Translation: Explorations and the Significance of Editing by Aparajita Dutta


Translation–What does this very word remind you of when you hear it? Converting expressions of one language into another? Perhaps, this is the basic idea which is present in all of us. But, dealing with translation, one will be astounded to see so many elements linked with it. Translation is not just about conversion; it’s about expression, a self discovery, an act which creates new spaces, connects and creates languages and cultures; it’s all about discovering the word, the language, the culture, the society and the politics.

The myth of the Tower of Babel goes like this … there is this huge sculpture where a certain message has been written in various languages. It not only pointed out the existence of more than one language in this world but also gave birth to translation which would help human beings to communicate with one another. Since ancient times, translation has been practiced in various corners of the world, be it Greece or India.

Today, in this twenty-first century, translation has evolved, taken new routes and shapes and has gone far beyond the issue of mere conversion from one language into another. Language has been used as a weapon by the powerful to subjugate the weak other. Remember Man Friday’s dialogue to Robinson Crusoe? “You taught me language and now I can curse you,” Man Friday had said. This very sentence reveals the power of language and how it has been used as Repressive State Apparatus by the colonisers to dominate over the colonised. The colonised too, took had to fall back upon language to fight back, many a times, using translation as a tool.

Considering this dynamics of power play among languages, translation has begun to play a vital role in forming the socio-political-cultural scenario of a country. When one is translating from one text to another, the very first question that arises is the ‘ readership.’ Who is the target audience? The target audience can be anyone and everyone. It can comprise of mainly people with similar cultural roots or people from a different culture or  both.

Translators like Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, even defined the readership to be only ‘scholars/ teachers.’ So, when a translator is translating and when the publisher agrees to publish that particular translation, the readership and the socio-political scenario in which the translation has been done plays a major role. Editing, therefore becomes an important factor in translation. It is the editor, who can bring the perfect balance between the translator’s translation and the publisher’s expectations. Wondering what are the ways in which editing can add value to the translated text? Well, the areas are simple and easy for anyone to understand:

  • Glossary: The Glossary plays a pivotal role in translation. Since it’s impossible to represent every culture-specific term of the Source Language, in the Target Language, the translator has to make a glossary of the terms retained and explicate the meaning. It is the editor’s duty, to make sure all the words of the Source Language have been explained well in the Glossary. Also, since the editor is much more aware of the readership, s/he is perhaps the best one to judge whether a particular word should be retained or not and whether new words should be brought in or deleted.
  • Diacritical Marks: Diacritical marks are often found in translated text. Thorough editing is needed for they are crucial in representing the exact word of the Source Language in the script of the Target Language.
  • Structure of the translated Text: No two languages are same. The structure of a language differs from one another. Hence, it rests upon the editor and the translator, whether one should make the translated text, a concise one or elaborate it. This depends on the nature of the Source Language and the Target Language. This structuring seeks editing help in order to make the translated text, a very reader-friendly one.

The field of Translation Studies is developing and today’s world is witnessing an increase in the practice of translation. Apart from editing, there are a number of issues which need to addressed, one of them being translator’s rights. However, that calls for a separate discussion. At the end of the day, what is important is to discard the idea of the translated text as a sub-ordinate to the original. Translation is an art, and translated text is a creation, borne out of this art, practiced by the translation. The translated text is a new creation, with links to the original; it helps in understanding the original and often throws light on perspectives which otherwise might have been overlooked.

Aparajita Dutta is a research scholar in Comparative Literature. A passionate writer, she got selected by Penguin India as one of the authors of their upcoming anthology, Tell me a Story (which will be released in July 2015). She writes for the football site, GOALden Times and been contributing author for a number of anthologies. Samples of her writings can be found in her She is an associate of the NGO, Civilian Welfare Foundation.

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The Importance of Editing


Has this happened to you? You have completed your manuscript and read it over and over. As a matter of fact, you have checked for errors and believe it is clear and without mistake. You have sent it to the publisher who has given it to the editor, but upon its return you can’t believe your eyes. There are red pen marks all over you pages. The editor has pointed out spelling errors, run-on sentences, choppy sentences, needed or not needed punctuation marks, misused words etc.Perhaps the editor has even requested that you re-write particular paragraphs or pages in accordance with their suggestions. Oh dear, if this has happened to you how did you feel or react?

Especially if your work has never been edited before, you may have felt offended by the editor’s corrections or thought your work was inadequate. You may have also thought that the editor was being unfair and formed a dislike for them even though you didn’t know them personally. You may have reacted by arguing with the editor, but there is a reason that good publishers require your work to be edited. Let me explain that reason. First, the editor works for the publisher who wants to maintain a good reputation by putting out polished and clear work. No matter how accomplished a writer you are, there is always room for improvement. One way for any author to improve their writing is to appreciate and learn from the second pair of eyes that goes over their work with a fine toothcomb—the eyes of an editor. Work that is edited is better understood by readers who tell other readers about it. This word-of-mouth marketing of your book can result in more sales, so why be hard on the editor? It is the editor’s job to make sure that your work is as powerfully understood as it can possibly be. If after reading the above, you still feel uncomfortable with someone editing your work try to think of it this way. When you’ve finished painting a wall or hanging a picture, do you walk away without first standing back to make sure your task is done as perfectly and professionally as possible? Not likely, you most likely not only look long and hard for streaks on the wall or to see if the picture is hung straight but call for a second pair of eyes to assure you that you’re seeing straight. That’s what the editor’s eyes are trained to do-take a second long, hard look for you. I recall a regretful, young writer telling me about a particular experience he’d had that, as both an editor and writer, I have always kept in mind. Upon this particular writer’s manuscript being accepted by a rather popular publisher, he was very excited but reluctant to make the changes the editor asked of him.  When he told the editor this, the editor calmly informed him that his manuscript was no longer accepted. In hindsight, this writer told me that thus far he had not had that kind of opportunity again. He went on to explain that had he known the importance of editing at the time, he would have complied with the editor’s requests. Although all editors may not be as strict as the one mentioned above, it is beneficial for any writer to understand the importance of editing. Remember, the editor is not your enemy but that second pair of eyes who is not out to change your meaning or voice but add a little flavour to it and help you reach your goal of becoming a better and then even better writer. Christina Cowling, Consulting Editor for Nivasini Publishers

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