Re: havel's speeches
I've done a few translations and have had quite a few interpreting gigs for
Havel. I'll read your work when I have a moment, and we can compare notes.
In the meantime, a few general comments:
1. The Castle has always paid me (and, as far as I know, other colleagues)
CZK 500 per page. They don't tend to be very generous when it comes to
paying interpreters. ASKOT has been trying to change this, with little
success, for years. As the new crew comes in, we'll get another opportunity
to negotiate, I'm sure.
2. Havel's office employs a native speaker who edits any document before it
gets published. At times I thought his/her suggestions were
counter-productive, but oh well. So if you're paying your NS editor, don't
3. Just out of curiosity: who's your girlfriend? I thought I knew everyone
who interpreted for Havel. :-)
Greetings from Harlem, everyone!
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2003 18:35:02 +0100
From: "Matej Klimes" <mklimes@...>
Subject: Re: Havel's speeches, WAS [IS GOING TO BE] FAQ: How to translate
Hmm, the second posting with additional info made it online before the first
with the original....
here it is again, sorry if this makes a multiple posting...
I translated a couple of things for Havel's office recently (incredible how
skimpy they are) - an article for The Finnancial Times, a NATO Summit Press
Conferrence, and now his last NY address (how many of you watched?)....
While the two former were straightforward enough (if such a thing exists
with Havel speaking or writting) and the only thing I had to do was to think
of how an English-speaking journalist would write them and go into
media-cliche-mode, the latter one was a bit difficult...
As always with Havel, it was very wordy and intellectual, although not as
good as his early speeches. I choose the approach I somethimes use when I
want to make sure the target text will not suffer from me inserting false
(non-native speaker) English ideas in it - I translated it fairly close to
what it said in the Czech version (not verbatim, but not changing the
sentence structure or logic as much as one should do in order to make it
sound natural English) - and then had a NS proofread and edit it - hoping
that we'll end somewhere between Havel's complicated and wordy version and
what would be a natural English-speaking politician's speech.
Just before I did the final edit and sent it off on 31st, I panicked and
started thinking that it still sounded too Czech and complicated. We had a
somewhat heated discussion with my girlfriend (who often interprets for
Havel) over how much should one change:
- Her approach would be to only use sentences/way things are said that an
English NS and a politician would use in a speech, i.e. the closest
speech-bits-one-hears-often to what Havel was actually saying (or what we
thought he was saying:) - which, in my opninion, while it would make the
speech sound better, would also make it a "Bush-speech" (written by someone
on his team, good and professional, but full of buzzwords, pathos, a bit
predictible and boring - unless he gets carried off during one of his "holy
war" proclamations, or makes a silly mistake, but that's another story)....
- I argued that would be going too far. I do use a similar technique when
translating most of my stuff - technical docs, journalism or PR pieces
(think of how a NS working in the relevant field would say something the
Czech doc is saying and then write it, no matter if I end up with quite a
different sentence structure, etc. - the meaning and "correct style" for
that field is the most important thing - of course it doesn't work for all
areas, certain types of legal stuff, for example...).
I do think that a bit more could have been done to the "Czechness" of the
speech, but it was difficult because Havel hardly ever uses sentences
shorter than one paragraph and since he usually builds them up to a
gradation, they are extremely difficult to break up and still retain all the
meaning. I didn't do much in the end as it was due in a couple of hours and
I'd probably end up changing every sentence and it would require another
proof.... All we did was to get rid of Havel's favourite multiple "dear
friends, dear fellow citizens, etc. etc." and, thanks to the proofreader,
changed the way we said some things English speakers wouldn't understand...
The speech doesn't seem to have been published much in its entirety,
I would appreciate comments on what you think the correct approach would be
and/or examples of better translations of parts of the text.