Pet Peeve: Bad Translators

Bad translators perpetrate bad translations, and that’s reason enough to be annoyed by them. Once, I was flipping through a translation of Bulgakov’s The White Guard and it was talking about Christmas and Santa Claus on the first page. Nowhere in the original does Bulgakov write about Santa Claus or Christmas!

But what prompted this post is a certain Polish translator I follow on Twitter. She is very nice and I have chatted with her a few times. Since she’s a native Polish speaker, I always assumed that she worked into Polish from English. On her resume, though, she says that she works into English and I discovered recently, while browsing her website, that she cannot write in English.

I don’t want to make a blanket statement and say that a non-native speaker can never, ever translate into a second (i.e. non-native) language – because that is simply not true. There are a rare lucky few who manage it, but the vast majority of us (in my opinion) cannot. I would not trust myself to translate something into Russian, but I can definitely translate from it. If you are going to translate into English as a native Polish speaker, you need to be like this wonderful woman, Ewelina. She writes a blog in English and her English is at least as good, if not better, than mine. (If you need a Polish to English translation, here’s her website.)

Bottom line: if you are translating into a language, make sure you have near-native fluency!


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