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Character speaks target language in original!
Thread poster: Craig Meulen

Craig Meulen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:31
German to English
+ ...
Sep 30, 2007

Hello friends

What's the best way to deal with this situation, please?

Background:
In the original English story, character B is heard speaking a foreign language. Character A doesn't know the language, and can't understand exactly what is said.
The language is German, and this is an important cultural reference for any reader that recognises it, since at several points in the story there are obvious references to Germany and German history.

Question:
How to deal with this dialogue when translating the English story into German?

Possible solutions:
1) Re-write the dialogue lines in English, so they are foreign to the German reader.
2) Re-write the dialogue lines in another foreign language, so they are foreign and more likely to be unintelligible to the German reader.
3) Leave the lines in German, with a footnote explaining they were in German in the original.
4) Leave the lines in German, but re-formulate the text around the dialogue to make the situation clear - "A heard B speaking a foreign, probably European language which he didn't understand:..."


I'd be grateful for your opinions,

Thanks

Craig


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Nikoleta Dimitriou
United Kingdom
English to Greek
+ ...
quite a daring suggestion... Sep 30, 2007

I'm not sure whether this would work, it certainly depends on the exact phrase and the tone of the text but...

perhaps you can leave the dialogue lines in German, at the same time re-writing the German words using pronunciation spelling into an unpunctuated or randomly punctuated sound-phrase. this way it will initially seem odd and unintelligible to the German reader, just like it does to char. A. Of course soon what char B says will be understood by the reader, so a footnote would come in handy as well.

I'm not sure what I suggest is very clear, and it's certainly a controversial point.

I'll try to come up with an example:

"wats thebest waee todeelwith thisituationplee z" ?
I'm not familiar with pronunciation spelling but i think this instance makes my point clearer..

in any case, I have to say that as a reader I've found that in most cases the translator chooses the solution #3.


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Sheilann  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:31
Spanish to English
Option C Sep 30, 2007

Leave it as is and give a footnote saying"In German (or whatever, or unkown) in original". Then give a translation in the target language

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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:31
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Font Sep 30, 2007

This is obviously something to discuss with the publisher of the final product and/or your client.

One possibility is to put a footnote indicating that it was in German originally and put the text in a strange font (like maybe Fraktur) that Germans can read, but which takes a little effort.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
One solution Sep 30, 2007

Hi, Craig.

There are lots of ways to handle this. One solution is to set all the German in italic type, and mark the first occurrence with a phrase like "he said in German." Add similar markers here and there ("he replied in English") until the reader gets used to the convention that the italic type represents German speech.

I recently had a similar problem: I was translating something into English in which characters were supposedly speaking bad English. So I had to decide, for each character, how bad their English would be.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:31
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Another example Oct 1, 2007

I don't have an answer for this, but I recently read John Grisham's book "The Broker", in which there is quite a lot about someone being taught to speak Italian. Where Italian is given, the English is given after it in brackets. It occurred to me to wonder how a translation of the book into Italian would handle this (it probably has been published in Italian, so someone might know the answer).

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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:31
Member (2004)
English to Polish
It depends... Oct 1, 2007

In my opinion, it depends mostly on how important is not knowing what is being said to the character A, i.e. how much would it "spoil" the story. If he/she is the protagonst od the book (or even the narrator), then I would skip the lines altogether, writing "B said something in a foreign language, possibly German". Even if quoting, I would rather go for option D than C (footnotes do break the suspension of disbelief, don't they?).

I am afraid that option A and B are not viable, as you said yourself that Germany is specifically mentioned in the text.


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Craig Meulen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:31
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Option 5) ... Oct 1, 2007

...would be Jabberwock's suggestion:
In my opinion, it depends mostly on how important is not knowing what is being said to the character A, i.e. how much would it "spoil" the story. If he/she is the protagonst od the book (or even the narrator), then I would skip the lines altogether, writing "B said something in a foreign language, possibly German". Even if quoting, I would rather go for option D than C (footnotes do break the suspension of disbelief, don't they?).

5) Don't include the dialogue lines, and re-formulate with "B said something in a foreign language, possibly German"

I like it! It wouldn't work in a long dialogue, but here there are only a couple of lines in German, so I think it would be a good solution.

I think in my example it is important to preserve the impression that Character A doesn't understand these lines, and doesn't even recognise the language, but that the knowledgeable reader has the chance to reinforce the 'Germany' connection.

I am afraid that option A and B are not viable, as you said yourself that Germany is specifically mentioned in the text.

Yes, I agree with you here, I included them for 'completeness'.


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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
Option 3 Oct 1, 2007

Hi,

Ooops, I had posted something different before, but just realized I had misunderstood part of your explanation

I vote for option 3. I had mentioned in my previous post the book/movie "Sophie's Choice", where a more or less similar situation takes place, so it may be worth checking this book in German to see how the German dialogues (in the original English book) were handled in the German translation.

Best,

Ivette

[Edited at 2007-10-01 12:28]


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Craig Meulen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:31
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Option 6 - original with translation Oct 1, 2007

too quick ... you realized your misunderstanding more quickly than I could explain it to you ...

***********now redundant reply*******************
Hello Ivette
Unfortunately this suggestion won't work:
Jack Doughty wrote: ...someone being taught to speak Italian. Where Italian is given, the English is given after it in brackets.

for the reason Jack also referred to:
It occurred to me to wonder how a translation of the book into Italian would handle this (it probably has been published in Italian, so someone might know the answer).

To make it clear, my question refers to the issue of how to handle this scene in the German translation. And here we can't print the original (the German dialogue lines) with a translation (for the German reader), since the 'translation' would be the same words !!


[Edited at 2007-10-01 12:20]

[Edited at 2007-10-01 12:20]


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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
We're cross-posting, oops again! Oct 1, 2007

Hi Craig,

I did my editing while you were answering, LOL!

Sorry for the confusion

Ivette

[Edited at 2007-10-01 12:41]


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DeborahMB
Local time: 06:31
English to Spanish
Ask the source Oct 2, 2007

I would ask the editor and publisher, who have access to the author - the only one who has the final authority on what should happen. I know I would appreciate it, if it were me.

My two cents.


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Selkie
Local time: 15:31
German to English
Dialect? Oct 8, 2007

The wonderful thing about German is there are so many dialects at your disposal, you might be able to do something with that. How about Platt, or something more obscure, assuming the fact that it is German is important to the plot line and the character development?

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Marcela Robaina Boyd  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 10:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
Do not translate and change fonts Oct 9, 2007

I saw this solution in a translation of Nicole Brossard (French into English.
I read the book in English and I sure appreciated it. That way you avoid footnotes, you just need one footnote the first time.

"The Purple Land" by W. H. Hudson is a text written in English in which Hudson "creolised" in English Spanish speech. Now, how do you translate that back into Spanish?


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