Attila Imre. An introduction to translator studies. Universitatea Transilvania din Brașov, 2020. Pp. 218. ISBN 978-606-19-1285-8.
Reviewed by Maria-Crina Herțeg, 1 Decembrie 1918 University of Alba Iulia, Romania
The book An introduction to translator studies by Attila Imre provides extremely useful learning material for students who are enrolled in undergraduate translation programmes, and is a mandatory reference for both practical and theoretical translation courses. It is divided into six chapters, followed by an appendix; each chapter contains practical tasks. The book is preceded by a foreword by Noémi Fazakas and a preface written by the author. The practical nature and ease of use are striking from the first pages. The book teaches budding translators what to do and what aspects to avoid in order to foster a successful career in the field of translations.
In the introduction, the author mentions the factors that impact on the quality of a translation, including deadlines. According to the author, in the twenty-first century, translation is becoming heavily influenced by IT, globalisation, internationalisation, localisation and translation. The author approaches translation as a product and as a service; the author also analyses translation as a profession and mentions the challenges associated with it. These challenges differ according to the form of business organisation in which translations are produced, such as by a translation agency or by a freelance translator. Amongst the many challenges that translators encounter are organising the business, advertising, proofreading and terminology extraction. The author refers to the complexity of this profession, as well as to the multiple roles that translators need to play.
In Chapter 1, entitled The importance of translation, Attila Imre provides an overview of translation and states that the currently prevalent type of translation is specialised translation. The author introduces several definitions of translation and the implications thereof, and states that definitions need to be updated constantly in order to keep pace with the changes occurring within the field of translation. In Chapter 1, the author also introduces a number of theories pertaining to translation (Bantaș, & Croitoru 1999, Snell-Hornby 2006, Venuti 2004). The author analyses the main theories in translation studies, and lists the factors that have contributed to the development of translation with a focus on the important elements that have influenced the development of translation studies in the twenty-first century, such as information technology, machine translation and computer-assisted translation tools. The author inventories and analyses the main definitions of and approaches to translation as proposed by researchers such as Susan Bassnett, Guy Cook, Louis G. Kelly, Mary Snell-Hornby and Lawrence Venuti. The author discusses the relationship between the original text and the translation; he clarifies the terminology that was used during the twentieth century. For example, the term ‘source text’ was replaced by the term ‘original text’. According to the author, this replacement is a clear sign that the source text has lost authority (Imre 2020: 26). Translation is also discussed in terms of business, as the approach to translation as a business comes into play when discussing the subdivisions of translation, such as specialised translation, subtitling, surtitling, voice-overs, dubbing and interpreting. The author also discusses the concept of translation quality and the various theories that have contributed to the assessment of translation during the evolution and history of this discipline. The author considers a ‘perfect’ translation to be a complete failure, ‘as it should be compared to something tangible’ (Imre 2020: 28). He continues by pointing out that a ‘successful translation may also depend on the context, historical or local purposes’ (Imre 2020: 28), and introduces the concept of effectiveness, which is used in relation to satisfied readers or clients whose expectations regarding the text are met. The author also discusses the financial rewards, which refers to the financial assessment of translations. Imre addresses the issue of equivalence in translation by referring to Cook’s explanation of equivalence in translation, and mentions various types of equivalence, such as equivalence of meaning, pragmatic equivalence and cultural equivalence. As the author shows, the issue of equivalence in translation has been discussed in numerous books. The author discusses the types of equivalence proposed by Eugene Nida and the way in which these types of equivalence were perceived by theorists (Kelly 1979, Snell-Hornby 1995), as well as the way in which theorists are positioned in relation to these types of translation, and mentions several perspectives concerning equivalence in translation ranging from considering equivalence to be unsuitable (Snell-Hornby 1995), considering it to be controversial (Kenny 2009) to avoiding it (Toury, as cited in Venuti 2000a). The author considered the business aspect of translation to have become of increasing interest during the twenty-first century (Imre 2020: 32). The business side of translation is related to the way in which translation has been perceived. In this regard, understanding translation as a process or a product highlights the commercial aspect of translation. The author explains that factors that influence the business side of translation are the globalisation and localisation of various sectors. The point at which translation has arrived entitles the author to consider the term ‘translation project’ to be more appropriate than ‘translation’. The switch in terminology is explained by the use of CAT software tools that consider translation as a project, complemented by terminology research and translation memory development. The author discusses the relationship between culture and translation, with the latter being illustrated by the large number of definitions involving communication.
In the subchapter Culture, communication, language and translation, the author discusses the relationships between culture and translation, communication and translation, and language and translation.
In the subchapter Technology and translation, the author refers to technological factors that have impacted on translation, such as computers and software applications. Imre (2020) cites Daniel Gouadec’s book Translation as a profession, which lists all the factors that have revolutionised translation. The impact of technology on translation entails the constant updating and revision of definitions of translation due to CAT tools, TMs, term bases and a change in readership. The twenty-first century has witnessed a change in readership, which engages the participants in the translation and creates a new relationship between the translator and the client, which justifies the change in terminology from translation to translation project. This change has occurred in tandem with the introduction of quality assurance.
In Chapter 2, Translator management, the author explains the title of the book by drawing on Cook (2015) and Hu (2004). Following the criteria that determine the various types of texts, the author differentiates between literary translators and non-literary translators, and highlights that non-literary translations currently dominate the translation industry. Within the category of non-literary translators, Imre (2020) identifies different sub-categories on the basis of specialised terminology. According to the type of activity, the author also differentiates between in-house translators working for agencies and freelancers. The author cites Gouadec (2007), who referred to the challenges and difficulties of being a freelance translator, and described freelance translators as falling into the categories of ‘outlaws’, ‘invisible’ translators, ‘second-job’ translators, ‘part-time’ translators and ‘occasional’ translators (Imre 2020: 62-63). In addition to these categories, Imre mentions amateurs and volunteers who influence rates negatively. In a subchapter, the author refers to a translator’s job description, and mentions the factors that have influenced this profession, as well as the responsibilities entailed in this job. Thus, translators act as terminologists, post-editors and proof readers, revisers and layout specialists (Imre 2020: 64). Particular attention is paid to the translation market. The author also inventories the number of translators and interpreters focusing on the situation in Romania, and warns against the perils of starting a business as a freelance translator by highlighting all the factors that contribute to the success of a business or that can contribute to its failure.
The subchapter Translator competence aims to provide an answer to the question of what translators should know. The author believes that practice is necessary in order to become a successful translator (Imre 2020: 69). Translation professionals need to acquire certain types of competence and skills, as well as knowledge about and cultural, technical and subject areas (Imre 2020: 69). Due to the semantic overlap of the terms, the author proceeds to clarify and explain these terms. Thus, he discusses competence, and focuses mainly on translation competence. He continues with the definitions of skills and ability, and lists the main skills that a translator needs to acquire; language, thematic and translation skills (Imre 2020: 71). The author discusses the competences proposed by the Directorate General for Translation of the European Commission 2012. The author mentions several points of view that outline the importance of linguistic competence in the translation profession. Imre (2020) considers cultural competence to be a precondition for translators. Other competences that the author mentions are domain competence, research competence, technical competence and translation competence. With regard to translation competence, the author mentions communicative competence.
According to Imre (2020), what differentiates professional translators from non-professionals is quality. Quality is measured based on a series of standards that encompass linguistic, cultural and technical quality. The issue of quality assurance is resolved in translation projects that use translation software that includes quality assurance features. CAT tools include post-editing facilities that examine the quality of the translation. The concept of quality assurance, as Imre (2020) states, may impact positively on translators’ portfolios by ensuring that they have more work in the future. However, the danger represented by ‘outlaws’ remains and, faced with this situation, translators can choose to focus on quality and to stop working on a job if they that feel their services are not fully appreciated or financially rewarded.
In the subchapter entitled Translator job profile, Imre (2020) describes different categories of professionals who can qualify as translators, including in-house translators, freelance translators, translators hired under various names such as language mediators, language experts and secretaries, as well as amateurs and ‘illegal’ translators, whom Gouadec (2007) dubbed ‘outlaws’. The job profile is complemented by the traits that translators must possess in order to qualify for the job, including organisational skills, self-motivation, attention to detail and concentration. The author mentions working under pressure with reference to the work environment in which translators conduct their activities. Imre (2020) considers loyalty to be a character trait, as translators must show loyalty to their clients as well as to the texts they are translating.
Imre (2020) shows that solitary jobs tend to disappear; in this context, translators need to have different forms of organising a business. Therefore, translators need an entrepreneurial spirit complemented by self-management as a skill. In this capacity, translators must perform a large variety of roles to ensure their survival on the market; for example, as an advertiser, a marketing specialist, and a client relations expert in addition to being translators. Besides requiring a significant amount of the translator’s time and energy, these activities also entail financial expenses. The author also provides some tips regarding how to draft a CV with a view to finding a job as a translator. In addition, Imre (2020) provides a list of online professional portals that advertise available translation jobs. The author considers that it is important for translators to join professional organisations. Networking with clients is advised and encouraged as part of a marketing strategy. Other relationships include law companies, publishers and software companies. Newcomers attending conferences and hearing keynote speeches by experienced translators is strongly encouraged, as such events enable experienced professionals to share their expertise with newcomers or less experienced translators.
Time management is an important principle that should guide translators because it increases effectiveness and enhances job productivity. Setting priorities is another principle that professional translators should follow; the author even proposes a workload that varies from 40 hours per week for beginners to 30 hours per week for experienced translators. According to the author, an eight-hour workday does not appear to be particularly productive, while availability clashes with a normal eight-hour workday.
Imre (2020) stresses that translation has changed in recent decades with regard to deadlines and the structures of the texts to be translated, in that texts now include multimedia content. A proposed solution to resolve the issue of deadlines is the creation of translation teams. In addition to meeting deadlines, translation teams also contribute to ensuring the quality of the translation and to proofreading it. Accepting tight deadlines impacts negatively on translators’ reputations, as well as on the quality of their work.
In the subchapter Managing finances, Imre (2020) discusses financial rewards. The financial aspect of managing a translation business is more complicated in the case of freelancers, who should manage their own businesses financially, forecast expenses, and manage profits and losses. The author shows that certain initial investments are necessary in order to start a freelance translation business, including the assets needed for this specific industry, such as CAT tools and translation software. The author even provides a financial plan for budding translators that includes a list of the fixed assets, both tangible and intangible, that are necessary in this profession. Approximate prices are listed for each item. These expenses can be complemented by other expenses that fall into the category of initial expenses, which include insurance policies and telephone bills. The output of a translation can be calculated by the number of words/characters or pages that can be translated in a particular amount of time; thus, the author provides a list containing the number of words and the period of time in which a translation can be completed. This list can be of real assistance for newcomers who might have difficulty quantifying their workloads at the beginning of their careers, as it could help them to estimate their time resources. The author mentions some factors that can influence translators’ performances, such as typing speed, the average word length and language pairs. Other helpful advice for newcomers in this profession concerns pricing and the provision of price lists. The author discusses the factors that influence rates and prices, including language pairs, text difficulty and text length. Imre (2020) mentions other activities that take time such as negotiating with clients, sending and receiving source and target texts, and generating invoices. Translators should conduct research via the available international websites to determine the going rate. Other valuable advice is related not only to setting prices, but also to adopting the standard prices of the closest competitors (Imre 2020: 108). Another option is to break down one’s desired annual income into effective working hours while considering all types of taxes (Imre 2020: 108); translators could also set an average hourly rate. The author provides a table containing prices per word in different countries and for specific language pairs. Flat fees are applied for certain types of documents, while payment is calculated per minute or per day in certain cases. Imre (2020: 111-112) discusses additional services that must be reflected in the final price, such as specialised translations, special layouts and formatting, pre- and post-editing, transcription, review and revision, and rush charges. Other aspects to be taken into account concern discounts and higher rates if the translator’s reputation is better than is that of the competitors (Imre 2020: 113). The current translation market is extremely versatile and is in a state of continuous change; accordingly, translators need to be highly flexible and adaptable in order to succeed on the market. The author also discusses the issue of earnings for both in-house and freelance translators. The author provides a list of earnings in different countries ranked according to the experience of the translator, as well as a list of financial threats that can impact on earnings divided into two categories: The first category of factors is external in nature, while the second category includes the clients’ unwillingness to pay. There is little that translators can do in this case, particularly if there is no written contract between the translator and the client. The author indicates that there are online forums on which translators share their stories and experiences when confronted with non-paying clients. Competition is indicated as another threat to professional translators. The author explains the concept of project management as applied to the translation profession via a description of the tasks in the project management of typical freelance translations. The author emphasises the importance of keeping records of projects and invoices. Chapter 2 ends with a series of tasks proposed by the author, including translation practice.
Chapter 3 is entitled Managing Cont(r)acts, and focuses on the soft skills that translators must possess in order to maintain a relationship with their clients. The author provides some useful tips regarding how to contact clients, as well as ethics pertaining to this type of communication ranging from mail ethics to phone ethics. The reader is provided with some useful advice concerning how to draft an email, how to carry out online communication with clients and the dress code in online video communication, as well as how to use networking sites for advertising purposes. Imre (2020) stresses negotiation as an important soft skill for translators, and provides tips regarding how to draft a contract, as well as what translators should know before drafting a contract. A translator may be required to provide a test translation prior to the client signing a contract. The author explains what tests refer to and what they entail. This section mainly applies to novice translators, as experienced translators have their own sites on which they publish samples of previous translation projects. The author emphasises all the components of a contract with which an inexperienced translator may be unfamiliar. Imre (2020) refers to technical issues that should be included in a contract, as well as payment information and deadlines. The chapter ends with a list of practical tasks proposed by the author.
Chapter 4, Translator status, discusses the status of translators. The author lists four parameters that are considered when determining the status of a profession, namely education/expertise, salary, power/influence and visibility, and analyses them in relation to the translation profession. Imre (2020) also touches upon factors that lead to the professionalisation of this job or which affect it, and concludes that the greater the number of untrained translators that enter the market, the lower the status of the profession (Imre 2020: 150); the author discusses the status of this profession in different countries, and describes the situations in the UK and in Hungary. Job satisfaction is one of the perks of this profession; the opposite is job dissatisfaction, which is mainly experienced by freelance translators. The author lists the causes of job dissatisfaction, including market disorder (Imre 2020: 152), which is mainly the result of online translators who do not have appropriate training or qualifications. Imre (2020) attempts to provide a job description of this profession by mentioning all the possible titles that fall under the umbrella term of professional translator, including language assistant, language expert, technical expert, cultural expert, terminologist and assistant manager. Another aspect that is addressed is the invisibility of translation, starting with the idea that the majority of translations have invisible authors. The author also touches on remuneration for translators, as well as on the necessary education and training in order to become a professional translator. The author states that undergraduate translation programmes have emerged in the twenty-first century. At the same time, universities have acquired infrastructure in order to train their students appropriately for this profession. Based on the premise that translators provide services, universities should also teach students how to manage their time and money. In addition to universities, the other institutions that provide specialised training are the American Translation Association and the British Standards Institution. The author refers to the necessary procedure to become a translator in Romania, which includes passing an examination set by the Romanian Ministry of Culture. The author clarifies the terminology authorised/certified/sworn translator, and explains the difference. He then raises the issue of professional associations that contribute to increasing translators’ status, and mentions the active associations in Romania. According to the author, technology impacts on this profession by enhancing productivity and improving quality. In the conclusion, the author summarises the challenges involved in this profession, the skills and knowledge that professional translators must master, the plethora of roles they must play, and the factors that contribute positively or negatively to the status that translators strive to attain. The practical task section at the end of the chapter involves questions and answers, terminological tasks and research-based tasks.
Chapter 5, Translators and ethics, raises the issue of translators’ ethical conduct. Imre (2020) clarifies the concepts of morality and ethics with regard to translators, and discusses what ethical (mis)conduct means and how it may impact on translators’ activities. The Code of Ethics regulating the profession of translators is discussed, and the principles guiding the relationship between the translator and the client are presented. Confidentiality is one of these principles, as translators must not disclose the content of translations, particularly when they concern finances or pharmaceutical discoveries (Imre 2020: 184). With regard to the relationship amongst translators, the author shows that the degree of collaboration has decreased, although there is a strong need for collaboration, particularly in the cases of specialised translations that require joint efforts. The author considers that translated manuscripts should be revised by a third party, which is a guideline that is never respected by freelancers. Valuable advice provided by the author of this book includes the following: Translators should not accept commissions in areas in which they are insufficiently competent (Imre 2020: 186). In addition, the author provides a list of unethical jobs that translators can refuse. Completing the tasks proposed by the author requires critical thinking and the ability to present arguments for and against, while some tasks are research-based. All the tasks contribute to enhancing the would-be translators’ knowledge of ethics and malpractice, as well as to raising their awareness regarding which commissions to accept and which to reject.
Chapter 6, Conclusions, summarises the information contained in the book.
In the appendix section, the author includes examples of certifications in English, Romanian and Hungarian, as well as the American Translators’ Association Code of Ethics and Professional Practice.
The book is laden with useful advice for would-be translators; the author shares valuable insights for the reader, and the practical tasks proposed by the author complement the knowledge and expertise that the author provides.
Imre, A. (2020). An Introduction to Translator Studies. Brașov: Editura Universitãții Transilvania din Brașov.
How to cite this review: Herțeg, M.-C. (2021). Attila Imre. An introduction to translator studies. Universitatea Transilvania din Brașov, 2020. Pp. 218. ISBN 978-606-19-1285-8. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 14(1), 191-198. doi: https://doi.org/10.29302/jolie.2021.14.1.11
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