By Grace Moss
The German Book Office New York held a translation workshop last Wednesday, December 11, which was led by translator Susan Bernofsky and attended by six established German-to-English translators: Laura Leichum, David Burnett, Marshall Yarbrough, Anne Posten, Elizabeth Janik and Kurt Beals.
We asked the participants to share some of the tips they learned through the workshop, and here’s what we got:
“Susan’s suggestions to keep in mind the temporal order of the phrases that make up a sentence as well as which elements are given strong vs. weak positions in the sentence is something that I definitely will apply in the future.”
“This particular workshop experience re-emphasized to me how vital it is for a translator to tap good and relevant resources whenever possible to help with his/her task and that feedback from trusted readers, be they peers or professional editors, is essential.”
It’s worth your time to focus on tone and emotion, “e.g., if there’s a particularly mawkish part, it’s important to try and get that mawkishness across; or a particularly bitter part, etc.”
Tom Mayer gave some very specific suggestions to the translators: “He said that it was important to consider a specific section in terms of 1) its position in the paragraph 2) its position in the chapter 3) its position in the text as a whole.”
It’s important to keep your voice in mind when translating: “The translation exercise was a good way to see how much voice can do in a translation. For the most part the various translations agreed in meaning, but voice and tone made a lot of difference.”
Posten expressed pleasant surprise about her experience of working with five other translators:
“Six translators can discuss their work on the same text for six hours and not get angry/defensive/egotistical.”
She also suggested a good website for looking up German idioms, www.redensarten.net.