The Magic of a Text

by Eleni Bouchli

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.  ~ William Wordsworth

This quote was aimed to poets and writers, but I believe translators can also endorse it; even though by principle we don’t have the freedom to divert from the writer’s purpose and meaning, and even though the relation to paper has become obsolete in our digitized profession, what we put out to the world (via our computer screens) is the breathing of our personal analysis and comprehension of the world.

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There is pure magic hidden in texts, especially those to be translated; a highly cognitive process begins in the translator’s mind aiming to convey the writer’s sayings into another language, that is to say in a completely different culture and system of values. Pretty crazy process if you really think about it, would a pessimist argue. So much is lost in the process and the final result becomes so infidel, so unfaithful to the original where one can easily ask, is it really the original or is it just a new, completely different piece of work?

But let’s leave this philosophical question aside and start from scratch; the human language. This intricate and remarkable innate system of a way to face and perceive the world around us. Its function activates the most inner cognitive mechanisms of the brain. Created for communicating thoughts and feelings… Although, human languages around the world share some common characteristics, each one safeguards a special richness and history.

I strongly believe that in order to be a translator you must be a language and word lover. Possibly, it all starts from a young age, when as a teenager you find great satisfaction in looking up words in the dictionary. While your friends are out and about you enjoy reading and appreciating a piece of good writing in a foreign language. Always trying to restructure a sentence, a meaning in a different cultural reality. If you really think about it, it’s like a game. A unique game of exploration and creativity, and after all really amusing too. I have read somewhere that people need to be able to find a kind of amusement in a job to do it well and I completely agree with it.

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Translators on the whole are curious and eager to learn more. They love the process of de-codification of a meaning from a language and then its codification into another language system, different to their mother tongue. Gaining in experience in this profession means that you must have walked a long steep path. Translators can surely remember the fear, the uncertainty, the ambiguity of meanings when they cast their eyes over their first text to be translated and then how they can forget the great satisfaction of finally finding the suitable equivalence.

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Speaking of this remarkable journey, how can I describe the magic of a text? Where can I find the words to talk about this unique feeling of creativity hidden in our profession? Words become our children; another person’s sentences become ours. We stand here ready to support communication between people and suddenly someone sees the world through our own eyes of interpretation, through our own analysis. Because that’s what translation really is; an interpretation process…

To conclude, the truth is that our translated texts make us who we are. They are like friends who took us hand by hand to join them in the exploration of completely new fields and wide open spaces. So, have a nice creative day, fellow translators! Enjoy your work! You certainly do something special.

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