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TAC Participant’s report: Writing Skills in Translation

By Wendy Uchimura, a Japanese-to-English translator and proofreader specializing in Intellectual Property and NGO-based work

It is rather daunting to give a report on the event Writing Skills in Translation by the esteemed Lynne Riggs. As I write this, I recall all the useful information we learnt during the workshop and I wonder am I using the proper syntax; is a sentence too wobbly; have I repeated a word too often; or have I not trimmed enough phatic? We shall see... 

As expected, Writing Skills in Translation, held at Forum 8 in Shibuya, Tokyo on Saturday, September 8th, proved to be extremely popular with over 60 people attending and standing room only for some.

The first part was dedicated to an interview with Lynne E. Riggs, founder of SWET and owner of the Center for Intercultural Communication (CIC), by translator Alison Watts. It gave us an insight into Lynne’s lengthy career as an editor and translator, and there was interesting discussion of points including what makes a professional translator, how to educate clients of the importance of good English, and keeping a translation real. According to Lynne, a translator needs to be the ‘editor’ of his or her own work, constantly revising and editing a number of drafts to produce the end result that will meet the client’s needs. There were even some tips on how to take care of ourselves as we slave away at our desks!

We then moved onto a presentation of 6 excerpts, all in the original Japanese, then as translated drafts and finally polished versions, so that we could easily see the process Lynne uses herself. There were hints for revising drafts as well as what problems to watch out for. Her main recommendation was to quickly draft a translated version, set it to one side for a night (or an hour, depending on your deadline) then come back at it as if you were the client, the aim being to have a piece that is faithful to the original while sounding natural in English.

The event finished with a short Q&A, after which participants moved onto another location for food and drinks. I think we, as translators of all fields and levels of experience, left this event ready to practice what we had learnt in the revision and editing of our own work drafts.

Further Reading:

Essays on Professionalism - a collection of pieces discussing professionalism in translation, which can be found here on the Swet website.

Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams and Gregory G. Colomb, 10th Edition, Longman 2010

On Writing Well by William Zinsser, 6th Edition, Harper Reference 1998

There is also a report by Kaori Yamamoto on this seminar in Japanese.

Next entry: Writing Skills in Translation (Turning a Rough Draft into Effective English) Presentation Download

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