METM23 Chronicles: Séverine Watson & Aleksandra J. Chlon

Language breakout: interactive translation session (FR–EN)

After attending the French to English Snippet Slam in San Sebastian last year run by Louise Normandière and Séverine, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into another practical translation session in Mantua this year.

Séverine and Aleksandra started the session by outlining how it would work. We were to split up into small groups of around four translators and would then be given three translation exercises to work on. We had fifteen minutes to work on each extract – five minutes to translate individually, five minutes to share our translations and discuss them as a group, and then another five to create our ultimate group translation that we would then share.

This year, Séverine and Aleksandra chose to have us upload our translations to Padlet, a handy note-sharing application, and then projected them onto a screen so that we could all see each other’s work, which made it much easier to compare and discuss each group’s translations.

The first extract we tackled was a rather lengthy one about the “Cité de la Réussite” forum held at the Sorbonne University in Paris. While this text seemed relatively straightforward at first glance, there proved to be a few tricky points that generated a lot of discussion. It was interesting to see how the different groups approached the translation and just how closely they stuck to the source text (or not).

SNCF poster at FR-EN translation session

The second extract was a lot shorter and was taken from a promotional poster for the French national railway company SNCF. Even though it was shorter, it definitely wasn’t easier than the first text we looked at. As is often the case with marketing translations, there was a lot of discussion, and each group approached the translation differently. For example, a couple of groups chose to use the “Rule of Three” when translating the second part of the slogan (“Voyagez plus vite en polluant moins”) with translations like “Better. Faster. Greener.” and “Faster, greener, cleaner.” Some groups decided to include a reference to rail travel in their translation (“Stop the planet from going off the rails. More haste less waste.” and “On a faster track to a smaller footprint.”), while others didn’t.

Unfortunately, we had spent so much time discussing the translations that we didn’t have enough time to work on the third extract that Séverine and Aleksandra had prepared, and instead took a quick look at the bonus extract. This was quite a challenging phrase that Séverine found on a napkin she was given one day when ordering a croissant. The phrase was “Je mange donc j’essuie” (literally “I eat therefore I wipe”), a play on the phrase “Je pense donc je suis” (“I think therefore I am”). While we didn’t have much time to actually discuss how we would translate this, it certainly gave us a lot of food for thought!

It was fantastic to have the opportunity to work with other translators with a wide range of specialisms and different experiences and I found it really interesting to see their different approaches to the texts. If you’re feeling inspired and want to take a crack at translating the extracts from this session, the Padlet link is still active, so you can add your own translations:

This METM23 presentation was chronicled by Alice Quinn.

Featured photo by METM23 photographer Leonardo Rizzato; embedded photo by the author.

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