Spanish Natives Present on Complexity Behind Professional Translating

SALEM, Mass., Sept. 29, 2016 — Professional translators from Spain visited the Salem State University campus on Thursday to show what it’s like to translate legal documents, movies, and songs. A group of about 25 students and faculty from the translation studies department sat around the edges of Sullivan Building room 209 to hear from media and legal translator, Laura Santamaria, and professor, translator, lip synchronizer, and lyricist Lluis Comes i Arderiu.

Santamaria began by discussing important information to know when translating documents that will be used by police, lawyers, or in a court room.

To be a translator of legal documents you do not need to be an expert in law, she explained.

“We don’t have to be lawyers to be able to translate. We have to know what the text is about and understand what it is [in both languages],” she said.

Laura Santamaria, a professional translator from Spain, prepares her presentation for translation studies students at Salem State University on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 where she spoke about the complexity of legal translations. Photo: Leneai Stuart

Because translators are not lawyers, often a lot of research must be conducted to ensure that everything is being done correctly, as well as acknowledging the context of the document to ensure accuracy. The laws and regulations of each country must always be taken into consideration. Their goal is to keep it as true to the original as possible.

For all translations, the translator must know the source language, target language, and what it is about. As well as what type of translation it is and what it is going to be used for. Sometimes certain words or phrases do not have an exact translation. Knowing what original information needs to be kept can help avoid miscommunication.

Santamaria gave out an exercise for students to pair up and work on in order to get a glimpse into challenges that can arise during a translation. Questions were asked after completing the exercise to help clear up any confusion and discuss openly how troubling lines of the text were to be translated.

Comes i Arderiu began his presentation with a snowman named Olaf singing “In Summer” from the Disney movie “Frozen”. First played in English then in Spanish, the room was to determine which to be the original.

Students were surprised how hard it was to tell the original despite some already knowing before the presentation.

“It was a lot harder than I was expecting it to be to see the difference in the voice and what I was seeing from the mouth. If you hadn’t told me to watch out for it, I wouldn’t have noticed any sort of difference between the two of them,” said Kenny Powers a student at SSU.

Comes i Arderiu described this as the process of dubbing which is the effort to create an original from an original. While some scripts have notes, explanations, and guidance for the translators, these are not always provided, leaving room for confusion.

A lyricist can sometimes be involved in the dubbing process but has slightly different rules when translating songs, Comes i Arderieu explained.

“One of the advantages that a lyricist has is the possibility of not translating literally, it has the possibility of keeping the idea by saying it in a different way,” he added.

Comes i Arderieu ended the night with the song “Thank You Very Much” from the popular christmas movie “Scrooge,” to which the audience responded with laughter and applause.

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