Very often, prospect clients get in touch to ask about getting short phrases, quotes, or life mottos translated into Greek. As a professional translator, I always ask a bit more about the translation and its use. Knowing these details can make all the difference in giving the translation the appropriate tone, style and phrasing.
Usually, this type of translation enquiries are made for texts to be used as taglines, business names or tattoos and none of these three are a matter of ‘just translation'. In this blog post, I will be focusing on tattoos.
So, when someone gets in touch and asks me how do you translate “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud”, my first thought is “Why? Why do you need this translated into Greek?”.
When it comes to short, inspirational quotes, life mottos and famous sayings, we all know they are not about the words, but the impact they generate. A ‘straight’ translation would almost definitely never work.
What’s required from the translator is to read the phrase, understand it, research it, analyse it and come up with a translation that generates the same impact and possibly come up with alternative translations too.
My tattoo consultation service goes a few steps further.
I put myself in my client’s shoes. I am thinking "I’ve just decided to permanently tattoo on my skin my favourite life motto but in Greek letters. I like the way they look and they remind me of the amazing Greek culture and history and that incredible holiday I’ve had last year in Greece. So I want it in Greek. I put it through Google Translate but I am not so sure I trust it, so my tattoo artist encourages me to send it off to a specialist. The specialist comes back with a translation. Now, why would I trust the specialist?"
And that’s what I offer, assurance. I never ‘just translate' phrases to be used for a tattoo. I return 3 different adaptations each one with its own back translation into English so that you know what they all mean. I also provide comments for each adaptation that highlight why I like or don’t like aspects of them.
And if you are looking to get a popular Ancient Greek saying tattooed, then I also provide a few words about the saying, where it came from, the philosophical movement it represents and any ideologies behind it.
I also handwrite the Greek translation using modern-day Greek letters, Ancient Greek letters, including Ancient Greek intonation system, all capital, all lower case letters and so on and then I scan back to you all the different options.
This is so that you can choose which style you like. Your tattoo artist can then copy your preferred option.
In my career as a linguist, I’ve come across several different strange reactions and perceptions to Greek letters including a typesetter who genuinely believed that all E (epsilons) where Σ (sigmas) and who changed my translation for a leaflet by replacing all Ε by Σ.
If you have just decided to spend a considerable amount of money and go through some pain to get a tattoo, why wouldn’t you spend a fraction of the price to get a professional, yet painless, linguistic tattoo consultation before you end up with something you’ll regret for life?
Thinking of getting a tattoo in Greek and need some help with the language?
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vasiliki is a professional translator and interpreter working with English and Greek. She specialises in legal, marketing, and psychometrics. She is a member of CIoL and ITI and she is registered with the Greek Embassy. Her mission is to help you reach your goals through the power of words. You can contact her at email@example.com and you can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.