Dang, those linguists are touchy! or: how to stretch a nonevent into 30 minutes of chocolate-fueled procrastinatory blogging

One Line Translation Favor
I guess part of my indignation at the email below was because I'm old fashioned and expect people actually to say PLEASE, regardless of how polite they might think they're being or how strongly implied a "please" there might be in their request... Certainly this person's email is respectful but I found it presumptuous at the same time...

From: pperson@school.edu
Sent: Tue 7/21/09 9:03
To: me@sameschool.edu
Subject: One Line Translation Favor
Dear Susan Xxxxxxx:

I have a quick favor to ask. I'm working on a novel for which I need a
French headline that resembles this:


If you have a moment, anytime between now and August 20, to translate that
into French, I would be most appreciative.


Presumptuous Person

From: me@sameschool.edu
Sent: Tue 7/21/09 9:37
Subject: Re: One Line Translation Favor
Dear Presumptuous Person,
My base rate is $25 for translation, especially as it's for something you're going to publish. Otherwise I think you can probably get a close facsimile from an online translator or you might try wordreference.com - translators and linguists frequent the forums there and might help you for free altho most people like you to make an attempt first. Certainly worth creating an account to see.

... and a little weird, style-wise... Are they teaching in creative writing now to address people by both first and last names? Or is that some new email etiquette I don't know about? Or maybe that's how she writes her fiction, too. Maybe all through her novel it will be Doug Stackhouse this and Bev Green that and Mitch Gimbel something else...
"...As she clicked off the cellphone after her discussion with Doug Stackhouse, Bev Green looked down at her shoes to see that she had indeed stepped in some of the famous Paris dog poop, which she would of course call "crotte de chien" in her diary that night. Even a French language neophyte like Bev Green knew that everything sounds better in French. Pondering this and chuckling to herself, Bev Green walked on. She would have to hurry if she was going to be on time to meet Doug Stackhouse and Mitch Gimbel for lunch at Mitch Gimbel's house in the 8th. Nearing a city trashbin Bev Green took that morning's newspaper out of her messenger bag, glancing a last time at its headline: "PATATI PATATA FAUX TITRE DE JOURNAL SPIRITUEL COMME TOUT PATATI PATATA" and chuckled again at the insanity of French transportation strikes before wiping the bottom of her shoe with it and tossing it in the "poubelle," not missing a step. In heels no less. What was that cutesy feminist quote about Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards? She made a mental note to tell Doug Stackhouse and Mitch Gimbel at lunch that she was now officially the most coordinated person in their own little 'bande à part'..."
('Cause, not only will I translate fake newspaper headlines for myself for free but I'll translate smart alecky replacement text for a fake newspaper headline, and I'll include some faux chick lit prose for good measure. Kee.)

The other part of the offense is the age-old translators' quandary. How to convince people that translation is not the same as breathing? It actually takes thought and effort, though of course the degree depends on the situation. Yes it would only take me a few minutes (maybe even 10 or 15 if I get perfectiony over having it sound Just So like newspaperspeak) to translate this thing, but if it's so easy, why don't YOU do it? Oh right, beyond thought and effort it takes knowledge and skill. You of course don't have 2.5 degrees in French and over 30 years in the language under your belt, which is why you've come to me. So why do you think this expertise will be free? You seem to understand that something special is required and yet that skill is not so special as to be valuable? It certainly didn't come free to yours truly. Sure, it wasn't ALL sweat and tears or I never would have stuck with it, but on my most wonderful French-learning day ever I would not have said I was studying French in order to have the joy of spouting free translations for all and sundry at the drop of a hat. I did it for ME. As such, this knowledge and discipline should continue to benefit ME, don't you agree? Further, you're not related to me that I know of, nor have I ever met you so the friends and family discount is Right Out, which is the only reason I would ever translate anything for free for anyone.

So fork it over or go play on Babel Fish. (And much good may it do you, heh heh heh.)

(I kinda hope she goes straight to WR and tries the same thing there. Those guys will pull less punches than I did in my email... but then they probably won't go do a snide blogpost...)

*fake newspaper headline verbage changed to protect the innocent - heaven forbid she go online and try to google it word for word and come up with my gripey blogpost! :)

5 commentaires:

Jessica a dit…

Ugh, People.

Miss you!!!

Applecart T. a dit…

i have a longer comment. but short: you're right.

(did she respond with "oh, but do it for free?)

language, language arts, the arts — everyone thinks they are valueless (in E.U., perhaps, esp? — Aux EU, not Euro Union — hey, how does one distingue that now?) for a great many reasons. now, if you had a French Coca-Cola dance routine under your belt and all had seen you on TV / Internet, THEN you'd be unapproachable and also "valued." Meh and merdre and crotte, whatever that is.

[Seems like the longer comment, doesn't it?]

Present-tense novels? … … …

Aussi, can't she just Google some le Monde and just FIND a headline that is similar?

I puke on her shoes … which are not nearly as great as yours … and I have stepped near more dog crap in Midwestern suburbs than any French sidewalk ever offered; in fact, I recall rien des chiens while in Paris.

Susan a dit…

I know! I mean, what would she do if I wrote her asking for a couple lines of original fiction for free so that I could publish it in my next academic paper (assuming I wrote academic papers - tee hee)? :) that's the most surprising part is usually people who work with words kind of know the rules better... but whatever.

Allison a dit…

ahhaha! i'm sitting in the foreign language computer lab and this post made me laugh out loud. despite the needy, obnoxious emails of strangers, i hope you are doing well!

Susan a dit…

omg I am so envious of the AU lab! enjoy some technology for me :) glad you enjoyed the post!