Here is the good news: the translation of Systemisch werken. Een relationeel kompas voor hulpverleners is finished, with its new title Systemic perspectives in mental health, social work and youth care: A relational compass.

Fortunately, the translation task spared us from blood, sweat and tears but not from agony, grey hairs and extended screen hours. The final finetuning as I call it, such as cross-checking references, correcting phrases or words in earlier chapters that were changed over time, re-reading the text for the umpteenth time, crossing all those t’s and dotting all those i’s, was like running a marathon. Those last few miles are the hardest, everything hurts and you wonder why you embarked with enthusiasm and spark on that first training run. You have to dig deep mentally to keep going, trusting that the finish line is around the corner and your support crew ready with fluffy slippers. Tired and satisfied we can now look back on completing that run.

Halfway the 12 chapters, I finally felt confident enough to loosen the grip of literal translation*. I chucked out repetitions and words that did not add much to the content, such as sentence starters like maar/but, soms/sometimes, of/or. I chopped longer sentences in two or three, I changed the sequence around within sentences, I rewrote paragraphs, I consulted with friends to find English equivalents for Flemish or Dutch expressions and I changed first and last names.

Let’s tell you a bit more about the name issue. We decided to keep the surname of the family that features throughout the book, the Dufour-de Soek family. We were reluctant to lose the unique Dutch-Flemish context of the original. The matriarch of the family is called Joke. My friend Chris, my translation shadow, pointed out that an English-speaking audience would read it as ‘joke’. We immediately came up with Agnes, corresponding with the woman’s age and era. The editors liked it.

As I progressed through the chapters I realised more names needed to be anglicised. Never expected to see such an extensive list of names! I decided to keep the same initial of the first or last name where possible and searched for appropriate alternatives, in keep with the age of the person. I thought of friends and other people of similar age and I consulted lists of popular names of a particular era. Renaming Joanneke, a teenage girl, as Jean was out of the question. She became Gemma. English sounding names in the original text such as Vera, Benny, Jaco, Carla, Thomas, Steve and Marion were keepers. Others changed: Ans/Alison, Evert/Eddy, Roos/Rose, Koen/Tom, Pieter/Paul, Thies/Rhys. The surname Boone became Bosh and Driessen Drayton. Thank you, friends, colleagues and acquaintances for [unbeknownst to you] providing inspiration!

I have learnt so much during the translation, not only about my native tongue and my second language, but also about how culturally and socially embedded language is. Thank you Chris, Ellen, Anke and Justine for the inspiring and enlightening discussions.

* Did anyone notice the difference? In the ensuing chapters the editors made less comments and requested less changes, my shadow translator commented on the drastic reduction of his work load. I think that counts as a YES.

P.S. Would I do it again? The jury is still deliberating …          

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