Good Translators Must, above All, Be Good Writers

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Rafa Lombardino (PLD Member)

In our new installment of Literary Corner, I’d like to talk a little bit about the importance of being a good writer if you want to become a better translator.

Some may think that the most crucial thing for translators is knowing their foreign language well. In other words, if you’re an English-to-Portuguese translator, you better have 100% stellar English skills. Well, that is inarguably true, but if you’re not 110% strong in your native language, your translation will most likely fall short.

What does it mean, though? It means that you must have deep knowledge of your language―and culture, of course―in order to provide not only an accurate but a suitable translation that will ring true with your target audience. You must know about grammar and vocabulary nuances in your target language and you must also learn about writing styles and different language registers.

In addition to identifying these components in the source text, you must also bring them to the translated text. And this is something that goes beyond simply translating words―it’s about translating concepts.

You must think about the target audience, which is ultimately your end client, and think like your target audience. You must also stay true to the original and offer foreign authors a voice in another language, so they can speak through you. And the best way to do that is to become a better, more resourceful writer in your own language.


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[Click here for article in Portuguese]


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“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over.”

Escrever não se resume a ganhar dinheiro, ficar famoso, arranjar namoradas ou fazer amizades. No fim das contas, resume-se a enriquecer a vida daqueles que vão ler o livro e, ao mesmo tempo, enriquecer a sua própria vida. Trata-se de levantar-se, aprimorar-se e superar-se.”

Stephen King


RAFA LOMBARDINO  is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She has been working as a translator since 1997 and is currently the President and CEO of Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators who work together in multilingual projects. She is certified by the ATA in both English-to-Portuguese and Portuguese-to-English translations and has a Professional Certificate in English/Spanish Translation from the University of California San Diego Extension, where in 2010 she started teaching classes on the role of technology in the translation industry. In order to diversify her career, she joined forces with self-published authors and small publishers to translate books into Portuguese and English. In addition to acting as content curator at eWordNews, a bilingual blog dedicated to literary translations and self-publishing efforts, she also coordinates two projects to promote Brazilian literature worldwide: Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS) and Cuentos Brasileños de la Actualidad (CBA).

One Comment

  1. Dear sirs,

    I loved this post and ask your permission to translate into Portuguese and post it on my blog, mentioning the source, of course! Tks, Sônia.

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