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Translating documents containing foul language
Thread poster: Maria Nicholas
Maria Nicholas  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:25
Greek to English
+ ...
Aug 2, 2003

I've been approached by an individual who needs a translation of an e-mail correspondence between her husband and an acquaintance of his. According to the person, it's about 1000 to 2000 words and contains a lot of foul language (possibly a flame war between her husband and the acquaintance). She has asked me if I would be comfortable doing the translation and has agreed to my rate. What should I do? Should I ask to see a copy of the translation before agreeing to do it? I should definitely have her sign a contract, right? What is the best course of action when being asked to translate potentially offensive material? Thanks for any and all help!

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Thomas Magnuson
Canada
Local time: 19:25
English to Japanese
+ ...
Get ready to blush (*^ 0 ^*) Aug 2, 2003

Maria Nicholas wrote:

What is the best course of action when being asked to translate potentially offensive material?


I'd say it just depends on your own personal tolerance for the that sort of material...Other than that, I don't see why it'd be any kind of "special" case. If it's a "flame war" though I would try to keep my translation as "dirty," or offensive as the original only insofar as it might be used by your client later as evidence against the other party.

Well, I'm not sure if that helped but good luck


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Louise Dupont  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:25
English to French
I think they know... Aug 2, 2003

...what's in the e-mail and the just want a confirmation or some clarification.
I would like to see it first, before accepting to translate it.
Good luck


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Sylvain Leray  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:25
German to French
Hi Maria Aug 2, 2003

I have once translated an e-mail correspondence between a young woman and her many friends (both males and females)abroad. This woman worked in a company and used her professionnal mailbox to send and receive her mails, so her boss wanted to have the messages translated, since they were all in German and the company is in France.

I was quite surprised by some contents, then this woman had a "rough" life and used some "dirty" words, though always with humor. But I did not felt uncomfortable with this, as I took it as it was : a woman who had fun and shared her experiences with her friends...

I did'nt think about the consequences this correspondence could have. I just focused on the translation, without asking me anything about the aim of it (I guess the boss was just looking for a good reason to dismiss her...).

So it's up to you to decide wether you feel comfortable with translating some "explicit lyrics" or not I don't think you have to think about the rest, just focus on your job.

Kind regards,
Sylvain.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:25
Flemish to English
+ ...
Grasp the meaning and convey the word. Aug 2, 2003

It is the task of the translator to grasp the meaning and convey the word. It is not the task of the translator to render a moral judgement however foul the language used may be.
The same is true for the interpreter, who conveys the meaning orally and should not get involved in discussions.


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xxxTransflux
Local time: 04:25
French to English
+ ...
Well put Aug 2, 2003

Williamson wrote:

It is the task of the translator to grasp the meaning and convey the word. It is not the task of the translator to render a moral judgement however foul the language used may be.
The same is true for the interpreter, who conveys the meaning orally and should not get involved in discussions.


No need to get tied up in a moral conundrum. I think this kind of job could be very interesting just from a linguistic point of view, but if you personally cannot tolerate foul language then you should turn it down. I take all jobs as they are in a professional manner, without judgement, and simply try to convey the meaning in the target language.
Best wishes


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Irena Gintilas
Local time: 21:25
Lithuanian to English
+ ...
Faithful echo Aug 2, 2003

I do lots of interpreting in courts. Traffic cases are mostly routine, but for each criminal case I have to give an oath about my truthful interpreting. That verbal oath is like a contract for you in this case. Remember that from the legal point of view you are just a faithful echo, do not add anything, and do not omit anything. Do not pass a moral judgment or let your emotions get involved. Treat it as pure business. After all - you will be paid for this.
You can literally use a mouth wash or antibacterial soap for your hands after you are done - if that makes you feel better ~~~:o)but honestly perform your duty.

Good luck,
Irena Gintilas


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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 04:25
English to French
+ ...
Ask to see the copy first Aug 2, 2003

this way you can see for yourself if you are up to the translation. No need for you to do this job if it goes against your convictions, not worth the stress brought on you.

No shame in saying this translation is not your cup of tea.

Lien


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:25
English to German
+ ...
I would not do it ... Aug 2, 2003

but this is just because of my personal feeling. I think if it is really bad stuff, I would have to dig too deep in other sorts of that stuff in my language to find the right words On the other hand, you could try to use KuDoZ. That might be fun

First make a personal decision how you feel about it. Then, if you are not sure, look if you need the money or the person really needs your help. And then do or do not do it.
It is, after all, a job, just like translating a book where someone describes exactly this kind of things and gives some example letters for it.
Good luck!


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invguy  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 05:25
English to Bulgarian
I entirely agree with the others... Aug 2, 2003

... who said it is just a job, and what you need to do is try to convey both form and meaning as faithfully as possible.

If you yourself feel uncomfortable dealing with this kind of language, ask yourself whether *you* want to do it - this is a matter of personal preference. Have in mind that you may have to discuss with your client some (plainly put) words and expressions with the purpose of clarifying their exact meaning. If you will be blushing and sweating all the time, ditch it. Else, nothing wrong with the job. One could argue that it is not much different from what surgeons have to do sometimes when operating


Um... then, maybe it's worth to consider whether you would actually be able to manage it? It might be a good idea to see an excerpt first. I mean, just as any other specific area, foul language requires some in-depth knowledge... well, I'm not saying experience, but at least extensive observations. If you are the kind of person who has never uttered a foul word in their life, you might find such a job pretty difficult.

Good luck!


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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Make sure you get paid Aug 2, 2003

As the person is not an agency, I might ask for some up front downpayment. I would worry less about the foul language than the payment. I mean, two friends talking with foul language is no big deal; the big deal is: are you sure you will be paid? Also, I'm curious. If you haven't seen the text and the woman doesn't speak Greek or the other way around, how do you know its foul OR how does she??

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Alexander Chisholm  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:25
Italian to English
+ ...
I once had to do this. Aug 3, 2003

In my first week in a new job as a key account manager, the owner called me into his office along with my immediate boss since they had been passed (I don't know how) an internal communication from one of our clients which was talking about our company.
The correspondednce used some pretty strong words and they asked me to translate as best I could, as they needed to have the correct idea of just how angry etc. the other company were with us.
It was a little embarrising seeing as it was my first week, but I just had to grit my teeth and get on with it.
It's all part of the job.


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Pat Jenner
Local time: 03:25
German to English
+ ...
and at least you know in advance Aug 3, 2003

That's exactly right. It can be more awkward in interpreting situations where tempers can flare pretty quickly. Then you have to combine professional detachment with trying to capture the emotions of both sides - not easy, believe me!

Williamson wrote:

It is the task of the translator to grasp the meaning and convey the word. It is not the task of the translator to render a moral judgement however foul the language used may be.
The same is true for the interpreter, who conveys the meaning orally and should not get involved in discussions.


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Valeria Verona  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 23:25
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
not a problem Aug 4, 2003

Why should foul language be a problem for a translator? It's just a convention... it's language! I don't mind translating this kind of material and I try to be as faithful as possible. I don't feel entitled to downtown or soften foul language. As Williamson pointed out we can't pass judgement!
I also agree with Jane... do you know the client? If not, make sure you get paid before or at the moment of delivering your translation.
Good luck!
V.


[Edited at 2003-08-04 02:07]


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Miller
Local time: 04:25
German to English
Translating foul language Aug 4, 2003

Maria Nicholas wrote:

I've been approached by an individual who needs a translation of an e-mail correspondence between her husband and an acquaintance of his. According to the person, it's about 1000 to 2000 words and contains a lot of foul language (possibly a flame war between her husband and the acquaintance). She has asked me if I would be comfortable doing the translation and has agreed to my rate. What should I do? Should I ask to see a copy of the translation before agreeing to do it? I should definitely have her sign a contract, right? What is the best course of action when being asked to translate potentially offensive material? Thanks for any and all help!


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