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Quotations with original grammatical errors.
Thread poster: patyjs

patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 27, 2008

I am working on a math related text (Sp to Eng) and have come across a quotation in English with a grammatical error. Thinking the error was in the copying of the original I searched for the text and found that the error was made by the original authors. The full text (from which the quotation is taken) is either badly written in English by the Mexican authors (my feeling) or badly translated.

Should I make a correction or leave it alone?

Here's the quote:
Geometry II: Natural and axiomatic Geometry based on hypothetical deductive laws related to a set of axioms close as possible on the sensory reality.

Thanks...

Paty


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends... Aug 27, 2008

...as always.

Is this the title of a published work? If so, it has to be left as is.

If not, what is the purpose of the translation; to convey to the reader what is contained in the original (warts and all), or to communicate the information contained therein? In general terms, I would leave it in the first case, and correct it in the second.

And if the situation dictates that you should leave it, you may want to resort to the Translator's Friend, "[sic]."


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I came across that today Aug 27, 2008

I came across that today. The writer of the source text had misspelled the name of an historic Italian noble family. I happened to know that he intended to name that particular family, so in my translation I spelled their name correctly.

But to do this you need to be sure of your facts.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hmm Aug 27, 2008

Patty, I see the error to which you're referring. But since you're translating that text into another language, you can correct it in the other language. The author will never know that you made him look good, in a way s/he doesn't deserve

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Kathryn Litherland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:49
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Probably need to [sic] Aug 30, 2008

If I'm following correctly, I don't think Tom's advice holds in this case, because, although the body of the source text is in Spanish, the quote is already in English and drawn from an English-language (by loose definitions thereof, apparently) original.

The Chicago Manual of Style's recommendation is that only "obvious typographic errors" may be silently corrected in transcribing a quotation (which is the sitch here: transcription rather than translation). So this would cover things like spelling errors or missing spaces, but not poor grammar. (15th ed., 11.8 for those of you following along in your bible at home)

In cases where a silent correction would not be permissible, CMS recommends first trying to paraphrase rather than accurately transcribe a quotation marred by factual or grammatical errors. If this is not possible, the final recourse is ye olde [sic].

Tangentially related to this problem, I'm in the process of copyediting an English-language academic text on the subject of a French philosopher, which contains several articles translated from French and obviously miles and miles of quotes from said French philosopher, both from untranslated works (translated "fresh" by the chapter authors or chapter translators) and works by the philosopher that are available in official English translation.

In one of the chapters, the chapter translator has done an admirable job with the chapter author's words, but has replaced the chapter author's quotes drawn from the French philosopher's original text with the parallel quotes from the published English translation of this particular (minor) text. I've found a lot of problems with these quotes, and am getting the sense that the published English translation is just not very good.

Unfortunately, because the translator has pulled these from a published source (which is precisely what she should have done, per CMS), I as the editor can't just go through and "fix" them like it could if it were a fresh translation.

In such a circumstance, CMS recommends, if possible, retranslating the quoted material in question (with a note indicating this has been done) rather than [sic]ing your way through quotes from a bad published translation.

The joys of academic texts!


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Badly written source text Aug 30, 2008

I very often get badly written source text to translate into English.

Were I to deliberately do a badly written English translation, out of some misguided sense of duty to remain faithful to the original, my client (not being able to understand the source text) would only see a badly written English translation, and would assume I cannot write good English.

When my source text is badly written I always improve the quality of the writing in English. I am incapable of *deliberately* writing bad English.

That said...

I was once given a text to translate, by a very arrogant and lazy university professor whose source was little more than a series of disjointed and often meaningless notes, which I think he expected me to organise for him. I refused. There's a limit.


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