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Review of  A Practical Guide for Translators

Reviewer: Irmeli Hannele Helin
Book Title: A Practical Guide for Translators
Book Author: Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 15.2324

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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 10:44:19 +0300
From: Irmeli Helin
Subject: A Practical Guide for Translators, 4th ed.

AUTHOR: Samuelsson-Brown, Geoffrey
TITLE: A Practical Guide for Translators (Fourth revised edition)
SERIES: Topics in Translation 25
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters Ltd
YEAR: 2004

Irmeli Helin, Department of Translation Studies, University of Helsinki.

The book is the fourth edition of ''A Practical Guide for Translators''
first published in 1993 and now revised and updated by the author. It
is intended for students as an introduction to the world of
professional translation, but also for practicing translators and
especially for buyers of translation services. It is a gold mine of
advice for students wishing to go freelance but also useful for staff
translators. It gives advice about becoming a translator and about
running a translation business, arranging the working environment and
purchasing right and relevant initial equipment. An important point is
finding clients and serving them well, but the client's viewpoint is
not forgotten, either. Even advice about practical text production is
given as well as suggestions how to avoid shortcomings as being late or
taking a task outside your own competence or not getting paid in time.
For British translators it is also a source of professional
organizations and awards and grants, some of them useful for foreign
translators as well. The instructions for marking up texts when proof-
reading and editing are also international and so useful for many
readers. The foreword to the fourth edition has been written by Gunilla
Anderman, professor of Translation Studies at the University of Surrey.

I was very pleased to be able to review this book since last year the
project of Multilingual Communications of our university published a
book on Finnish translators running a translation business of their own
(Helin 2003). The book was authored by lecturers of a corresponding
series of guest lectures at our university and edited by myself. So I
was very interested to compare the situation in Britain and Finland and
to see which points are considered as important for the translation
business in each of the countries. It was also nice to see that this
book, with some localization, could be translated into different
languages to help students to make decisions about their career and
about starting a translation business.

Comparing the contents I could say that in both books there is much
information about working as translator and running a translation
business. Bilingualism has not been handled in the Finnish book and
sources of reference have only been mentioned. Professional
organizations for translators have not been listed in the Finnish book,
nor the awards or grants available for translators. Contrary to that,
Finnish authors write about copyrights of translators, forms of
translation business and taxation problems as well as about social
insurances to be taken out when starting to run translation business.
Otherwise the highlights and problems seem to be the same.

The author starts by pointing out the importance of a revised edition
of the book due to the fast development of the trade, especially of the
computational technology and electronic communication and data
processing and searching during the past ten years. Then he starts
explaining how to become a translator and gives quite a lot of relevant
information about the ''everyday life'' of a translator. He also gives
advice to help students to decide, whether they want to work as a staff
translator or as a freelance recommending a start at a large
translation company and then moving on towards an own business. In this
way new translators can collect both experience of the practical work
and a starting capital to be able to buy initial equipment, about which
he gives good and profound information in chapter 4. Before that he
contemplates the immaterial capital of translators, knowledge of
several languages and especially the myths and the truth about
bilingualism from the translators' point of view. This is naturally
very important if we think about the position of source and target
language in the work load of translators of ''exotic'' languages, as well
as about the wish and claim that translators should translate into
their mother tongue only.

In chapter 3 the author takes up translation activities from the
client's viewpoint. A translator should be able to ''teach'' prospective
buyers of his/her services but also to understand why clients easily
forget the preliminary measures and research work needed for a
successful and satisfactory translation and have difficulties to accept
a relevant price for the total of the work done.

In chapters 4 and 5 the author goes into practical details about
running a translation business at home or at an office elsewhere, not
forgetting invoicing and price quotations to cover cost of advertising
and marketing but also that of regular working times and holidays. It
is important that a translator working at home still keeps in mind that
he/she cannot work without enough breaks. The book also gives good
advice about purchasing right equipment to start with and even about
ergonomics of a good working environment.

In the next chapters the author speaks about dictionaries, glossaries
and other sources of reference and data as well as about compiling own
glossaries and collecting an own translation library, both in
electronic and paper form. Then he takes up the problem of quality
control from different viewpoints, such as source text difficulties,
urgency and production capacity of the translator compared with the
usage aim of the end product (publication, internal information,
advertising etc.). He points out that ''quality takes time and costs
money'' and that splitting an urgent translation between several
translators is not always an optimal solution because of problems of
terms and style.

In chapter 8 the presentation and delivery of translations are dealt
with, and even if these may seem well known for every translator I
think that the decision to speak about elementary things is a good one,
since during the courses on translation they are often ignored.
Attention should also be given to the appearance of translations
forwarded to clients, since nowadays it is quite normal that
translators provide texts ready to be published, electronically or in
paper form, not only as to the quality of language but as to settings
and appearance as well. The knowledge of different computer programs
and CAT systems is also necessary together with managing the electronic
mailing of data.

In chapter 9 the author contemplates measures to prevent things from
going wrong and gives advice what to do in case of a dispute with a
client about the quality or late arrival of the translation or about
late payments. In the next chapter he then gives a list of professional
organizations for translators which may be able to assist members in
such cases. This is naturally very important for British translators,
but useful for foreigners, too, as is the information in appendix, of
which I especially prefer the instructions of marking up texts when
proof-reading or editing. This is also a field which is too often
ignored during studies because of the large amount of other important
material to be taught and learned.

As a teacher of translation studies I also found the glossary of terms
very useful for my students.

To conclude my review I am pleased to be able to confirm the opinion of
the writer of the foreword that the book ''will be of benefit to anyone
with an interest in translation, on course to become an even more
highly skilled profession in the years to come.'' For me personally it
was a pleasure to read the Swedish examples given by the author, since
he has been working several years in Sweden and is a translator of
Scandinavian languages.

Helin, Irmeli (2003 ed.) Kääntäjä yrittäjänä. Itsenäisen
kääntäjän opas. (Translator as runner of business. A guide for an
independent translator.) Publications of the Multilingual Communication
Programme (MonAKO) of the University of Helsinki. Helsinki University
Irmeli Helin is Professor of Translation Studies and
Head of the Department of Translation Studies at the University of
Helsinki. She teaches German translation and interpretation and is a
docent of terminology and German translation. Further she is the owner
of a translation company running since early 1980s and has translated
a large number of documents and about 270 different books from
English, German, Italian, French and Scandinavian languages into

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1853597309
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 208
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1853597295
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 208
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