ATTRAVERSO – COLUMN BY LETIZIA MERELLO (14)

Attraverso… on creation. A few episodes ago, talking about revision, I mentioned how a translator’s personal style is also an important aspect in technical translations, where it isn’t expected to be an added value.

Today I’m going to tell you instead about a part of my job where I find that a personal voice is essential. You’ll have guessed that I’m talking about content creation for the ASTW blog.

I don’t like setting time aside for writing: I have a practical approach and stopped believing in the elusive chimera of inspiration a long time ago. As my goal is to make my profession better known, I think it’s a good idea to write my posts when I’m in the thick of it, during an actual post-editing or translation project. 

Image by JOSHUA COLEMAN from Unsplash

Today seems the perfect day: I’m translating a chemistry patent with some truly repetitive formulas and passages, so much so that I realise I’ve confirmed a few segments without rereading them as carefully as I should, and feel that my brain is begging me to stop and play. How can I do its bidding without being idle?

I know: I’ll pick up my blue covered notebook, take my eyes away off the computer and start writing. It’s like going for a refreshing dip in the sea on a long, muggy day.

For about ten minutes my black Biro produces an almost uninterrupted stream of ideas, some of which will end up in this post, while others might be picked up on and developed later, or end up cluttering the bookshelf in the living room.

I have loved writing since my early years at school, when I told my teacher I was going to be a journalist. Things didn’t pan out that way but perhaps becoming a translator has put me on a more tortuous path to the same destination: shaping my world through language.

I look back at the things I’ve just written, giggle at some of them and blush or even shiver at others… then there’s my internal critic, who never fails to give me his tuppence worth, but I’ve known him for a long time and I’m learning to keep him at bay when he has nothing useful to say.

Image by JOSHUA COLEMAN from Unsplash

I’ll have to simplify the sentences, cut out some wordy parts, but on the whole I like what I see, because I can see myself there. And this, dear reader, is precisely my goal, as well as my dilemma: am I too visible?

Every month, I sit down to write my column as a parenthesis, when I can finally get comfortable and take all the time I need. After all, I don’t have to make myself invisible like I do when I’m translating.

Here I can make my voice heard, without disguising any of its nuances. Therefore, unlike when I am translating, I don’t have to hold back from making a sentence flow better, to avoid the risk of slightly changing its meaning, or stay faithful to the text and simply report an obvious mistake in the text rather than correcting it.

It’s an excellent opportunity, but it’s always a bit scary. Both for that young girl who wanted to stay back stage and report the news, and for this woman, who uses words to convey other people’s ideas from one language to another.

You know what? Chemistry patents are not that difficult after all! The hardest translation task, the one that challenges me every day, is quite another: translating myself in a legible form. But it’s also the most exciting.

Cover image: me, drawn by Claudia Plescia.

English translation and adaptation by Marc Vitale

creation