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Poll: Do you check the translator's name before buying a book written by a foreign author?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
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Jun 24, 2008

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you check the translator's name before buying a book written by a foreign author?".

This poll was originally submitted by lim0nka

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:28
English to Arabic
+ ...
Interesting question Jun 24, 2008

I probably would, if I read an Arabic book translated into English/German, or vice versa (my working languages), but I don't think I ever have (why read a translation if you can read the original?)

The only translated books I remember reading are ones translated from languages such as Russian or French, and in those cases the translator's name won't mean much to me anyway. So I replied no.


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:58
German to English
The original author is more important Jun 24, 2008

I always look at who translated the book, but the original author is more important and I buy translated books based on that.

Of course, I'm always interested in the quality of the translation itself and how readable it is in English, German or any other language I read the book in.

[Edited at 2008-06-24 15:12]


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Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 03:28
English to Spanish
Depends Jun 24, 2008

Depends on who's the author.

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Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:28
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
The Tao that can be spoken is not the true tao...until it's been translated to English...perhaps Jun 24, 2008

Nesrin wrote:

why read a translation if you can read the original?)



That's more or less how I feel, at least when referring to authors who write in any of my working languages. Although, I confess I've read Paul Coelho in Spanish when I could not get my hands on original Portuguese versions.

I have read religious materials in translation, however, that were originally written in languages I can not read, such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Sanskrit, as well as classical literature originally written in Greek and Latin.
I don't recall making a point of identifying the translator, but, in some cases, their name does appear on the jacket, especially items for which there is no currently known specific author, such as is the case with Eknath Easwaran's translation of the Upanishads to English, and similar items, or even when the author is known, such as Gai Fu Feng's modern English translations of Lao-tse's works.

Oddly, I read Dan Brown's DaVinci Code in Portuguese, though, since my wife had a copy laying around.
I did not check to see who had translated it.

[Edited at 2008-06-24 15:39]


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Catherine Shepherd  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other - sometimes Jun 24, 2008

Nesrin wrote:

why read a translation if you can read the original?


My thoughts exactly, on principle I never read a translation if I can read the original.

However, the other day my boyfriend was reading a book translated into Spanish and there was a sentence that made absolutely no sense. So then I did check who had translated it! However, I guess the editor is to blame as well in this case!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:28
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It doesn't usually reveal much... Jun 24, 2008

I look for the name of the translator - and don't always find one!

If I do, it tells me very little, because I don't know any book translators. I have forgotten the name of one whom I intended to avoid at all costs - I was given a far too literal Danish translation of an American book once as a birthday present. I never finished the original either!

The translators who text Danish TV programmes ring a bell more often. And in spite of the very amusing blunders they make occasionally (and which of us is perfect??), some of them do an extremely good job most of the time.

I have a law textbook that I intended to use for terminology, but the original Danish is far more readable - and that is saying something
It is easier to pick up the phone or write a mail (or ask a KudoZ question) and pick the brains of colleagues!

I too prefer to read books in the original language if possible. I use that line to get rid of book club salesmen who always ring at supper time but it's true!

Happy translating, folks!


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:28
Italian to English
+ ...
No Jun 24, 2008

It's actually quite common that I read the Italian translation of an English language book or vice versa, usually when they're presents or have been lent to me. But I'll only buy something in the original language - my partner has an excellent command of English so he's happy to read in English.

For books translated from other languages, I'll read them in the Italian or the English translation, whatever comes to hand.

If I'm particularly struck by an English book that I've read in Italian, I do have a look at the translator's name after reading it, but it never sticks in my memory. So hats off to the Italian translator/s of Khaled Hosseni's The Kite Hunter and A Thousand Splendid Suns - you did a great job.

And even more kudos to the Italian translator of Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram, whose translation was a masterpiece and a joy to read.

[Edited at 2008-06-24 20:20]


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 01:28
Partial member
Spanish
+ ...
Yes! Jun 24, 2008

It's always better to read the originals, but if I have to read a translation, I'll stick to my favorite translators.

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Els Spin  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:28
Dutch to English
+ ...
No Jun 24, 2008

I hardly ever buy or read translated books. My favourite authors are either Dutch or English, so I don't need to.
I am pleasantly surprised, though, that some do check the translators' names. It means that some (or many) of our colleagues do make a difference!

The only translator that I admire and whose name I actually know, is the one who has translated the Harry Potter series into Dutch. I am not a fan of the genre so I haven't read any of the books, but I have heard all about them from my nephew and watched the films on telly. The names and jargon the translator came up with, are simply marvellous!


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gfe
Local time: 07:28
English to Italian
+ ...
Only once did we... Jun 25, 2008

... and it was Baudelaire translating Poe (or was it Baudelaire rewriting Poe?)

We have been fighting the good fight as translator versus publisher's staff. We lost enough times to understand, really grok it. Now, if we as consumers badly want a text that we cannot read in original, buy/no buy is based on the publisher. And yes, before buying we try to compare translations in the too few European languages we can read.

GFE


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Alice Saunders
France
Local time: 07:28
Dutch to English
+ ...
Other Jun 25, 2008

Els Spin wrote:

I hardly ever buy or read translated books. My favourite authors are either Dutch or English, so I don't need to.
I am pleasantly surprised, though, that some do check the translators' names. It means that some (or many) of our colleagues do make a difference!

The only translator that I admire and whose name I actually know, is the one who has translated the Harry Potter series into Dutch. I am not a fan of the genre so I haven't read any of the books, but I have heard all about them from my nephew and watched the films on telly. The names and jargon the translator came up with, are simply marvellous!


I never check because I can't stand translated books so just buy books in languages I can read. Going by the ones I can check against the original (Dutch, English and French) I am not impressed with the quality of most translations (sorry!). They never fully capture the feel/atmosphere of the original. Just like Els, I mostly read in English or Dutch so no need for translations. I don't agree with her as far as Harry Potter is concerned but that is a personal thing. No doubt the translator did his/her best and it is 'only' a translation so again never as good as the original.


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moken  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:28
English to Spanish
+ ...
Only sometimes, but I do, almost invariably, while reading a book Jun 25, 2008

I do occasionally but, as somebody else said - the names don't usually stick.

However I do virutally always check at one point or other while reading it. If I speak the source language, I can't avoid doing my own 'parallel translation' during certain excerpts. Sometimes I fint that frustrating, because I find myself switched onto 'work mode' instead of reading for the pure pleasure of it.

Sometimes I marvel at the excellence of a particularly tricky excerpt, and I think "Wow, I don't think I would have been able to do that". Others, I'm not really analysing the translation but something sounds really awfully put. I mentally back-translate and think -"God, that's terrible".

In either case, I automatically revert to checking the translation.

Unsurprisingly, I think it's more common to find that books that read poorly do not credit the translator.


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moken  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:28
English to Spanish
+ ...
In any case, I think the translator's name should be printed ON THE COVER Jun 25, 2008

...not hidden away in small print on the copyrights page - it's as if publishers consider translating a marginal issue...they should know better!

Over here (Spain) you do sometimes find the name printed on the cover, but only occasionally and mostly when the translator him/herself is a renowned author.


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xanthippe  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:28
Member (2008)
Italian to French
+ ...
No Jun 25, 2008

I nerver pay attention to the translator .... (shame on me .... !!!) BUT sometimes I'm very disappointed about the translation, so I prefer read books in the original language .... when it's possible for me !

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