There was no time-wasting at this session: after a very brief introduction from Laura and Elizabeth, we split into groups of three to five people and jumped straight into the first snippet to be translated.
The breakout was billed as “the perfect place to show off your talents, be wowed by your peers, and even pick up a translation buddy”. I don’t know how far I managed to do the first, and it hadn’t occurred to me to do the third, but the second – oh yes! We had some very talented translators in our group. Not all the attendees work with Italian, but that didn’t matter.
We were promised “wickedly tricky texts” to get our translating teeth into, and our hosts did not fail the challenge. In quick succession, we were given four snippets from different translation genres. We started with a seemingly simple paragraph of tourist literature for the Mantua region, descriptive without being too overblown. A cringeworthy piece of corporate speak followed, then a chunk of descriptive text dripping with adjectives: a tennis club promoting its attractions in (literally) flowery detail and with typically convoluted sentence structures. We mostly agreed that it would need rewriting, or at least reordering, for English-language readers.
The final piece was literary, a short paragraph by Italo Calvino; again, it was straightforward at first glance. Appearances can be very deceptive. Most groups seemed to find this piece the hardest of the four, and our group did not manage to complete it. It had been published as a parallel text, and Laura showed us the official translation, which was very different from what we had come up with. Knowing the context would have helped, as ever, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise.
Although the Italian used in all the texts was, as I have said, apparently simple, there was plenty of room for discussion with each one. In fact, our group of five highly qualified and experienced translators didn’t achieve a complete, definitive answer for a single one of the snippets – we produced at least six answers, suggestions, options or ideas for each word! Translation by committee…
But I found it fascinating to brainstorm with other professionals. I only get a chance to do so at events like this (as, probably, do most of my colleagues), and it was interesting and enlightening to see how other people approached the challenges offered by the different texts.
Maybe I should be looking for a revision buddy after all.
This METM23 presentation was chronicled by Charlotte Fleming.
Featured photo by METM23 photographer Leonardo Rizzato.