How I Was Swept Away by Bulgarian Translation

Working as a professional in the area of Bulgarian translation is fun. I like the diversity. In the space of a single day, I may translate a camera manual, a mattress description, a concert flyer and the script for a poker TV show. For the last five years, I have worked with one of the largest media groups in Bulgaria to translate the scripts for sports magazine shows which they receive from their international partners. As a sports fan, I love the work, because I learn the rules and secrets of many different sports.

One day, I received a script called “Total Fight.” It was a freestyle snowboard competition in Andora. At that point, I was happy but clueless that this translation would become the most difficult in my life and turn into a “Total Fight” to find the right translations. Being a skier myself, I have been swept away by snowboarders on the slopes on numerous occasions. This time I was swept away by a Bulgarian translation about snowboarding. What made it so difficult?

  • The snowboard terms were hard to translate. The text bristled with terms like “down bar with DD”, “Switch Frontside 360 Tailbonk”, “Backside Double Cork” or “Pretzel 450 off.” Backed into a corner, I had to call for help. I contacted the local snowboard federation. We spent a whole afternoon trying to find the most suitable Bulgarian words for the complicated jumps and slope features.
  • Bulgarian is a lot more descriptive then English. If you can say something in English with three words, you have to use 10 words to say the exact same thing in Bulgarian. Usually, this is not a huge translation problem, but in a TV show it is. There is action constantly on the screen, and the voice-over audio must keep pace with the video. I not only had to find a way to retain the meaning but to use much fewer words to ensure high-quality translation.
  • It is hard to translate word play. The snowboarders in the show turned out to be quite the jokers. Clever ones. They used a literary technique called word play, which is every translator’s nightmare. You have to be witty in order to think of word play in one language alone, but you have to be twice as witty in order to translate one into another language.
  • Translating a TV show means you translate not just the voice-over, but video as well. As someone who does a lot of economic and legal document translation, my opinion is that it is far easier to work with dull documents such as company agreements or accounting balances. Translating a TV show requires you to constantly look at the video because there might be something that you are missing in the script: a gesture, a smile or even an eye roll, and this changes the meaning completely.

After agonizing for a few days and torturing the guys at the Snowboard federation, the translation was finally ready. The show was aired and it was a hit. It’s gratifying to know that my translation played a part in that success. However, for me personally, it was a total fight up to the last word. And the fight will soon continue. Next month, the snowboarders have a new tour starting – heaven help me!

About Marieta Plamenova

I’m a native speaker of Bulgarian, living in Sofia. I have a graduate degree in law, and an undergraduate degree in economics. I primarily translate economic and legal content, but I also enjoy translating for tourism, sports, health, cooking, literature, and new technologies.