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#FreelancerFriday #7 - Yari Leon Suarez, Translator

Posted in: Perfecting your Craft on August 29, 2014 Leave your thoughts 💬

Yari Leon Suarez offers translation services between English and Spanish. Yari has worked in a variety of genres ranging from technical translations to translating poetry and literary fiction. Yari is also a fan of Charles Bukowski, which is maybe the best quality any person could possibly have that makes you think “I want to know more about this person.” Enjoy!

REEDSY

What’s the biggest difference in moving from technical translation to literary translation?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
You work longer! *laughs* When you translate a creative piece, it takes longer because you have to work closely with the author, more than you would with a corporation. I find that with technical translation you’re working with terminology. It narrows things down, and when you have a question you can just go to a database. With literary translation it becomes more tricky - you’re working with an author’s thoughts, feelings. I think for literary translation you need that communication.

REEDSY
Why is contact with the author important?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
I find that the key for literary translation is to connect with the writer as a writer. I’ve translated for friends before, but I knew them as friends, not as writers. When I talk with them about the work, I need to talk about what they were trying to say, and focus as specifically on the piece of work as possible. We don’t talk that much about the process of getting there. Working with friends can be easier, but at the same time it’s not - I have to *forget* that they’re my friends, and look at them as a professional - look at them as a writer, not the person I go for coffee with. It’s tricky but the key is to focus on the piece of work and the writer’s voice. There’s a skill of talking with authors that came from technical translation because I have to ask companies about how they want something translated as well. It teaches you to be precise and how to know what questions to ask. You have to be focussed.

REEDSY
Is the focus on being accurate, on being good for the reader, on doing right by the author?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
It’s about doing the best work possible for the author. As a translator you’re really not entitled to change anything for a piece of work. It’s the editor’s job to advise the author on changes if there’s something wrong. For the translator it’s more a communication *with* an author, trying to keep the author’s voice as it is, but in a different language. When I started working with friends and I fell in love with a piece of work, it was hard - I had to stop myself adding to the work. To be a translator you have to be passionate about what you’re translating, but at the same time have a lot of respect for the work. You have to try to write *exactly* as the author wrote, but in a different language.

REEDSY
How do you practice that? Does reading help?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
Once, I grabbed a book I like and actually tried to translate a part. It was just a personal exercise, basically. I tried to translate pieces of ‘Women’ by Charles Bukowski. Just as an exercise in how you would translate a book by an established author in an established market, to see how you would handle it. I just kept it to myself.

Reading a lot is always going to help - it helps you understand structure. Understanding structure is important because when you’re translating a text you have to understand the form. At the same time I think that right now the most important thing is to be up to date on technology. With technology it makes it so much easier to be in communication with the author, and there are tools that make the work easier. You need the right tools for writing, and translating in particular.

There’s specific software that helps you when you’re translating. Nowadays the world of translation is tied to a digital format. For technical translation translators can use software to connect with other translators for feedback. Like Robert Faclo said, Evernote is also fantastic for translators. And it’s necessary, because it speeds up the process of translation.

REEDSY
Do you do a lot of research?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
Oh yes, you have to. As a translator you have to be a researcher. You can’t just be happy with your own translation, you need to share your work with other translators and keep communicating with other writers - it’s a collaborative process. Translators these days don’t just sit with a book and translate it into a new language - you have to have a wider knowledge about literature today, you could say, of how the publishing industry is working. You translate in an active, engaged way. Depending on the book you’re translating, you need to know the author, you need to know where this is coming from, you need to know who’s going to be the reader of this translation to make a work that’s accurate.

REEDSY
What do you need to know from authors, when you’re getting ready to work with them on a project?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
The first thing is to know the 'motive’ of the novel, how you feel about it, if I can borrow it and read it of course! Later on I would ask the author why they want to share the novel with a different market, how they want it to impact the reader in a different language. I’d ask what the author knows about Spanish, the Spanish market, if anything, if they’re familiar with their new audience.

REEDSY
What’s are the first steps in the process for you?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
I’ll read the manuscript and ask questions about the writing, the story, anything that comes up in it about the characters. I’ll ask how you feel about the main character, how the secondary characters are influencing the story, that kind of thing. If I have any doubts, if there’s something I don’t understand, I’ll clear that up. Then I’ll go through the translation work itself, and new questions will arise. In terms of the structure, for example, more specific questions about structure, about sentences where I’m not quite sure about the tone or the intent, that only comes out when you’re doing the work.

REEDSY
Should authors work with Spanish editors as well, after they’ve translated with you?

YARI
I… would recommend it. It’s not my field. I can always try and I can suggest, but I would’t consider myself an editor.

REEDSY
When you’re translating poetry, how does that work? What are you keeping?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
To translate poetry you’re dealing with a different literary structure, depending on the type of poem. If it’s free-rhyming, that’s one thing, but if there’s a specific structure you’re facing a piece that will take longer. That’s in the sense that it’s not just the vocabulary you need to worry about, but also about the structure and the differences between languages. For example, English and Spanish are completely different languages in the way you structure sentences in them. A sentence in Spanish can be longer in a sentence than English, and that can break the structure of the poem. So I have to spend a lot of time just trying to do the work because I have to make sure the same amount of syllables of the original poem are in the translation.

And then also, keep in mind that it’s not a literal translation but a poetic translation as well, so you have to use the right kind of language, with the right translation of the word, while keeping the tone of the author. It’s a big, big challenge that requires a lot of work. With prose, you can follow a different structure and just keep in mind the genre of the work. It’s still difficult, because translation has to be based on the work, it’s not your work.

REEDSY
Do you see any big differences between the English and Spanish markets?

YARI LEON SUAREZ
In the US, specifically, they seem to be getting more into drama… You know, I’m thinking. They’re not too different. They both definitely prefer prose to poetry. The majority of authors are doing novels or a series of novels following the same character - like a saga, let’s say. In that sense, the markets are similar. In Spain they love the novel that’s elaborate in a historical way. They love a novel that has historical research behind it, but is still dramatic, is not too much of a psychological novel. They follow a mystery plot, that kind of thing.

The differences aren’t so big - we’re talking about literature that doesn’t require a lot of psychological analysis of the character, that isn’t a heavy topic - it’s easy reading, especially in the United States. “A read that flows,” basically; that doesn’t take a lot of time to understand, especially that’s not metaphysical. In Latin America I think they like literature with secondary meanings hidden in the prose, but here in Spain and the United States it’s more about the flow of the prose.

REEDSY
Thanks for your time Yari.

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