The image of the translator holed up at a desk for days on end, possibly unaware of the time of day as they immerse themselves in complex turns of phrase, probably while in pyjamas, is a familiar trope. But the industry’s attitude to solo working is changing: translators now want to collaborate more and are increasingly willing to subject their work to the scrutiny of others. Enter Tim Gutteridge and Simon Berrill, this year’s speakers at the summer workshop and advocates of a self-developed, collaborative exercise known as the “Revision Club”. ScotNetters and other colleagues gathered in Aberdour to hear their words of wisdom at one of the highlights in the year’s events – and here, Alastair Naughton, Anneliese Garvie and Siobhan Gorrie give their report of the weekend.
Insights into collaboration
The purpose of ScotNet’s annual summer workshop this time round was to illustrate the importance of a second pair of eyes on your translation wherever possible. For this exercise, we were very fortunate to be led in our activities by Tim Gutteridge and Simon Berrill. Tim works from Spanish and Italian into English, and is based in Cadiz, while Simon works from Spanish, Catalan and French into English, and is based near Barcelona. Together with Victoria Patience, who unfortunately could not be with us, they decided some time ago to set up a revision group known as the “Revision Club”.
The logistics of it all were quite daunting, not least because Victoria is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and therefore the time difference can make life a little difficult. They realised that to get every piece of work revised would be prohibitively expensive, so set up a group themselves.
The result is that they have regular three-way Skype consultations and go through each other’s work. As they explained, there are several benefits to this approach:
Improvements in translation skills: Taking part in a revision group is an excellent exercise in thinking through why you translated a project the way you did. Could it be improved? How? Does another version have merit? Is yours in fact the most accurate?
Professional benefits: All three have put each other in touch with new clients, which must surely be one of the most significant benefits you can think of.
Human benefits: The positive feedback has been really encouraging. Both Tim and Simon also said that they had become aware of things that they now don’t want to do, as a result of feedback in a safe environment. This is a space in which you can put yourself on the line, and which runs entirely on trust – and this aspect cannot be overstated. Furthermore, the social contact with colleagues in a profession that is often solitary had proven invaluable.
As an example of how they work, we had been given a pre-workshop task. We all had the same text to translate (an excerpt from Anna Karenina, discussed further in Anneliese’s discussion of the second part of the workshop) and, at the event itself, were divided into various language groups that had also been set in advance. We were also asked to bring examples of our work that we could exchange with the other members of our group for feedback.
When we got together with others and exchanged ideas, I must say there were several lightbulb moments: for this, a special vote of thanks has to go out to the others in my group, namely Robin Thomson, Kirsty Mowat and Debbie Nicol. It illustrated perfectly the benefits of discussing a difficult text with colleagues. It was everything that Tim and Simon mentioned: that safe place to discuss and compare work, an opportunity to reflect on our own work, and – last but not least – all very good fun!