Attraverso… on reading. Good morning! Remember that coffee I promised you? I’ll go put the pot on and let my eyes take a break from staring at a screen for a minute.

I’ve never been a great athlete, so I guess they’re the most well-trained part of my body. For professional reasons and also for pleasure, I spend a significant amount of my time reading.

I just delivered a project, and after my break I’ll start working on a new patent: ironically, the invention relates to ophthalmology. I open the project, make sure I’ve included the glossaries I need, put on my reading glasses and start working on the pre-translated text. My reading thus begins, perusing two different, parallel tracks.

Let me explain the task: when we’re given a document to be translated, we insert it into translation software that prepares it using a translation engine. I display the text in an interface where it’s split up sentence by sentence: each sentence is shown with the original text on the left and the translation on the right, which I must carefully reread and modify, if necessary. When I read each sentence, I start on the right with the translation, after which I compare it to the original text: although this may not seem very intuitive, by now I do it instinctively, in addition to this being the standard approach for post-editing.We at ASTW are experts inpost-editing machine translation, so much so that we have also written a book on the subject.

Since this article is about reading, I could let you in on something exciting about to happen in the coming months but… I’d rather let you guess.  Back to us. The machine translation did a fairly good job, but while reading I notice a word that has nothing to do with the rest of the text: what do colori have to do with this patent? Ah, there’s a typo in the original text: dye instead of eye. I make sure the typo isn’t repeated anywhere else in the document, then I make a note for the customer and continue with a defiant grin. Nothing escapes my eagle eye, and with technology on my side I feel like I’m invincible, a translation Robocop.

Image by Vlad Sargu from Unsplash

A sudden turn of events

Can you hear Skype ringing? It’s Francesco, one of our PMs. He asks me if I’d like to take on an “interesting” project. These proposals are usually unbelievably dangerous traps, but this time I got lucky: it’s a test for a new customer, a marketing text. Another round, a totally different type of translation – and reading! This task requires creativity, a sensitivity to the tone of the original text and the ability to read between the lines: how can I translate a certain expression? Where are the strategic points for the placement of these keywords? How can I rework it so the translation is a pleasure to read?

It’s amazing how these thoughts entirely occupied the last few hours of my workday, which has ended in a flash. I’m done working for today, time to sign off – which while working remotely means switching from my desk to the sofa, perhaps with my cat curled up on my lap, probably with a great book (for those wondering, right now I’m reading this very powerful book).

In my free time and while working, I’ve learned over time that reading is far from a passive activity. In fact, reading carefully leads you to react, to explore, generates doubts and questions: it stimulates curiosity. 

This is the secret weapon of every good translator: with extensive experience and always ready to learn, every time they read it’s as if it were the first.

And you, dear readers, will you be so bold as to persevere in reading my adventures? In that case, I’ll see you next month to talk about research!

Cover image: me, drawn by Claudia Plescia.

English translation and adaptation by Sarah Schneider.