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Translations better than originals / Adapting technique
Thread poster: Valters Feists

Valters Feists  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 18:14
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Apr 3, 2004

Hello literary translators,

Thinking about translation techniques, I analysed a rendering of a Pam Brown quote into Russian.

_______Original__________

"One small cat changes coming home to an empty house to coming home."
http://en.thinkexist.com/search/quotation.asp?id=162971

_______Translation_______

"Åñëè ó âàñ åñòü êîøêà, âû âîçâðàùàåòåñü íå â äîì, à äîìîé."
(Esli u vas est' koshka, vi' vozvrashtchaetes' ne v dom, a domoi.)
http://cats-portal.ru/read/word/aforizm.php
(Translator not credited.)

_______My backtranslation______

"If you own a cat you can come home, not just return to a house".
_______________________________

What do you think about how the first Eng-Rus translation had been done? Is it bad that the translator had abolished "one small cat" in favour of just "cat" and "empty house" in favour of just "a house"?

I think this technique is justified here -- because the Russian result is fluent and acceptable for the target readership -- "ne v dom, a domoi".

In the literary translations field, what is preferred nowadays: healthy adapting, or rendering rather exactly/literally?
Do the contemporary authorities in translation condemn adapting?
Or does it depend on the type of work/author/country/etc?
Have you noticed strong criticisms against adapting?


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 18:14
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
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Translations easily better Apr 3, 2004

Most translators will agree, that in order to get the message home the wording should be adopted optimally. In your example the original sentence was not easily understandable when read from paper, in a spoken form as an tv-commercial it would have been possible.
Customers, who are not familiar with the theory of translation, usually want the translator to stick firmly to the original. In literary translation one should avoid making the translation too simple, since awkward wording can be the flavor of the text in question. But if you want to get the translation as witty as the original you very often have to invent new jokes and puns, because the original ones are untranslatable or ineffective after translation.


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Valters Feists  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 18:14
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The sometimes terrible "sticking firmly to the original" Apr 3, 2004

I wonder if nowadays literary translators are pressured a lot by editors/publishers to translate exactly and literally? Can you share an experience when you were forbidden to make omissions/changes/additions (e.g., of puns), or criticised for doing so?

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Anil Goyal  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:44
English to Hindi
+ ...
Golden rule... Apr 4, 2004

A translation that looks like a translation is not a translation.

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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:44
English to Hindi
+ ...
Translating Literature Apr 4, 2004

Anil Goyal wrote:

A translation that looks like a translation is not a translation.


Anil probably refers to the 'old theory'. Alexander Pope translated Horace.

A translation should be both faithful as well as fluent. That is most important.

For what a literary translation should do, the best person to read would be Lawrence Venuti. A literary translation should recapture and recreate culture in a 'language not one's own, the feeling that is one's own' -- to quote Raja Rao, the eminent Indian English novelist.

Roomy Naqvy


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Valters Feists  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 18:14
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
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Is the 'old theory' abolished all over the place? Apr 5, 2004

Anil Goyal wrote:

A translation that looks like a translation is not a translation.


Let me improvise another rule:

"An over-adaptation that looks very different from the source is not a translation; it is a re-creation. "

But, is it bad to re-create?

Beside the rules of (1) faithfulness and (2) fluency, I think an important one is the rule of keeping the author's voice - I think it is especially valid in poetry translation, isn't it?...

In critique of poetry translations, is it possible (and necessary) to evaluate the exactness of translation?

I think the modern world and the modern translators -- most of them being non-literary translators dealing with technical, business, legal fields, etc, where pressure for exactness is huge -- are obsessessed with exactness (sometimes called "faithfulness"), while fluency and nativeness of translations are undervalued.


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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:44
English to Hindi
+ ...
Literary translation Apr 5, 2004

I began my life as a literary translator; still am.... I do translate commercially but I have kept my literary life alive. And I teach literature...

Roomy


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:14
Member
English to Turkish
Depends on the nature of the original text Apr 5, 2004

And in any case, is there any principle in translation that can be formulated without the additional phrase "but depends on... "?

In some texts "the foreign atmosphere" should be honored and preserved. The story I'm working on at the moment unfolds through a love affair between two people from different cultures, and the whole plot is based on the idea of belonging to two different -and at times clashing- cultures. Trying to make the heroes feel "one of our kind" for the target -Turkish- reader would not only be pointless, but would amount to betrayal both to my task and to the author.

On the other hand, there are texts I've never felt totally bound with the principle of fidelity. I've never done any omissions so far, and cannot imagine a situation that an omission is justified; but have made additions in plenty (especially as I hate to put translator's notes in literary texts, I usually prefer to embed the required explanation within the text itself, adding a couple of words), and changes, too, in cases where the reader shouldn't be distracted from what's essential in the plot, I dared change an object, a personal or professional title, a place name, or a landscape depiction, for example, into something that would find an equivalent in the target culture or be more familiar or comprehensible. Especially where puns, jokes, or slang is concerned, it's not possible to keep up with a blind fidelity, I believe. And there are stories whose success -and I mean literary success, not success in marketing terms- may be much better if the reader can identify with the heroes or heroins - some detective stories, for instance. There are also the types of readership that need to identify: imagine children's literature.

As for pressure from the editor and/or publisher... ah, I persuade them every time Well, joking aside, I know myself, especially if I do enjoy the text, I may tend to indulge too much in the "creative side of literary translation". So, it's good to have a publishing professional's comments to help me draw the line between creating and creatively translating. But apart from that, I've never received any pressure to slavishly stick to the words of the author at the expense of risking the readability of the text. This is my experience so far.

In short, I believe it is faithfulness that counts in translation, not fidelity. It's still possible to break up with the principle of fidelity but remain faithful. If the purpose of the author is served, the translation is faithful.


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Valters Feists  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 18:14
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
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TOPIC STARTER
So what is the beauty of translating? Apr 6, 2004

Let me propose that the beauty of translating lies in the mindfulness of the translator (as well as it is more pleasant to read and to translate texts that are written mindfully).

What's bothering about the translating of the blindly faithful and "sticking-to-the-letter" type, is the likely mindlessness of the translator doing it.

What makes the process and the product of translation sparkle with life, is creativity. Alas, to date translators often have to translate huge amounts of text while lacking the opportunity and/or capability to be creative. If there is work, someone has to do it -- thus in the end the advent of machine translation might be a blessing for us all (computers doing all the boring work and humans doing the creative part, maybe).

On another, happier note, mindfulness doesn't necessarily require creativity. One can do the job in a mantra-like fashion and still be mindful.
"Mindfulness
A mental factor that functions not to forget the object realized by the primary mind."
http://66.102.11.104/search?q=cache:KitakpFGKpQJ:kadampa.org/glossary.htm


I'd like to ask whether you literary translators sometimes find yourselves producing good and interesting translations while translating rather quickly and without thinking about creative details? For example when faced with a massive novel...?


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RafaLee
Australia
Local time: 02:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
2 Cents from a university student Apr 7, 2004

I believe that one of the main objectives of literary translation is to send the message across to the target audience and to fullfill the writer's aim.

Last year, as an exchange student in Barcelona, I had to do a translation from English into Spanish (my third language!!).
So I chose to translate an e-chainmail joke "A guide to Arab Movies", a satire written by a Lebanese and Asian Australian to make fun of the current issues faced by contemporary Arab community.

One of the problems I faced:
As the original text consists of "modified" American movies titles, I had to modify the original SPanish title of the movies WHILE carrying the same message across. So literal translation was out of question.
For example:
The original title : Shanghai Noon
The "Arabic title" : Syrian Noon
Original Spanish title : Syrian Kid del Este al Oeste ( Syrian Kid from East to West)
The translated version: Syrian kid de Melilla a Malaga. (Melilla is a Spanish territory located at North Africa, where there is a huge Morrocan community)

Another tricky part is that I also had to adapt to the target audience's perspective to get the message. For example:
The "Arabic title" : Gangs of Yemen
The original Spanish title: Gangs of New York
The translated version: Gangs of Nasiriah

Why I changed "Yemen" to "Nasiriah"? Because the more Spaniards have heard of Nasiriah, an Iraqi city where some of the Spanish troops are located , than Yemen.

I have to go back to my work now..
So the point is, a literary translator has to rewrite the story in accordance with the target audience's perspective.


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astrid castellini  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 13:14
English to Spanish
+ ...
what a pleasure! Apr 9, 2004

Roomy Naqvy wrote:

I began my life as a literary translator; still am.... I do translate commercially but I have kept my literary life alive. And I teach literature...

Roomy



Roomy,
you are certainly a lucky guy! you keep your literary life alive! Is it what you do for a living or is it an amazing hobby? And you teach literature, too!!!!!! So, you must have a lot of experience in facing (and solving!) literary difficulties ! Can you share a little with us?

[Edited at 2004-04-10 05:02]


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Palko Agi  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:14
English to Hungarian
+ ...
in Hungary Apr 20, 2004

it is not considered important to translate exactly, but we have to faithful.
At least, this is the case with my publisher. My editor only checks if I translated everything (once I lost a paragraph somewhere), and if it is fluent in Hungarian. And we always discuss the mood, the voice, narration techniques... If I make changes in the text, I explain them.


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Valters Feists  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 18:14
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How to do the metrics of a translation's exactness? May 4, 2004

Are there any methods (developed academically or otherwise) for metering more or less exactly how faithful/literal vs. re-creative a translation is? Can you somewhat comprehensively analyse the lexical, syntactical etc. properties of the translation?

I realise that turning a piece of text into a mathematical formula could be rather complicated -- yet I'm still curious about statistical methods (vs. free literary critique methods -- which we could talk about for hours upon hours without arriving at an exact result).

Any chance such statistical methods have been or are being developed in academic, amateur or technical circles? Any software or algorithms?

I imagine that, if such a tool/method did exist, it could be possible to use it in a situation where the client or editor accuses the translator for changing too much. The stats method would give some kind of tr-n exactness quotient for the given passage of translation.


Xola wrote: ...
pressure from the editor and/or publisher... ah, I persuade them every time Well, joking aside, I know myself, especially if I do enjoy the text, I may tend to indulge too much in the "creative side of literary translation". ...

In short, I believe it is faithfulness that counts in translation, not fidelity. ...


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