Finding my bearings during the French into English translation of my manuscript was. not. a piece of cake. (I talk about the struggle here.) So, how did I manage to survive the re-reading of the translated version? And what did it mean for the original work?
- Where am I at now? (I’m fine. I promise.)
Well, after re-reading the English manuscript several times, I’m pretty satisfied with the result. Not because I think it’s anywhere near perfect, but because I worked hard and I’m proud of the final product. Fixing the misspellings, the grammar and language mistakes, and making the manuscript more mine with « my style » was a colossal piece of work, but it was worth it.
- How did I make it work? (3 readings and 1 happy manuscript.)
The first read-through mostly consisted in correcting each paragraph (or page), one by one, and comparing the English Version with the French Version to make sure nothing was forgotten (or interpreted instead of translated) in the process.
Reading (and taking my time with) each part allowed me to study the structure and necessity of every section of the book. It was the Editing Phase all over again for both versions of the manuscript. I considered the work as a whole in terms of structure, plot, characters’ development/growth, their personalities and relationships. The second read-through of the English Version was a way to pinpoint the problematic moments that didn’t fit well in each of these categories. It was also time to make sure no misspellings, cookies, grammar errors, etc. remained. I printed the manuscript then, and color-coding every type of corrections to tackle was my weapon of choice.
So, after pinpointing every scenes and sentences that had to change, the transforming, re-writing, and correcting happened during a third reading. And the strangest thing happened—I re-wrote/edited in English first before working on the same scene in French when it needed changes.
- What did I learn during the re-reading of the translated version? (I get it. I swear.)
Cut it. When you feel like the scene is out of place or unnecessary (for the characters’ development or the story), it probably is. SO. JUST. CUT. IT. OUT. I cut 6 000 unnecessary words.
Don’t complicate it. Every character doesn’t need to have a complicated backstory.
This is a hard one for me. I love backstories, and I have an obsession with making sure everyone has some sort of past to share which, I realized, doesn’t have to be a struggle to do.
Stay consistent. Continuity is the key. Characters’ personalities and habits need to be consistent. Of course, characters evolve and mature and are changed by their experiences, but what makes them them at heart need to be clear and consistent throughout the story.
Translate it correctly. If you’re using different languages in a manuscript, make sure the translations are correct. (I’m really obsessed with works using multiple languages!)
My book is a cocktail of diversity that is reflected in a couple of words used in their native languages in the text—Japanese, Turkish, Spanish, and French. There are ten words (depending on which version we’re talking about)—no more—but it’s important to respect the language and its rules. Unfortunately, I don’t own dictionaries in all the languages I use, so I turned to online ressources. And online translators might be good tools for single word translation, but sentence’s structure, grammar, and conjugation aren’t really their strong suit. (Or maybe I didn’t find the right tool yet.) It’s still a problem to solve.
For now, I believe I have a working/readable manuscript that doesn’t need major changes, but I still need to read it a fourth time before I can pass it on to native English speakers for a test drive.
If you happen to cross path with this little article, tell me—how do you translate? What’s your process? What tools are you more comfortable with? How/When do you know you have a satisfying translation? And if you don’t translate, as a reader, tell me—do you ever feel like you’re reading a translation? What could/should be improved?