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Poll: How you prefer to read a book originally written in a foreign language you know?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
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May 4, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "When reading a book originally written in a foreign language you know, in what language do you prefe".

This poll was originally submitted by Enrique Cavalitto

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

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-05-04 15:31]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 23:00
English to French
+ ...
In the original language May 4, 2006

However, books are maybe the only translatable material left in the world that are still rendered pretty decently into the target language. This is definitely not so with movies, TV shows, advertising - even dictionaries!

I do read translated books once in a while, and I read a Hungarian version of "On the Road" by Kerouac, which I have also read in the original English version as well as in French. Somehow, I preferred the Hungarian version, as the translator really got into the author's skin and made Denver feel like a typical Hungarian city from the 40's-50's. The cultural differences (which are huge) were brilliantly eliminated.

Now, I have also read French versions of several Tolkien books, all translated by a certain F. Ledoux, and I hated them all. Mr. Ledoux seems to have a lifelong contract with the Tolkien estate, to my deepest regret. Sadly, he never realized the richness and deepness of Tolkien's wording, nor did he realize that more than beautiful stories, these books were the fruit of much linguistics research. I sort of feel like the translator dishonored Tolkien's work.

To make a long story short, I always prefer the original version, but don't mind translated versions, which are usually pretty good. I especially don't mind translated versions when they were written in Japanese or Polish - I wouldn't be able to read in languages I don't understand, but will not miss out on a great read just because it's translated.


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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:00
Member
French to English
+ ...
As a last resort May 4, 2006

As often as possible I try to read books in their original language, at least when reading them for the first time.

Several times I have offered books that I've enjoyed in their original language to friends in their translated versions and have been shocked to discover that the friend in question found nothing exceptional about a book I adored. Of course to each his or her own, but there are also some bad translations out there!

Luckily some "classics" have several translations, which generally allow one to find something passable (I had to read three versions of The Master and Margarita before actually enjoying the book!).

Of course our profession is essential for allowing texts to be enjoyed across language barriers, but I still prefer being loyal to an original version whenever I can.

Cheers,
Jocelyne


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RB Translations  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 15:00
English to Italian
+ ...
The real thing May 4, 2006

I like to read books in the language they were written in: no matter how good the translation, it will never be the same as the real thing I am afraid.
However, I also like to read the same books again, translated into my language, if I know the translation is particularly good. While I was studying I did this as an exercise, I thought it was very insightful, and read a few books by David Malouf, Doris Lessing and Toni Morrisson, all exquisitely translated by, of course, my favourite teacher!


[Edited at 2006-05-04 07:02]


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:00
English to Polish
+ ...
Original, with only one exception May 4, 2006

And that is the Polish translation of Winnie the Pooh, which I believe surpasses the original.

Pawel Skalinski

[Edited at 2006-05-04 07:30]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:00
Member (2003)
Danish to English
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The original language May 4, 2006

-- But I have to admit that sometimes I sit with a translation in the other hand as a 'crib' to help out with idiomatic sections in French or German - I don't have much time for those languages, so it is hard work.

I've had some interesting experiences... Antoine de Saint Exupéry, for instance, is lyrical in French and reasonably successfully translated into Danish, though it is a like using a dictionary to try to understand poetry in places. I have not seen an English translation, but haven't looked for one either. (Terre des hommes.)

I was given a translation of an American book for Christmas and read it to be polite... The Danish was translated literally without adaptation in places, but readable. I'd never touch the original author in American again - I tried another story afterwards and did not finish the book. (It was a best-seling thriller, just not my style! Others obviously enjoy it.)

Some English classics translated into Danish are incredibly 'flat' compared with the originals. On the other hand, some children's books I have read to my son were brilliantly rewritten, true to the original and much loved by Danish children - AA Milne's Pooh (Peter Plys), Kenneth Grahame and Beatrix Potter... Postman Pat and Thomas Tank Engine go across well too.

I keep reading the translations, in spite of telling telephone salesmen that I prefer to read books in the original languages... if I can.

I read all too few books, and haven't started on Russian authors yet.

Life is just too short and help, I have three deadlines before tomorrow, another for Monday!


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Lise Smidth  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 05:00
German to Danish
+ ...
how can anyone NOT read foreign books??? May 4, 2006

and be a translator?



I just wonder


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Christopher Burin  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:00
French to English
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Agree with JS May 4, 2006

I agree with JS! When studying for my BA in French/Italian, one of the authors I read was D'Annunzio. I can't say he was my favourite author anyway, but having read the Italian, I decided to read an English translation of 'L'Innocente', 'Il Piacere' and 'Il trionfo della morte', to see how translators had dealt with the often overtly symbolic (and not so symbolic) images...

The only translations I could find in the Bodleian were published in the 1890s (wouldn't want to slander any author as I can't quite remember who it was!). Anyway, to cut a long story short, any sexual references were replaced by "a table" and "a tree", making for one of the bizarrest books I'd ever read. And I thought D'Annunzio was surreal enough already...!

Guess this is an extreme example though. I remember reading a book of Havel's poetry in English a few years back (I don't read Czech), and a friend of mine, who has studied Czech, told me the translation wasn't a patch on the original. I'm sure this is often true, as if a text is ambiguous at times, I think it's difficult to render that ambiguity in a translation - you usually have to come down on one side of the line or the other (just think of varied translations of the Bible), thus distorting the text.



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M. Anna Kańduła  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:00
English to Polish
+ ...
Why wonder? May 4, 2006

Lise Smidth wrote:

and be a translator?



I just wonder

What does one have to do with another? Being a translator doesn't always require reading foreign books... Books are for pleasure, not a duty... unless they are a duty

As for the subject - it really depends. Some books I prefer to read in original, but sometime I prefer a translation. I know quite a few languages, but not all well enough to read books in original, as I would miss too much. Then - translation definitely.

And sometimes I'm too lazy to get through a thick book, especially if time runs (an experience from studies: try to read "War and Peace" by Tolstoy within 4 days)

Anni


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translated May 4, 2006

English will never have the same effect on my brain (=heart) as Spanish does.

I posted this same question in the Spanish Forum some months ago just to confirm what numbers confirm here: most translators prefer to read in the original language. Not my case: words that I don't know... stop me. Meaninngs that I cannot grasp 100%... distract me and, as I said before, English does not 'touch' me as Spanish does.

Au

[Edited at 2006-05-04 09:08]


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PB Trans

Local time: 04:00
French to English
+ ...
Gregory Rabassa May 4, 2006

I always prefer to read the books in their original language. However, I do find that the English translations (by renowned literary translator Gregory Rabassa) of Gabriel García Márquez’ books are really well done and perfectly capture the magic realism.

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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Re-reading Steiner... May 4, 2006

Aurora Humarán wrote:

English does not 'touch' me as Spanish does.

Au


I have never fallen in love with a non-Spanish speaking man. I always wonder what effect foreign words would have on me on romantic or erotic situations. 'Te amo' touches my soul. 'I love' you is the translation of that statement. Will I understand if somebody told me 'I love you'? Sure! Will I feel tickles in the heart? Hum....


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:00
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Translations do make a big difference May 4, 2006

Aurora Humarán wrote:

English will never have the same effect on my brain (=heart) as Spanish does.

I posted this same question in the Spanish Forum some months ago just to confirm what numbers confirm here: most translators prefer to read in the original language. Not my case: words that I don't know... stop me. Meanings that I cannot grasp 100%... distract me and, as I said before, English does not 'touch' me as Spanish does.

Au

[Edited at 2006-05-04 09:08]


There was a very interesting talk on Danish radio some days ago, on just this subject. "Everyone speaks English" here... and they buy the latest books at airports and read them in English... Then they do actually buy the best of them or borrow them from the library when they are translated. The speaker was a translation editor from one of the publishing companies. She said they are a little more selective as time goes by, but they still have a strong market for good translations.

There's nothing like your mother tongue, unless you are lucky enough to have two...

One of my colleagues said her childen were really impatient about the Harry Potter books - what use is having a translator for a mother if she can't just come up with a chapter each evening at bedtime?

I've only read the English versions....


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Ivana de Sousa Santos  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:00
French to Portuguese
+ ...
In the original language May 4, 2006

As a translator, if I read in my own language it seems that I'm proofreading something since I'm always looking for mistakes (and usually find them, unfortunately!).

The last books I've read were full of mistakes (e.g. the French "facteur" (postman) was translated into "factor" in Portuguese... and many others).

The last books I bought to read were in the original language ("The Mists of Avalon", which I've already read many years ago, and "The Ring" by Danielle Steel).


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
And... May 4, 2006

I don't understand why people always complain about translators; however, we all coincide that Russian literature is great...

Jorge Luis Borges


And here we have translators complaining about translations! After all... who has more authority than a translator to attest that translation is a Utopia?

Whenever there is a second language involved there is loss. The question is: what do we choose to lose?


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