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Target language and Italian common sense
Thread poster: Patricia Lutteral

Patricia Lutteral  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 30, 2002

Hi everybody.



We have all seen and/or been part of endless discussions on whether translators should work into a non-native language.



In fact, I am sort of tired of dogmatic positions that do not consider the situation of less \"popular\" languages, or, on the other hand, of people working where there are no native translators available.



So, when this morning I read Paola MacQuarrie\'s thread, \"TO BE OR NOT TO BE: verso quale lingua si traduce?\" (Italian forums), the practical, sensible approach of our Italian colleagues felt very refreshing.



I suggest that those of you who can read Italian go there; I\'d like to transcribe here the most relevant points, but it\'s Italian into English, you know? Our censors would immediately come after me!



Paola, Chiara, Roberta, all of you, could you please share with us your opinions? I think they are very valuable.



I would also like to point out the level of common sense of the discussion.



Grazie!



Patricia

























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Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:37
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Thanks, Patricia! Here's a summary in English... Jan 31, 2002

(although the nativeness of my English is debatable...)

The thread is rather long, but I\'ll try and summarise what has been raised by Chiara, Giuliana, Paola, Laurab, Laura and myself (and appeal to all of you girls to fill in on anything I may have left out or incorrectly reported here!)



Paola\'s initial question was about the timeless dilemma: which language should people translate into? and went on to suggest that tanslators\' schools are in part responsible for leading students to believe that translating into a language other than their native one is ok, or even desirable...



Chiara explained that the rule of thumb is to translate into one\'s own native language, and that the hours of practice translating into other languages at school are to be seen as a useful exercise, but not as a preparation for a career as translator in non-native language. Nonetheless she knows of several people who, fresh out of translators\'s school, believed that a translator must be able to translate from/into any of their languages, about any topic [urgh! sorry, my response here...], and of Italians who readily translated from English into German [genius or reckless? my comment again...]

Chiara has actually worked for a year and a half with an agency who had most translations dealt with by non-natives (but reviewed by native-speakers, who on the whole reported only few errors). Personally, however, Chiara prefers to translate into Italian, and offers help into English only on terms and topics she feels confident and competent in, and not for full translations.



laurab contributed with her own experience: she grew up in an English-speaking environment, attended English schools and had English friends. Later, at the Translation/Interpreting school, she realised that many of the teachers were Italians who had not visited an English-speaking country for over 10 yrs... The result was that she learned all the basic rules about simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, and written translation, but nothing on \"how\" to translate. According to Laura, to be able to translate into a language you must feel at ease with it, and only use dictionaries to check out some terms. She is aware that she is gifted for some kind of translations and hopeless in others, and sticks to what she knows she can do well. But we live in a varied world, and different people have probably different motives for choosing different approaches...



I (Roberta) sugested a distinction between one\'s \"mother tongue\" and one\'s \"active language\". Many of us are bilinguals, with a native language and an active language acquired through living in a country, attending schools/university in your second language, being fully immersed in your second language to the point that the \"native\" one may become a passive language for a certain period of time. I did part of my studies at English schools and attended a Scottish university. When I started translating (into Italian), I actually felt more at ease with English (my everyday, active language at the time), and had to do a lot of work to ensure good quality in my work: reading trade magazines, endless phone conversations with my \"contact\" in Italy... all to acquire familiarity with the kind of language used in a specific environment. Now, after 10 years back in Italy, I would not feel comfortable translating into English except in a very specific field. My years of English as first, active language are invaluable to ensure full understanding of the source text, in all its nuances. Through my revision work, I have noticed that Italians who have studied and been resident abroad for a long time are more prone to errors in the use of prepositions or the structure of sentences (which mirror too closely English structures), while translators who have studied and lived mainly in Italy are more prone to misunderstanding the original text. As in most cases, there are no white and black situations; many translators living abroad produce excellent translations, because of their more subtle grasp of the source text. But I am sure they dedicate a lot of time to the active use of their mother tongue. The whole idea of \"mother tongue\" is sometimes not that clear cut anyway... Many of us are \"bilinguals\", and yet we all probably have some topics in which we feel more comfortable in one language than in the other, and some topics in which we are equally hopeless, in either language! This leads to the theme of \"specialization\": in many cases, we acquire specialization in a certain field through work experience. It would be great if schools and university started this off, by combining the study of a language with that of a specific subject (accountancy, architecture, engineering, etc...)



Giuliana contributes with her own experience, and confirms that, after many years living abroad, she dedicates a lot of her working time to reviewing and tune her Italian translations. She spends a lot of her time watching Italian TV programs and finds that teaching Italian also helps her maintaining the laguage active (apart from regular visits to Italy, reading, and listing to Italian radio programs). She agrees that by living in the other language one acquires the ability to identify nuances and regional variations that are easily lost to the foreign ear. And then she suggests a distinction between biological native language and technical native language... Some terms and subjects can be acquired in one\'s second language, while some effort or research must be put into \"translating\" them into one\'s native language. In similar cases translating into one\'s second language works well, given the specific technical competence and knowledge of terms, provided linguistic revision is carried out by a native. It is possible to find native speakers producing not so great translations in their own language - because translation is not just about linguistic accuracy, but also about full comprehension of the original text\'s contents. Whichever language one translates into, a good rule is always to have it reviewed by a second, fresh pair of eyes - 4 eyes see better than 2!



Laura [another Italian living abroad] agrees with what Roberta and Giuliana have pointed out, both about the nature of common errors and the necessity for a second pair of eyes. She finds particularly useful dedicating some time every day to writing (not translating) into Italian. Also, a translation, once, completed, should be left to rest in a drawer for a couple of days before its final revision, but tight deadlines make this impossible nowadays, so the best solution is to ask someone to review it for you. About translating into other languages: Laura feel that Italian is her only language and could never translate into other ones.



Paola then asked, without wishing to be critical in any way, what we thought of the recent questions for term help into English or French, obviously by non-natives - with benefit of the doubt: they could very well be for school exercises rather than paid translation jobs. And she stresses the point made by Laura: to translate well, one must love writing and have a passion for language in general as a means of expression. And of course must love reading.



I would just like to add [not in the original thread] that a good translator must love the language AND the subject matter...



Over to you!


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Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 12:37
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
Universalia non movent? Jan 31, 2002

Dear Patricia,



Well, I am so pleased that I don\'t know where to start from...



First of all, I\' like to thank you for your nice words about \"our\" common sense, the actual subject of our \"opinion-sharing talks\".



I\'ll try to summarize the main points.

(I am a non-native English speaker, actually English is only my third language, therefore I hope the usual native hair-splitters won\'t feel disturbed by my mistakes )



Unde et Philosophus in octavo Physicorum, hanc similitudinem sequens, dicit quod motus est ut vita quedam natura existentibus omnibus. (As the Philosopher says in the Physics: \"For all natural things, to move is to live.\")





The starting question was about the current teaching trend at Interpreters\' Schools: \"Are students pushed to translate into a foreign language?\" Then, more general speaking: \"Should we translate into a non-native language?\".



Considerations: (most posters had lived or live abroad)

- translators living abroad understand the source language better than translators living in their own Country (not because the first ones are better prepared than the second ones, but just out of practical reasons, as they \"live\", \"eat\" and \"socialize\" in that language 24 hours a day, mostly 365 days a year, that is they have a better feeling for the language, its shades of meaning and local preferences in choosing a term than another), but tend to have troubles in keeping oth their mother tongue updated (starting point: any language evolves steadily)and the original structures when translating.

- Foreign residents should read a lot (in order to be able to write), listen to and speak their own language daily, go back \"home\" (another point: where\'s home??!!), let\'s say, to their Country of origin, from time to time.

- Foreign residents spend more time in proof-reading their translations than in the actual translation work.

- Foreign residents could translate into the language of the Country they live in, if and when they feel \"comfortable\" in doing that and if they \"feel the language\", mostly texts dealing with subjects they are competent in, but a native speaker should proof read their translations.

- Definition of native language: should we consider only the language of \"biological\" birth as \"our language\" or extend this definition to the language of \"technical\" birth, too? Example: we study a specific field and learn its terminology, definition and matters for the first time in a specific language, different from our \"mother tongue\". Which one is then \"our\" language for that subject? We tend to talk about a subject in the language we learned about it in, because we feel more comfortable, even though we could somehow find suitable terms (sometimes not 100% correct, having no time to double check them) in our mother tongue, BUT they were a mere result of a translation process.

- A native speaker, not involved directly in our translation, should proof read ours, even if we had transalted into our native language.





I have reported a few points we have dealt with... as a starting point. I would say we concluded (my SC\'s colleagues should correct me, if I am mistaking) we shouldn\'t answer and apply axiomatically \"only into our mother tongue\" to the whole problematic, but consider separately every case, in a sort of \"case-by-case analysis\", with all its components, ifs and whys, and backround information.



Cheers,



Giuliana


[addsig]


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Maya Jurt  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 12:37
Member (2002)
French to German
+ ...
Navigating between languages Jan 31, 2002

I really appreciate seeing all what I have read (with difficulty) in Italian put into English. Thanks Roberta, thanks to all of you. For once, we have a quiet exchange of opinions and I agree with all.



The main point I would like to make is to accept a job only if you are confortable with the assignment. Today, and for a long time already, I navigate between three languages and my mother tongue (I should say my father tongue) is the passive one. For marketing and advertising texts, I do best in English. I have a pretty good ability for translating twisted English or French technical sentences into readable German. And I love to translate literary stuff into French. But for all three languages, I very often use proofreaders, simply because at the end of a long day, I do not see my own mistakes anymore.



Proofreading is what bothers me most. How much do you correct? As soon as two translators evaluate a translation, you have two opinions. Some correct as much as possible just to prove that their fee is justified. Others do the same and worse, implicating that the client should have given the work to the proofreader who knows better. We are all just human.



Whenever I proofread for someone and find only a few things to correct, I won\'t get a second chance to proofread. Since the text was perfect, I am not needed anymore. Funny, isn\'t it?



Greetings to all

Maya



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Patricia Lutteral  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
On proofreading Jan 31, 2002

Maya, you are so right!

Level of comfort with the subject is very important. In some scientific areas I definitely feel better going into English, because I do almost all my reading in English.



As a proofreader, I\'ve sometimes had the impression that the client is a little dissapointed when you tell them that the original translation was OK! Funny thing indeed.



On the other hand, hair-splitters can do a lot of damage. I recently had a bad experience, and I am afraid I made a bad impression on a new client because of one of those \"I-know-best\" proofreaders. The guy corrected me every other word in a translation \"because it would sound unfamiliar for a Spanish doctor\". And you know what? It was a consent form for a clinical study, and the readership was Hispanics living in the US. Neither doctors nor Spaniards. Needless to say, the proofreader was a Spanish MD.



Personally, when proofreading I always draw a chart with every change I make, and an explanation of the change. This chart is delivered along with the job; I think it gives the original colleague a fairer chance, and it is also helpful for PMs, particularly when they don\'t speak the target language. Sure, it takes longer; but it works fine.



Interesting points, here



Best regards,



Patricia


[addsig]


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:37
German to English
+ ...
Feeling comfortable with the subject matter Jan 31, 2002

Good point!



We all have our likes and dislikes.



But for the purposes of this discussion, we should not only look at the target language, but at the whole language pair.



For example: I do medical translations from German to English, but I would never touch medical stuff in Spanish/English. It\'s still the same target language, but the \"feel\" is different.



What we need is a more thorough breakdown of our language pairs and specializations in our ProZ profiles. That is to say, we should be able to select different subject areas for different language pairs (eg, in my own case: \"technical\" is OK for German-English, but not for English-German or my other pairs).


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Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 12:37
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
Proof Reading Feb 1, 2002

[quote]

On 2002-01-31 15:12, mayagyan wrote:



.......

The main point I would like to make is to accept a job only if you are confortable with the assignment.

........



Maya,

I agree with you and this should be a good rule, even if we translate into our first language.



..........



Proofreading is what bothers me most. How much do you correct? As soon as two translators evaluate a translation, you have two opinions.

.........



Yes, Maya, take a text and distribute it among ten translators and you\'ll have ten different versions! (Perhaps only very technical terms might be translated the same way).



As far as I am concerned I only correct what is definitely wrong as to technical translations. As to general prose, where style plays a role, I try to find a more elegant \"solution\". Whenever I change something, I had a sign/number next to the word/sentence and explain why I did it in a separate paper/spreadsheet/or whatever.



When my translations are proof read by someone inhouse, I accept \"silly\" synonyms as \"everyone wants to add his/her own salt\", but make a note saying \"Ok,it is a synonym\".



I believe we should correct a word or a sentence only when they are wrong.



...........

Some correct as much as possible just to prove that their fee is justified.

.........



I think payment per hour is better than a fix rate for the whole text or one per word.

.........



Have a nice day,



Giuliana
[addsig]


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Ursula Peter-Czichi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:37
German to English
+ ...
Just One Aspect to Add: Feb 10, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-01-31 23:14, AbacusTrans wrote:

Good point!



We all have our likes and dislikes.



But for the purposes of this discussion, we should not only look at the target language, but at the whole language pair.



For example: I do medical translations from German to English, but I would never touch medical stuff in Spanish/English. It\'s still the same target language, but the \"feel\" is different.



What we need is a more thorough breakdown of our language pairs and specializations in our ProZ profiles. That is to say, we should be able to select different subject areas for different language pairs (eg, in my own case: \"technical\" is OK for German-English, but not for English-German or my other pairs).





I translate both into my native language (German) and my active language (English). Your distinction between native and active language goes a long way in this discussion. If a person can write well in his/her active, non-native language, he/she should also be able to translate properly.

My one negative translation experience had absolutely nothing to do with the direction of translation. It had everything to do with the original text and the fact that it was a rush-job.

That text should have never been written, let alone translated. Not a single one of 4000 words was new to me, yet I kept wondering about that marketing nonsense with every sentence. I think translators as a group have become too paranoid.

My reaction to that negative experience? Never mind translating into a native or active language! However, NEVER translate garbage text. It\'s garbage in, garbage out. NEVER EVER AGAIN will I translate an original, when the author

A. always uses the most obscure expression in long-winded sentences,

B. tries to show his expertise by using nothing but jargon or

C. publishes a long study about no results using nothing but jargon and a pompous language.

Just look at the ProZ questions, and you will know what I am talking about.

My opinion:

Most \'translation\'-problems are based on \'writing\'-problems.

The solution:

Don\'t take every job, don\'t work for unreasonable clients.



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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:37
German to English
+ ...
Excellent example, Ursula Feb 10, 2002

Quite right: jobs like the one you mention should be avoided at all cost.



Re: awkward wording and syntax in the source text



The trick is not to allow oneself to get bogged down in the awkward and long-winded structures of the source text (and this is often the case when translating from German, French and Spanish, for example). \"Gleaning the meaning\" => \"garbage in, (at least) acceptable product out\".



*****



I fully agree with your statement concerning one\'s ability to write well in the \"active language\". If you can produce a good target-language text on your own, and if you have a thorough understanding of the source language, you should be able to do a good job.


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