Floating our Boat: ScotNet 2017 Summer Workshop – Part I Tourism Translation Slam

The next stop in the ScotNet summer workshop’s tour of Scotland was the beautiful Boat of Garten, near Aviemore in the Highlands. Attendees were treated not only to the stunning surroundings, but also to two leading lights in the translation world – Chris Durban and Ros Schwartz – delivering the weekend’s workshop. In a series of three reports, Catherine Roux, María Pelletta and Lynda Hepburn take a look back at another enjoyable and instructive event

A tourism-themed translation slam: Catherine Roux

On Saturday morning, we were greeted at Boat of Garten’s Community Hall by some very nice ladies offering tea and coffee. The first thing I noticed was the lovely sunlight that welcomed us in the lobby. After these refreshments to start our day, Marian’s bell chimed as a sign that it was time for us to go and take our places in the adjacent meeting room. The room was spacious, with high ceilings and wood cladding lending it a warm feeling. Marian introduced our speakers for the day, Ros Schwartz and Chris Durban, and explained how this session of the workshop was going to be conducted, with Sue Anderson acting as moderator in the translation slam and Audrey Langlassé reading the original French text that had been chosen. The text was an article entitled Balade gourmande and had been taken from a food and wine magazine. The balade in question (the word refers to a kind of trip or excursion) was set in the south of France, between Cannes and Grasse, and explored various villages along the way.

Ros and Chris had received the text in advance and both had produced a translation that was then displayed to us on a screen – paragraph by paragraph, side by side. Each translator read a paragraph at a time and Sue then proceeded to home in on particularly interesting elements in both texts (which were very different in length, style and rendition, with Ros producing a British English text and Chris an American version).

The translators were asked how they felt about the translation exercise itself: Ros commented that a text like this is reader orientated, in that its aim is to encourage people to visit the place it is discussing. She also mentioned the fact that the text was full of Impressionist-style images (which French often allows), but that the English language is more prosaic. Chris, on the other hand, immediately admitted that the article was very different from what she deals with normally, commenting that she would never dream of translating this kind of text on a regular basis. She mentioned the fact that a lot of translators fall into the trap of adding tourism to the list of subjects they deal with because they believe it to be easy – but this is far from the truth.

Chris’ aim was to be factual, accurate and clear. As a result, she started by looking at a map to identify the place. Her sentences were shorter than Ros’, but she tried to add some rhythm in the headings: for example, rendering Terre des fleurs as “Flowers, fragrances and flavors”, and Délicieux shopping as “History, scents and shopping”.

For Ros, the sound of the text was important, and she paid attention to the rhythm and music of the language in general. Both decided that the impersonal on in French was better rendered by an imperative form in English. Ros also mentioned the fact that words with Anglo-Saxon roots are more appropriate for this kind of text, whereas Latinate words are more suited to literary pieces.

What surprised me was how bold each had been in their choices and how well they defended them. Chris often decided that Ros’ version was better, making us laugh by saying “at this stage, I was getting really bored” and in another instance commenting that “Ros totally takes us on a trip”.

Sue asked them how long it had taken them to do this translation – for a word count in the region of 600, both admitted spending a near total of seven hours (including research into the topic, places and names!). This made us realise that, in a case like this, charging per 1,000 words would not make sense, as it would be essential to factor in the research and reworking of the text. In all, it was a truly fascinating morning!

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