Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The master's touch

Warmer days in Southern California were a good help in giving shape to my master's thesis, but not the way I had planned. After leaving Minnesota for good --or so I thought-- to engage in some consulting work in translation management in the Golden State, I thought I could be in a better state of mind to focus my mind on the project at hand: I had done about 20 pages of my thesis, and I had another 80 to go.

Teaching translation has been the main driver of my master's in Audiovisual Translation. No doubt I felt possessed with a keen sense of curiosity for what translation theories do for the common translator in the field, not just in academia. When I started this online program at Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, I was comforted by the promising contents: subtitling, audiovisual translation theory, dubbing, software localization, and videogame localization. I could have just passed the six modules and be happy with it, but I pushed myself a little harder: I wanted the degree as well.

Starting to write my thesis back in 2007, when I was still freelancing in Córdoba, Argentina, felt comfortable and doable. I had --so I thought-- up to two years to complete it. My thesis advisor's emails back in late April 2008 were a reality check, a sudden wake-up call to the real deadline: end of this summer.

So, I had four months to write up my 100-page draft, send it to my advisor for approval, make the necessary corrections and improvements and resend it for final submission. I had never written anything longer than 20 pages before, let alone with such sense of dread, both academic --no extensions allowed-- and economic --buying more time would mean paying for another module at 600 euros. My thesis advisor, Josep Dávila, recommended that I trimmed my table of contents to a more manageable size and suggested that he had seen very good theses 60 pages long. I was running out of time, but an unforeseen event would provide me with the extra hours needed to succeed.

My translation management consulting job came to an abrupt end when my client and I could not agree on some key principles, so I left in mid July. That decision, although a very risky one from a financial viewpoint, turned out to be a good tactical move as it left me with whole days of free time to devote to writing.

I discovered that ideas on what and how to write came to me in waves of thoughts, completely unscheduled, sometimes at inopportune times of the night or while shopping. So I had to go back to the keyboard and punch out sentences that gave birth to paragraphs and beget more ideas as grandchildren. I was at the mercy of the flow of interconnected strings of thought, sometimes running like a brook, sometimes bursting and overflowing like a river. I realized then and there that I could have not depended on weekends and evenings to write a successful thesis of this kind, neither would I have been able to advance it by just sitting in front of my computer, waiting for ideas to happen.

By mid August, I was done with my draft, now 98 pages long, which I sent to Josep. About 3 weeks later, he returned it with very minor revisions and useful annotations. I amended my work accordingly and made some adjustments of my own and submitted my final version on August 30, 2008. Two months later, I moved to the greater Cleveland area in Ohio.

Last Monday, October 27, 2008, Josep Dávila emailed me my grade sheet for my thesis: un excelente! which is about as close to a 4.0 grade as one might expect. The content of this Informe de valoración follows:

«Análisis comparativo de los estilos de redacción en textos técnicos en español en los últimos 40 años»
Autor: Mario Enrique Chávez
Profesor Dr. Josep Dávila, Director de tesis
Septiembre de 2007 - Septiembre de 2008

Valoro muy positivamente el tema del trabajo y la manera como se ha planteado este tema. Me parece correcta la metodología empleada, tanto la elección de cuatro obras por década como la selección de los indicadores que se han tomado para realizar el análisis pormenorizado de las obras. Es una estructura de trabajo sencilla pero efectiva porque permite obtener resultados concretos y comparables.

Posiblemente uno de los puntos fuertes de este trabajo sea el hecho de que hay una motivación personal detrás de este proyecto. En la reflexión teórica inicial, fresca y amena por las referencias a contactos con los que ha hablado el autor del trabajo y por contener opiniones personales, se observa un gran interés por parte del autor, que logra contagiar a los lectores.

Como aspectos para mejorar del trabajo en el caso de que el autor deseara publicarlo o divulgar los resultados en entornos académicos, mencionaría la necesidad de incluir elementos de mayor precisión académica, como por ejemplo, más referencias académicas en el marco teórico de referencia o bien justificar de alguna manera los tecnicismos de uso dudoso. De todos modos, este trabajo, tal como está, es un trabajo excelente, completo, que alcanza los objetivos planteados y que aporta una buena base para justificar la necesidad de elaborar recursos para la redacción técnica en español. En especial, después de demostrar el descenso en la calidad estilística de los libros analizados. Resulta paradójico que cuantos más recursos informáticos y facilidades para documentarse tenga el traductor, peor sea el resultado.

Por último, felicito al autor y al director de este trabajo por lograr un trabajo tan remarcable a pesar de los inconvenientes de la colaboración a distancia y animo al autor a seguir investigando en el ámbito de los recursos para la redacción/traducción técnica.

My thesis advisor, Josep, has encouraged me to work on getting my thesis published. Stay tuned.

No comments: