The Truth Behind My Bad Translations

I recently rather harsh review of my “translation” of a book made over ten years ago by on Amazon. The book was viewed favourably – the translation less so.

It’s true. It is a bad translation. If I could do things differently now, I would. I’m not particularly proud of many of my clumsy translations from that era.
Why are they not the best?

Firstly, Greek publishers do not want to pay for translation. Most have been done as “favours”. Moreover, they want the translation done in a month maximum. That is they are rushed. I asked for them to be proof read. I’m human I make mistakes. They were not. I have asked for corrections to be made on mistakes I’d spotted. They were not.

Secondly, quite a few are patch ups of bad work done by other people. I’ve seen “κλέφτες και αρματολοί” (klephts (Greek freedom frighters) and men-of arms)  translated as “thieves and sinners”. I was asked to ‘fix’ these works. I’ve had to patch up quite a few books riddled with many such misunderstandings, and in my human frailty may have missed a few. Most needed translating again from the very beginning. Often,  I was not afforded that opportunity. Sometimes my name was given as a ‘translator’ in payment (not always the best way). I wish that in my youth I had not been much more guarded about my reputation as a translator.

Thirdly, I’ve had authors and publishers breathing over my shoulder insisting on Greek ‘vocabulary’ and Greek “syntax”. Quite often where they have been ‘re- edited’ it is to their own Greek understanding of English. Unfortunately, that is often the only editing they do. It also doesn’t help that at the time I read very little in my native English and read a lot more in Greek. Now that I am back in the English speaking world things have changed.

Finally, I’m a Brit and I use British English, which includes British spelling, syntax, use of prepositions, and nuance. All these can vary widely from American usage and quite often confuse Americans.

Nevertheless, at the time, there was next to nothing being translated into English. Thankfully, the situation has changed.

Moreover, I have gained in confidence. I now only translate on a professional basis and make sure books are edited properly etc.

Caveat: There are many translations out there that read beautifully in English, but have mistranslated the Greek entirely. At the very least, I avoid mistranslation, if nothing else.

On the upside, something of the lives of contemporary holy men and women have reached the English speaking world, that might not have done so otherwise.

Bless me, indeed, Mr Dan Nicholas!


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