Saturday, 25 July 2009

Translation Trial & Locals

I've got a week left of the trial, but I already know how it's turned out. When I had the interview, Alessandro talked about a particular contract for the trial period. Being English, I thought I would have something to sign on the first day, and probably some things, like bank details, to pass on. Nothing doing.

With a week to go, I thought it'd make sense to check what was going on so I asked to talk to Alessandro. We only talked about the contract in passing, because he told me his decision about the trial, which is that I haven't got the job. He said that there was no problem with me personally or with my level of English (as if), but that my level of Italian was too low, based on feedback from other people. This, apparently, wouldn't be a problem in other circumstances, because after a year I'd probably be fine, but they're looking for someone with the right qualities from the off. He did, on the other hand, say that some freelance work could be possible.

So there you are. Those of you who know me (and who else, I wonder, is reading?) will know that I'm not the over-confident type - I'm probably more aware of my limitations than is helpful - but I must say it seems like a mistake. Of the mistakes that I'm aware I made, one was major. Almost every day, I proofread translations which were clearly much, much worse than the translations I was doing, in terms of English, and which contained objective errors that I could easily spot. In fact, it was quite an ego trip, seeing that real-life translators were getting paid real money for what I could see was trash, and I could turn them into something better with relative ease.

There's another 'English' there called Paul, who I worked quite closely with at the start and who does the job most similar to what mine is/was. He said he was surprised and said kind things about my level of Italian and said much what I said above about the quality of "professional" translators. He also said that Alessandro had been looking for a mother tongue proofreader for ages, which makes the fact that he hasn't taken me on seem doubly peculiar. Consequently I entertain vague hopes that he'll change his mind, though I'm obviously not counting on it.

In other news, controversy in the village. The Medieval Festival (my word, that's an unexpectedly swish site - why didn't they get it translated? I would have done it for free...) started last Saturday and finishes tomorrow. Anyway, one of the features is a 'disfida in arme' ('weapon challenge') between Offagna's 'Rioni' ('Districts'). Our district (Torrione) won it, but S. Benardino weren't happy with the result and asked for an appeal. Torrione said they would withdraw their participation from the Festival and proceeded to take all their flags down (there are a lot of them about). In the end Torrione still won, but one thing led to another and there was fighting in the streets. Monica's Dad, Carlo, and Don Luca, the young priest, had to keep trying to separate them. Apparently one guy might have needed an ambulance. So that's village life for you.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Translation Trial

Saint Jerome, patron saint of translators
Monica and I were talking for some time about relocating to another city or two where we were more likely to find work. We took a long time to come up with any plan of action though, because I'm pretty ignorant about Italy in the first place, and these are strange times, so it was hard to know where to try. Nor did anyone feel especially competent to advise us. But we finally came up with a few ideas, and instead of relocating (because nowhere's a safe bet), we decided just to send out speculative applications to companies we could find in the yellow pages that we thought might like an English native speaker. I also started a 54 day rosary (that's a pair of triple novenas, if you're wondering – one for please, one for thank you) for the intention of a job for me.

We started out with the places closest to us, because it's not like we actually want to leave Offagna, so the closer the better. We got going with this on a Friday. On Saturday morning I had a phone call from Alessandro Potalivo – Intrawelt is his company. That caught me rather on the back foot. In any case we talked about my CV and we arranged an interview on Monday. It was a strange sort of interview – he invited Monica too and his wife came in for the latter half as well – but it's how I got the trial period I'm on. Essentially he said he could do with a mother tongue proof reader, but not everyone who speaks English can proof read, which is perfectly fair.

What is a strain is the hours and the commute. Office hours are 8:30-18:30 and even with a generous break of 1-1½hrs (I've not taken 1½ so far), it's still more hours than I've ever worked. If I get the job we'll try and get a place in Porto Sant'Elpidio as soon as we can, to ease that particular strain. I get up at 6:40 and get back home at 20:10, more or less.

As to how it's going – quite well I think. It's a mixed bag – What job isn't? - but I think I'm doing quite well. I don't know if Alessandro will take me on, but we shall see. What did surprise me was that I'm doing translations about as much, or at least not significantly less, than I'm doing proof reading. That wasn't was I was expecting at all, but I seem to get by, after an initial shock. I've made some mistakes, including quite a big one yesterday where I parsed a verb into the wrong person, but, the way I see it, they're hardly even my fault - I never said anything to indicate that I felt my Italian was up to translation work. One good thing about the job is the variety. Translation agencies translate whatever they can, so you end up with all sorts. Even if the bulk of the job is boring financial paperwork, I've worked on a recipe for sweet and sour ribs (thank you unrequested Google image search for teaching me that “6 pieces of green onion” means “6 spring onions”) a little article about Iceland's lᴓveli lakes and, slightly less excitingly, but still better than finance, different tyre categories. It's also a very quiet office for the most part, though it is a good, friendly atmosphere. We use a little messaging system, so you don't tend to hear those brief, everyday sorts of queries because it's all being typed out silently. I feel sorry for the girl who works all alone on the reception desk (though she's not just the receptionist) especially.

With regards to actual proof reading, I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but it's harder than I thought, and for reasons I wasn't expecting. Perhaps I am naïve. One thing that was made very clear by Paul, another Englishman (or perhaps he's Irish actually) was that one of the major problems in the translation industry is the quality threshold. Essentially, anyone who speaks two languages can say “I'm a translator”, with hilarious consequences. But a good translation, in short, is made by someone translating into their mother tongue, with a good knowledge of their own language (which, as is only too apparent to me at least, is by no means a given) and a good knowledge of the subject matter. So finding a good translator isn't exactly a piece of cake.

About 50% of the time, when I proof read, it's more like a re-write, or that it's me doing the translation. I'm not sure precisely how many of Intrawelt's translators are technically freelance, but they certainly almost all work remotely. The team I work with is made up, for the most part, of project managers, which is to say the people who co-ordinate the translation by dishing it out to various translators. Anyway, we receive these translations through the ether and sometimes I find it very hard to believe that these people are really English mother tongues. No exaggeration, I assure you. I have to assume either that they're translating in the wrong direction, for whatever reason, or that they've somehow bluffed their way onto the records as English mother tongues, or more charitably that though they're technically mother tongues, they've been living and working in another language for so long that they've lost their grasp on English, which may not have been amazing to begin with.

If anything's going to stop me getting this job, I expect it'll be this, that I can proof read an intelligible English text, but I can't fix a god-awful translation that I don't understand in either the original or the “English”. We shall see.