom of the paper with various suggestions.

  4. In fact, even with Spanish as bad as mine, having the original text allows one to check “strange” words (for example “espectro” in Spanish means spectre/ghost, and also spectrum – you can probably guess the rest…) and which adjectives go with which nouns and so on.

    Although a lot of technical/scientific words are very similar in both Spanish and English, which helps, I suspect most translators could not have in-depth knowledge of everything they might be expected to translate, but a background knowledge in general is a good thing. I can often spot things that “look odd”, even if I’m not sure why.

    Fortunately, I think the things az and I are good at tend to complement each other, so we make a good team.

  5. “and these contained a despicable amount of £0.01”

    Enough said really.

  6. Selma (From Tehran, with love)

    can’t say anything about spanish , but i’m a professional translator and when it comes to scientific and technical texts “free translation” is advised to be kept limited. the main purpose is to make the text smooth and understandable but not to lose accuracy.

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