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quotations not found in the original language
Thread poster: Blanca González
Blanca González  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
English to Spanish
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Jan 24, 2005

What can we do when we are translating a book that contains translations of quotations from books that were originally written in the language you are translating to and cannot find them anywhere?

For example, I'm translating a novel from Spanish into English. In it, there are quotations in Spanish from a book that was written in English 250 years ago. Obviously, I can't find the original English paragraphs.

There are also words said by Gandhi in English, but translated into Spanish. I've read all the words said by Gandhi I have been able to find in the Internet, but these don't appear anywhere.

I don't feel I can just make a new translation into English, but then, what can I possibly do?


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Maria Antonietta Ricagno  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
Member
English to Italian
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quotations Jan 24, 2005

[quote]Blanca González wrote:

"What can we do when we are translating a book that contains translations of quotations from books that were originally written in the language you are translating to and cannot find them anywhere?"

I would leave all quotations as they appear in the book you are translating. They are not part of the book, as they are quotations, so you are responsible for the translation of the book, nothing else.
Also consider that you have no way to check if those quotations are true to their original counterparts, as you say they have been translated in Spanish. A possibility exists that the author added/changed or left out anything to fit them into his book.

Hope this helps.

Antonella


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Blanca González  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
English to Spanish
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TOPIC STARTER
the author wants them in English Jan 24, 2005

That's the problem, he will not leave them in Spanish, as he wishes the English speaking reader to understand them.

Thank you so much, Antonella, for your help.

[Edited at 2005-01-24 19:33]

[Edited at 2005-01-24 19:34]


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Maria Antonietta Ricagno  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
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English to Italian
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then... Jan 24, 2005

...you could add the translation in brackets after the original quotation. It would be a reasonable compromise.

Un saludo y suerte

Antonella


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Blanca González  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
English to Spanish
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Yes... Jan 24, 2005

that could be a good way of doing it. I'll ask the author what he thinks about it.

Thanks a lot.


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Deborah Shannon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:22
Member (2002)
German to English
Author should help you much more Jan 25, 2005

Hi Blanca,

I think what you describe is a special case: if the quotes were originally from English, and that is now the target language, readers who know the subject are likely to notice that the quotes "sound wrong" if you translate them yourself. So if the quotes are at all extensive, try and avoid this option.

I definitely wouldn't leave them in Spanish translation with English back-translations either - that has to be the worst of both worlds, and will really draw attention to the problem.

The author must have had some reference material for these quotes, and a rough idea of where they came from. If he wants a book to be proud of, he must do some leg-work on your behalf and track down the relevant passages in English. It probably wouldn't take long if he phoned a major library or archive and explained what he needed and why.

Good luck - Deborah


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Sheila Hardie  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:22
Member
Catalan to English
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Ask the client!! Jan 25, 2005

Hi Blanca,

I totally agree with Deborah here. In fact, I've had similar problems myself with quotations. In the end, the onus is on the author to find the original English texts - especially if you are working directly with the author of the book (I'm not sure if that is your case). It is really up to them to find the source. After all, if they used the quotation, they should know where it comes from.

The text I am translating right now (not a book) - Spanish->English - had quotations in Spanish of a poem originally written in Italian (by Petrarch). I had no idea which of Petrarch's poems it came from and, in desperation, posted the question on Proz (Spanish-Italian). To my amazement, a fan of Petrarch's work (thanks, Flavio!) kindly helped me out. He recognised the text and even managed to find an 'official' English translation of the Italian!

However, if I hadn't been lucky enough to find the answer on Proz, I would definitely have asked the client (who is not the author of my texts) what they wanted me to do.

Good luck!


Sheila


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Blanca González  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
English to Spanish
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TOPIC STARTER
thanks... Jan 25, 2005

... Deborah and Sheila. The client is the writer of the book. He found the quotes in other books and magazines in Spanish, already translated. He just tells me to re-translate them again, but I keep telling him that I cannot do that. He is unable to see where the problem is, all he wants is the reader to understand the quotation and to support his theories with what famous people have said on the subject (vegetarianism, by the way), regardless of whether they are the actual words or not.

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:22
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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Gandhi Jan 25, 2005

Hi Blanca,

There will always be problems with Ghandi because he has quotes that he said on several occasions, any of which could be correct. There are also quotes in Indian languages translated into English and back again, some of them by Ghandi himself. His disciples/biographers also quote him, and a lot of them being bilingual, you'll have to use your own criteria. One solution would be to Google with "Ghandi" in the first mandatory search line and one or two keywords you are reasonably sure of in the second. No guarantee, but you might find versions you can judge.

Hope it helps.


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BrigitteHilgner  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 20:22
German to English
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searching for quotations Jan 25, 2005

My experience with authors (not only as a translator, but also when doing historical research): they are pretty useless when it comes to quotes. So far, I have not had to deal with any quote from a book published 250 years ago, but I have always used university and other public libraries to at least try to find the originals. Some publishers are lenient and let me get away without all the original quotes, but some insist - I think it can be a question of copyright. I think we are moving in some grey zone here - if not specified in the contract, we should probably not be expected to find original quotes. But do you want to lose a client because of this issue?

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joeybee
French to English
Ask the author if it's ok to paraphrase the quotation Jan 25, 2005

I understand how uneasy you must be feeling. I would say it's contrary to translating deontology to translate back into the original language from a translation. You are more or less being asked to fake it. Quotation marks means that you are citing the person's exact words. If you can't find the original, you could try to paraphrase what you have, without quotation marks. Instead of : 'Ghandi said: "Give peace a chance"', ( or maybe it was "Give vegetables a chance") you could write: "Ghandi said that we should try togive peace a chance". That way, if the wording is not 100% the same (and it won't be, if you're translating a translation) it doesn't matter too much. Personally, I think your author is being very sloppy.
Good luck.


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A Giridhar RAO
Local time: 00:52
English to Esperanto
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GandHi not GHandi Jan 26, 2005

Parrot wrote:

One solution would be to Google with "Ghandi" in the first mandatory search line....


And if that doesn't work, you might like to try "Gandhi"

But, yes, I agree with joeybee:

> Personally, I think your author is being very sloppy.


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Blanca González  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
English to Spanish
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all Jan 26, 2005

You've been a great, great help. Imagine, joyebee, when your comment arrived, I was on the phone, talking to the author! I asked him if he agreed and, after some convincing talk on my side, he said yes!! So that's what I'm going to do.

Thank you, Cecilia, for your suggestion. I had already done it, both with Ghandi and Gandhi, Guiridhar [:)], (you can find both in Google!) and I had read hundreds of quotations, but I couldn't find the ones in the book.

Once again, thank you very much.


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
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English
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Another resource? Feb 2, 2005

Hi Blanca,

when faced with a similar problem some time back, I posted it on English Monolingual Kudoz. I had scoured my "Collected Poems" of the author to no avail. So I mentioned it was Keats and did a literal translation into English of the Spanish "quote" - asking if that rang any bells with anyone.

Soon, I got back an answer from a keen Keatsian who said "That sounds like a paraphrase of Ode to the Sea - indeed it was. Problem solved.

The funny thing was, it also illustrated just how liberal the Spanish translator had been when translating the Keats line into Spanish

The real killer is, if they have done what I used to do at college (I shamefacedly admit to it now) and that is invent quotes to back up an argument, knowing no-one (in pre Internet days) would ever look them up. How our sins come back to haunt us, eh?


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Blanca González  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
English to Spanish
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TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Berni Feb 5, 2005

You are right!!! Sometimes the first translator makes it a really hard job to find the original! I've seen quite a few of those...

As for if they are invented, well, there's nothing I can do there, I just have to take for granted they are true, don't you think so? If I cannot find them, I'll just paraphrase them, as joeybee suggested and the author accepted... fortunately!!


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