The Danger of Literal Translation
by Eva Obregon
My sister who translates for the U.N. would be flabbergasted to hear me say this, but I think you have to be confident enough to not do a verbatim translation. Obviously, if you were doing the minutes of a meeting at the U.N., that's not going to fly, but for the type of projects that I work on, it's really necessary. You can't do it verbatim. You can't try to follow the original that closely because you lose meaning, so it's more important to convey the meaning and style and emotional tone of a text than it is to use the same exact words.
And sometimes people don't understand that. I once translated a web page for this collective of people who produce events. They had really interesting and very creative projects, and their texts were really, really well-worked -- I mean, really very honed in Spanish -- but work on the translation was sometimes so frustrating because the person who had written the text wanted to use the same words that she had used in Spanish. I mean, the words that sounded the closest, or what are called "false friends." There were certain words that just did not convey the same meaning in English. Sometimes people who aren't translators don't understand that you're actually being more faithful to the text by changing the root words, and it's hard to convince people of that sometimes. Especially if you’re working directly with the original writer because they become very attached to the words.