Nitpicking in translation reviews

A little while back, I posted my volunteer translation for a translation workshop. The idea was to get translations of a passage of text from several translators, then review them in a workshop format.

I got some valuable feedback from the workshop, and that made me happy, because clueful feedback is hard to come by in this biz.

What kind of surprised me, however, was a comment by the workshop instructor that two of the biggest subjects of discussion about my translation were whether lessons are "drilled" into people or "drummed" into them, and whether you ride "on" an elevator or "in" an elevator.

The surprising thing about this is that in both cases, either alternative is perfectly acceptable English. Both variants are used by educated native speakers, and further neither choice has any bearing (IMHO) on the quality of the translation.

So why did the workshop participants spend so much energy focusing on these bits? I can only guess, because I didn't attend the workshop, but I think that it might be due to a knee-jerk reaction to fight off "translationese" and the slightly wonky English phrasing that even good writers can fall into when swimming in a sea of Japanese.

I know that when I'm translating, I am constantly asking myself, "Do people really say it that way?" Incidentally, that's another reason why specialization is important — you have a better chance of knowing how things are actually said in the field, rather than coining your own little contribution to the canon of translation-speak.

I think that due to the workshop environment, the participants might have had their "wonky English" filters cranked all the way to 11.

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