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Language — or rather text — played a key role in the recent high-profile departure of the president of Harvard University, Claudine Gay. The simple story is that Gay was found to have plagiarised other scholars’ work on multiple… Read More
Oenology: the study of wines. And no, that doesn’t mean just looking at a glass of wine somewhat intently then glugging away. The study of wines and other alcohols is a huge field of study, and a complex one at that. A very good friend of mine, Georgie, has a ‘nose’ for wine and is studying for a diploma with the Wines and Spirits Education Trust. Far from being a jolly afternoon every Saturday sampling lots of tasty drinks, this is serious stuff and involves much theoretical, scientific and practical study.
So, if the study of wines is a complex affair, so too is the translation of such a field. As discussed in a previous article, the translation of menus and culinary texts is difficult enough, particularly from French where the flowery artistic, sensual descriptions simply don’t translate into English. How then are descriptions of, articles about, and labels attached to wine tackled? Georgie, who is also a trained translator, translates specialist texts from French into English: specifically in the field of wine and alcohol. So, I spoke to her to find out more…
Absolutely! A lot of the texts I translate are quite technical, so you need to have knowledge of the field and the types of texts involved. There is also a specific type of language used in things such as tasting notes, which can feel contrived and unnatural at first, so it helps to be exposed to these as much as possible. Once you become familiar with the style of writing it’s easier to translate with more fluidity, at the same time you don’t want to ‘overdo’ the language either. As you become comfortable with the type of descriptors used this helps you to develop your own style. Working in the field with other experts also means there are people (Masters of Wine for example) on hand to help you with terms you’re not sure of!
There are quite a few words, for example the technical terms surrounding the wine making process or words such as ‘terroir’, that have been borrowed from French, so its a matter of being aware of these and not over translating. You also need to be aware that some terms might be better known to the average French person (who has grown up in a winemaking culture) than they are to your average English speaker, so some terms or references to regions might need to be explained slightly.
You learn about different producers and keep up to date with the industry at the same time.
I would say it is important to have a basic knowledge of the subject, and qualifications such as WSET are really valuable (level 2 minimum and level 3 if you’re interested in pursuing it further). Even if you don’t pursue a career in the wine and spirits industry the knowledge is never lost, as you get to use it in your everyday life too.
Thanks Georgie for sharing her insights into the wonderful world of wine and translation. So, next time you’re happily supping a beautiful Bordeaux, spare a thought for the person who has worked on creating the language for the label’s tasting notes!
Interview with Georgina Haacke.
For further information about qualifications check out: https://www.wsetglobal.com
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