To mark the fourth anniversary of transubstantiation (which was actually in June), the passing of the 90,000 hits mark as well as the fact that we were nominated to the Top 100 Language Blogs competition, we feel it is about time to breathe some new life into transubstantiation and give the site a subtle facelift. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading, commenting and taking an active part in the development of the blog. Without you, the readers, transubstantiation would never be the success that it has been up to now.
While giving the site a facelift one cannot help consider the importance of the visual medium in translation. How important is the way the text looks? By this we are not referring to the structure, grammar or coherence of a text but rather the font style, font size, page layout, quality of paper and so on. For most translators this is a secondary issue. The primary goal is the communicative role – the goal is always to appropriately convey the message from one language/culture to another language/culture.
All things being equal, the visual aspects of the translation (that is, font, page, paper etc.) will never take centre stage and will always take final position in the long chain of activities within the translation process. However, in today’s visually-oriented world, how one’s work looks has become of greater importance. There are no excuses for poorly-produced work as 99% of translators own a word processor (complete with a spell checker) and printer. In much the same way that today’s students rarely hand in hand-written work to their tutors so to are translators expected to produce high-quality electronic documents.
Unfortunately, this race to ‘look good’ has also had some negative consequences. Many budding young translators have put the cart before the horse when it comes to translating. They focus first on their choice of font style, font size, page layout, paper and only after do they begin with the task in question. For some, the translation locus has shifted. This shift has unfortunately filtered through to our understanding of texts to the extent that an excellent, yet poorly-presented, translation might be poorly-received. On the other hand, a poor translation which is well-presented may have a chance of success.
What is important is balance, of course. Perhaps a useful rule of thumb is for translators to always begin their work by focusing on the content rather than the form. As we are all aware, however, sometimes focusing on form is simply a subtle method of procrastination when a difficult translational problem eludes us. That being the case, focusing on the visual medium will do little to help resolve our linguistic predicaments. A surprisingly useful, if not revolutionary, method for dealing with such procrastination and problem-solving in our computer-filled cosmos is to resort to a much-trusted and highly-underrated tool – the pen.