Michael Martin Translations

German - English

where A cross-cultural leap is just a katzensprung

I am a NYC-based translator (DE-EN) with a B.A. equivalent in German Literature and Language (English minor) from Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany, and an M.A. in German Literature and Language from Purdue University, Indiana, USA. As a first career, I taught German in Germany, the UK and the United States. Having dabbled in translation since college, I started working full-time in the translation field in 2007. I currently hold an in-house translator position in NYC but also take on freelance work helping individuals, companies and agencies. My expertise lies in corporate compliance and communications, business, marketing, and creative translations in many shapes and forms.

What makes me different

We all know translators wear many hats. Meticulous work, timely delivery and solid technology skills are the usual expectations placed on any professional translator, and I set appropriate standards for my work as well. But in the final analysis, what I really care about the most is translation strategy.

holistic translation. putting a round peg in a square hole?

For starters, I am a fan of holistic translations. At a minimum, this entails taking a step back to take in the full segment as opposed to giving each sub-segment the same amount of attention. Of course, initially we may all feel compelled to parse a German source text like a Latin sentence to identify each component and ensure proper comprehension. After all, that first translation is drafted through a lens that is still rooted in the language and culture of the source text.

it won't cut it, if it ain't idiomatic

With the crucial second step, however, my holistic approach prompts me to shift emphasis from the literal meaning of the source text (what the German “says”) to its communicative intent. Once I have gained clarity about that, I will adopt its content to what I perceive as the cultural mindset of the target language. Ideally, the outcome will be faithful to German ideas without sticking to German linguistic patterns; and bridge the cross-cultural divide through translations solutions that look natural in English without interference from German.

through a wider lens

There are further underlying reasons why the distinction between parsing individual segments and examining ideas in a more holistic fashion is so important. The latter provides translators with a wider lens and more structural flexibility for rearranging and reorganizing text. Here’s why that matters. The translators network Proz.com provides a platform allowing translators to post single-term queries and award Kudoz points for the best crowd-sourced answer. While this appears to be an efficient format for eliciting a large amount of responses, it turns out that many queries cannot be compressed into a single-term format because of terminological complexities.

need a diagram for that sentence?

A narrow focus on single terms has obvious structural limitations. A German noun phrase may best be rendered verbally in English, active verbs may be more effective than passive verbs, and idiomatic expressions in the source language may not have a direct or only partial equivalents in the target language. To complicate matters further, a single term on one side may have multiple possible matches on the other side, end up being split up and scattered around the whole sentence, or give rise to myriads of other issues.

I love to post responses to queries on Proz.com. But in the vast majority of cases, I don’t settle on a solution until I’ve translated the whole sentence…

What's new

Check out my Portfolio section for postings of translation samples. As an initial project, I will use this space to translate self-selected headlines from Süddeutsche Zeitung, highlighting my interest in sloganesque speech.

I welcome respectful comments and I will do my best to respond to your emails. Stay tuned!