I do translations from German to English and from English to German, mainly in the fields of art, history, philosophy, psychology. I have done technical and museum catalogues, film scripts and mystery novels, and entire magazines, usually for major companies.

I have been charging EURO 1.50 per line of 55 characters, including the blank spaces between words, for a number of years now. This means that a norm manuscript page of 1.650 characters comes to EURO 45.

If a client approaches me with a large job of work, I’m prepared to negotiate, and possibly offer lower rates.

Contact me...

9624-krik z troji hl1
This is an image created by the Czech artist Vlasta Zabransky, of whom I have been a fan for a good many years. It may have been intended, in its time, to illustrate quite a different point. Some statement about politics, the situation of the individual vis-à-vis a domineering state apparatus. To me, it seems to say something about the essence of the translation process. Take another look. It’s plain to see, there’s very little actual brainwork involved here. You know the language because it’s been hard-wired into your skull since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. Whoever and whatever you are, yourself, you’re in the middle. And you speak through some external mouthpiece that is yours and yet not your own, a magnified megaphone type of voice.  

I’ve been working as a professional translator now for over thirty years. Almost 33, to put a proper figure on it. But, unlike some of my colleagues, who translate from up to 17 languages, I only have to deal with two. German and English. My father spoke 12 languages, my mother, six. Both of them had diplomas as interpreters or translators, my father for Turkish and Persian, my mother for Swedish.
Most of the work I do goes from German to English. Doing it the other way round, from English to German, is different, but it would require some scientific brain scan to tell you exactly how or why. I guess I should be telling you I’m one of the best in my profession. But I’m not sure I could truthfully make such a claim, I have far too much respect for some of my colleagues, whose work leaves mine in the dust.

Still, translating, or being a translator, clearly seems to satisfy some deeper stratum of my general make-up. I grew up as a child in Tehran, with Farsi and German as my first two languages. By the same token, I have always looked at German from the outside, and English largely took the place of Farsi in my head, as its companion language, once we had left Iran. Today, I’m very nearly bilingual, but in an odd way. The odd thing being that the two languages sit in my head, side by side, like two little dickie birds on a wall. Or more like a left hand and a right hand, placed next to one another. They have fairly similar shapes, but the thumbs, in each case, are on the other side. In other words, there’s nothing “purely mechanical” about the work, it’s more like the exchange of musical licks in “Duelling Banjos”.

Speaking in musical terms, I try to keep the same notes, the same tunes, when translating -- but play them in a different key, on a different instrument, in a different mode, like Hawaiian waltzes rendered by a brass band with a handful of clarinets thrown in for good measure --- instead of the Viennese string orchestras -- and so I have come to coin for myself the expression of transcreation. That’s what I do. I try to find a new shape and size and everything for the text I’m translating. 

Some people tell me that this is not what the client wants. The client just wants to get the job done, a professional “product”, and forget the fancy footwork. Stuff the curlicues. Stick transcreation up your jumper. True. But as a rule, the people who just want to get the job done get some hack who’ll run the stuff through for them on Google Translate.

I believe that a good translation needs the personal touch of a human being. The playfulness of a mind that enjoys language for its own sake. I wrote a piece, which has been circulated on the Internet a good deal, where I said that what mattered, ultimately, in literary translations, but equally so in any kind of translation, was the translator’s own voice. Well, I’m willing to take the blindfold test any day of the week. Give me three pages of any writer’s work, and I’ll tell you whether the text was written by a man or a woman, and whether he or she was young, middle-aged, or elderly. Conversely, give me any translation, and I’ll tell you whether the work was done by a man or a woman. This has very little to do with the “quality” of the work. If the quality is crap, because the person cannot spell or doesn’t know the difference between “surrender” in English and “surrender” in German, then we’re clearly not talking about the same thing. You write a sentence like the following, “the engineer adjusts the level of your voice while you cease the opportunity to read the passages that are difficult to pronounce, the tong twisters, etc.” -- and it’s goodbye. A writer who writes, in German, “in einem der Artikeln...” -- is clearly displaying another phenomenon often encountered in native speakers, who have dwelled apart from their native soil for too long -- language disintegration. 

The world is full of people like that, who persist, or insist, on continuing to work as translators. It’s important to know that language is a matter of give & take, like speaking on the phone, you talk and you listen. It’s not some dried Nescafé powder you retain in your brain and occasionally mix up with some spit. To do a good translation, you’ve got to be able to hear yourself, see what the thing sounds like. Keep your language alive.

As a translator who is also a writer, I put in a great deal of effort to keep my two (main) languages alive. (I also dabble in a handful of others). Most of what I write in English seems to come under the spell of whatever I happen to be reading at the time, an Elmore Leonard novel or Stephen R. Covey’s “Principle-Centered Leadership”. The same goes for German. But every sentence I write has been computer augmented and vocabulary enhanced. I’m a compulsive collector of words and expressions – and I’m not just referring to monster words like “Amperestundenzähler” or “Goldaugensuppenwürfel” or “Frauenselbsterfahrungsgruppe.” In my writing, things fairly tinkle like fairy lights on a Christmas tree. 

Just for the fun of it, I did a translation of IF I RAN THE ZOO by Dr. Seuss, into German. Nobody’s been able to do a decent Seussian translation into German, yet, and – bizarrely! -- all the books have flopped. My translation sounds different from the original -- and yet it follows in the tracks of the original almost perversely -- very closely -- even with the same rhymes sometimes -- and still -- it’s a German text, both different and similar, it’s even an improvement, on occasion, on the Seuss original. I’m not trying to prove anything by saying that, I love the Seuss books, and am planning to translate a handful more, just to show it can be done, just to satisfy my own imp of the perverse.

So it goes….