The Arithmetic of Translation: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division

Different languages have different ideas about what constitutes a good sentence or paragraph, what should be stated explicitly, what everyone already understands, how information connects, and how logic flows. A polished translation does more than convert words and grammatical patterns; it understands the vocabulary and conventions of the source language and recreates them so that the final product conforms to both the vocabulary and the conventions of the target.

This is something that most translators intuitively grasp, but in this workshop, we will bring those choices out in the open, compare different ways of casting the same text and the trade-offs that come with them, and hear about the strategies our colleagues use.

The approaches to reforming a sentence are grouped under the four basic arithmetical operations: addition (making implicit information explicit), subtraction (making explicit information implicit), multiplication (combining information that is treated discreetly in the source), and division (breaking out information into discreet, manageable chunks). Time permitting, we may also delve into geometry and transformations (rearranging information so that it has the desired impact in the target).

The session will start with a brief lecture, after which participants will divide into groups and work on assigned texts. It will conclude with each group presenting both their finished products and the processes by which they arrived at them.