Monday, October 27, 2008

Found in Translation -- Jay

Last week, I got an e-mail from someone working on one of the foreign translations of Thirteen Reasons Why. He needed a few things clarified to help with his translation because his job isn’t simply to swap one word for another, but to interpret each word for another language. His job is to make my story make sense. And some of his questions fascinated me!

Here are some examples:

What does "Boy Scout" mean in this context: "my tongue twisted into knots even a Boy Scout would walk away from"? (p.17)
I gave him a fairly detailed answer to that question. How he’s going to whittle my answer into a few simple words to convey context, I have no idea (which is why I never did well in my foreign language classes).

On page 57, Ms. Antilly says "Or... not." Does this mean "Maybe it was not a good idea to introduce you two to become buddies"?
One thing I am excessively conscious about is slang. Pop culture and slang will age a novel like nothing else. Unless a novel is meant to be timefull (which is my made-up opposite for timeless), most pop culture and slang can be deleted without being missed. “Or…not” was said with a little sarcasm in my book, making it a tad slangy...and making the translator earn his pay.

On page 59...
Then, on page 194...
Ah, yes. Something was found in translation, as well. Because a translator can’t take any word for granted, they need to pay special attention to everything. And sometimes they can catch little inconsistencies no one else has caught. (Yes, I already contacted my editor and said, “How did we miss this???”)

On page 283, it says "Class of '93". Just out of curiosity, is there some special meaning in the year 1993?
It's extremely cool to know that the person working on the translation also enjoyed the book. Can you imagine if the translator hated the book? Yikes! So it meant a lot to me that there were details he wanted to know just out of curiosity. And in case any of you are suddenly curious, 1993 is when I graduated from high school.

- Jay

P.S. Speaking of graduating from high school, the list of people taking the challenge of sharing their senior photos is still growing. Did you show us yours?


Suzanne Young said...

You use sarcasm? I'm sooo surprised.

And it must be really neat to have someone translate! Ask him how to say, "Congratulations! That's dope!"


Laini Taylor said...

Hi Jay! So fun! I was thrilled one day to be contacted by the German translator of Blackbringer -- he didn't ask me any questions, but told me some of the cool choices they'd made. I can't wait to see my book printed in another language. Oh by the way, my mom reminded me the other day to find your book for her to read. She thought you were very noice ;-)

Kimberly Derting said...

Interesting post...I always wondered about what innuendos get lost in translations, and now I know!

I love "timefull", made up or not! I don't want anyone to read my book someday and play "guess the year" based on the dialogue. But at the same time, I don't want my YA characters sounding like they're peri-menopausal either.

Congrats on everything! I LOVED your book!!