Translation Services

What is translation? On a platter
A poet’s pale and glaring head,
A parrot’s screech, a monkey’s chatter,
And profanation of the dead.
Vladimir Nabokov, On Translating Eugene Onegin

Contrary to the myth suggested by the concept of computer-based ‘translation programmes’, there is no one-to-one mathematical correspondence between any two languages on Earth. A living language is a subtle and evolving network of linguistic patterns, historical usage and cultural associations, from which an author selects words that resonate in a particular way in a particular context. Simply exchanging one set of words for their dictionary equivalents makes an artificial sentence which will struggle to retain the same meaning, let alone to preserve the same linguistic and cultural associations. The daily proof of this is the garbage that comes out of Google Translate and is reproduced all over the internet, to the bafflement of native speakers of the target language.

Even with a human brain, it takes one set of skills to appreciate and understand all of the meanings and sub-texts in the passage the translator reads, and an entirely different one to reproduce them in a second language. The first is relatively easy for a linguist who has been exposed to the culture of the country in question; it becomes almost second nature when one starts to think in the foreign language oneself. The second is extremely hard to do well in any language other than one’s mother tongue. Many people read and speak several languages fluently, granted. But that is an entirely different skill from translating them accurately into a written form. English in particular is a very easy language to ‘get by in’, but extraordinarily difficult to master at a high level, even for native speakers; as a result of which most speakers of English as a foreign language over-estimate their command of the written language. It’s easy for a non-native speaker to come unstuck when writing English and to produce ambiguity, confusion and unintended humour.

For this reason, I only translate into my mother tongue, English, and if asked to produce texts in other languages, I collaborate with translators from the relevant country. I offer translation from:

Swedish to English
Norwegian to English
Danish to English
German to English

Sometimes I take on shorter translations from other languages including Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and French. In these cases, depending on the nature of the text, I may enlist help from colleagues and associates to check my work. Naturally I take full responsibility for the finished English version.

How much do I charge?