My First Virtual Translation Slam

Earlier this month, I translated a passage from an interview for the ATA SLD’s first virtual translation slam. Elizabeth Adams, another Russian>English translator, took on the same passage at the same time, and then we duked it out… by which I mean we civilly discussed our respective translation choices. Our discussion was recorded and posted as the very first episode of SLD’s brand new podcast, which you can find here.

My biggest takeaway from the discussion was that I really need to step up my research game. My native knowledge of Russian takes me a long way, but I shouldn’t always assume that my intuition is correct (see: thinking демократичный could be translated literally as “democratic” and didn’t have any idiomatic meanings). Sometimes it’s worth cracking open a monolingual dictionary!

I also greatly enjoyed the recurring theme of giving power and voice to the author of the original text or, in this case, the original speakers. This was another place where I could have done more to probe the background: to look into who the two women being interviewed were, to see how they spoke and what they emphasized. In my usual work, where most texts are impersonal legal documents, I don’t get to research individual people and bring out their personality, so this was a unique opportunity not just to work with a new kind of text, but also to apply an entirely new approach to the translation process.

Translation can be lonely work sometimes, and I’m very fortunate to have had this chance to discuss and collaborate on a text. I look forward to having this opportunity again - and to more episodes of the SLD podcast!

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