101 things a translator needs to know but doesn’t necessarily think to ask

Book: 101 things a translator needs to knowIt’s always good to find a new book on translation – for reading yourself or as a gift for a translator friend.

101 Things a Translator Needs to Know contains “over 500 years’ collective experience in translation pondered, distilled and published: nuggets of translation wisdom from prominent exponents of the profession”.

The introduction describes 101 as “a book for beginners. It’s also a book for seasoned professionals, students and teachers. For freelancers and staff translators. For amateurs and experts, generalists and super-specialists — be they certified and sworn, recognised, authorised… or simply tantalised by translation’s potential for a varied and enriching career”.

A translator’s handbag/man-bag book

I’d describe 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know as the translator’s ideal handbag/man-bag (sorry!) book. It’s the sort of book to dip into rather than read at one sitting. You could read it in one go if you wanted, as each of the 101 “things” is only about 100 words long. But I don’t think that’s what the authors intended, and I suspect it would give you translation indigestion. It’s great for those times when you want to read snippets rather than get engrossed in a novel, say. So, during a short train or bus journey, in the doctor’s waiting room, or during your tea/coffee-break. Or, to put you in a good mind-set, first thing in your working day when you sit down at your ergonomically appropriate desk (nugget no. 25: You only live once).

You can read 101 in order, or dip in at random. You can also dip back in again over time, because each snippet serves as a reminder of the things we probably know we should be doing, but sometimes forget.

My own favourite nugget of advice in the whole book is:

Good translators always put themselves in their readers’ shoes (nugget no. 45: There’s more to translation than meets the eye). So true!

Spot the contributor

If you’ve attended presentations or read articles by any of the contributing translators, you could play a “spot the contributor” game as you read the book. Here’s the full list of contributors and here are the ones on Twitter (and whose accounts aren’t locked): Chris DurbanTerence Lewis, Nick RosenthalRos SchwartzRannheid SharmaLois Thomas and the creator of the illustrations, Catherine Anne Hiley (sister of translator Margaret Hiley, who no doubt provided plenty of translation insights).

Other posts you might like:

Not love, not money, it’s translation that makes the world go round

Gifted in translation: specialist publishers

Gifted in translation (3): The Little Prince

By Marian Dougan

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