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Addressing perception in translation

Posted 5 years 7 days ago ago by Annette Labbé     0 Comments

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A few weeks ago, something showed up on my Facebook feed multiple times. It was a seemingly normal photo of a white and gold dress. As it turns out, there was much debate as to what colour said dress actually was.  Some said it was white and gold, others said it was blue and black. I saw white and gold and only saw blue and black in the dark.

Most people would look at this dress colour debate as nothing more than a “pop culture blip” and leave it at that. This got me thinking about perception and translation in general.

As a translator, perception is a definite consideration. One must be conscious of how a translated text could be read and interpreted.  It’s a given that when people read something, more permanent aspects of their lives play a role with regard to interpretation (i.e. personal experience, culture, education etc.). There are also temporary factors (i.e. mood, location etc.). Perception is just basically a ping-pong game between what “is” and what we bring to and take away from what we see (humanness).

I say that perception is a “consideration” because I consider it twice in the translation process: the first time during the writing stage and the second time during the proofreading stage. I can’t give it any more consideration than that. There are too many variables and I have to work within certain deadlines.

As I’ve said before, the humanness of the translation process is one of the most interesting parts of my job. I wouldn’t be a translator if translation were a cold and detached process. Think about perception the next time you read or see something interesting. I think you’ll be surprised by what you find.

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