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Translating Is Easier Said Than Done

by Béla S. Buslig
June 11, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 24

I was an abstractor for a very short time, translating from Hungarian to English. It was in the late '60s, and at the time, my English wasn't quite fluent enough to just take on any article. I must have heard someplace that people were doing abstracting in various languages. Since I spoke Hungarian, I figured I would be able to do it in Hungarian. But it was easier said than done.

First, you have to know what a word means, and then you have to figure out how to translate it. And some things aren't easily translatable. For example, a hot dog to an American is a little piece of sausage in a bun. A hot dog to most people in foreign languages is a dog that's very hot.

It would take me a couple hours to do one paper. I made sure I read the thing over 10 times before I sent it in, because it had to be as perfect as I could make it. I don't think I did more than a dozen papers over three or four years.

I still have the special typewriter that I used to type the abstracts. It was a portable Hermes typewriter with a keyboard that could type in Hungarian.

Buslig completed high school in Budapest, Hungary. He received a B.A. degree in chemistry and biology from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario (1962), an M.S. in molecular genetics from Florida State University (1967), and a Ph.D. in citrus biochemistry from the University of Florida (1970). He started his full-time career in 1967 as a chemist for the Florida Citrus Commission and, over the years, rose to senior research scientist. He retired from full-time work in 1998 but kept busy with part-time projects with the Department of Agriculture in Winter Haven, Fla.


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