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on audiovisual translation, subtitling, and the French & American film industries

To Err

still from the film "Inception"Translation is hard work, requiring sharp organizational skills, linguistic dexterity, and stimulants.  And for anyone who does it professionally, the latter can be a big part of the job, as penetrating below the surface of language and really messing around linguistic sub-basements, under often unruly time constraints, can make the film Inception seem like an inspirational human interest tale.  (And I’m not even going into the whole human v. MT conundrum here.)

It was then with embarassing recognition and not a little shame that I read this sober yet ironic posting recently.  I liken translation to shattering some kind of object, and meticulously piecing it back together.  And getting cut up quite a bit in the process, so that our linguistic serum enters into it.

Myself, I make mistakes (something the author and I’d venture most translators are averse to admitting), strive for perfection, and learn to be humble.  But since the space between languages and cultures is never finite, always fluctuating, and extremely human, translation requires much more than good linguisitc “engineering” skills.  Rather, a greater parity between the right and left brains.

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