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When or when not are names of monuments, churches, piazzas, parks, etc translated?
Thread poster: _Vivi_
_Vivi_  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:02
Italian to English
+ ...
Dec 9, 2008

Could anyone please tell me what the rules are exactly about translating names of monuments, saints, churches, piazzas, parks, etc ? Some say one thing and others another.
Does anyone know of a book or translator's manual that may have these "rules" written?
thanks and looking forward to your relpies.


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Carla Sordina  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:02
English to Italian
Dipende Dec 9, 2008

Ciao,

per quanto ne so, non esiste un libro o manuale che riporti queste 'norme'. Mi occupo da circa 15 anni di traduzioni di guide di viaggi, e questo genere di problematica dipende dal contesto e dal committente. Le case editrici con cui ho collaborato mi hanno sempre inviato le norme e comunque si concorda di volta in volta con la redazione in caso di dubbio. Normalmente ci si regola come segue:

in linea generale, se il monumento è indicato nella lingua locale andrà lasciato così. Di norma in questi casi si indica subito dopo fra parentesi il corrispettivo in italiano. Nei paesi non anglofoni ciò che viene espresso in inglese dovrà essere tradotto. Nei paesi in cui l’inglese sia la lingua a prevalente diffusione, il monumento o sito in inglese si traduce solo qualora il monumento o sito non venga descritto.

Diverso è il discorso per vie, piazze ecc. che servono come indicazioni per raggiungere un determinato luogo. In questo caso bisogna lasciare in originale, per poter eventualmente comunciare con gente del luogo, guidatori di taxi e di mezzi pubblici, ecc. per raggiungere la destinazione e anche per inviare eventuale corrispondenza.

Credo comunque che, oltre a richiedere indicazioni al committente, valga sempre il buon senso.

Spero di essere stata utile.

Buon lavoro

Carla Sordina


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_Vivi_  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:02
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Grazie Mille Carla Dec 9, 2008

thank you so much for your reply Carla. It was very helpful and assuring to know that some of my ideas were confirmed by you.

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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:02
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Talk to your client Dec 9, 2008

Vivi@Studiocom wrote:

Could anyone please tell me what the rules are exactly about translating names of monuments, saints, churches, piazzas, parks, etc ? Some say one thing and others another.
Does anyone know of a book or translator's manual that may have these "rules" written?
thanks and looking forward to your relpies.


The fact that you get multiple answers indicates that there are multiple conventions. That means that your multiple clients will give you different answers. (I think that's what Ms. Sorvino indicated, although she didn't explicitly say so.) I recommend you ask your client so that, if for no other reason, you don't have to redo your work because your client doesn't like your choice.

As for piazzas, I would recommend leaving them in the original if the post office is involved. Letter carriers are only expected to know the language of the country in which the piazza is located.


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_Vivi_  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:02
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for your feedback Dec 9, 2008

I appreciate your input and advice Paul, thanks

[Edited at 2008-12-09 20:10 GMT]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:02
English to French
+ ...
Sorry, I don't speak Italian Dec 9, 2008

I am sure Carla provides some useful comments. However, I don't speak Italian. Can somebody translate her post into English, please? It would be a pity for the majority of the frequenters of this forum who doesn't speak Italian to miss out on Carla's advice.

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Carla Sordina  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:02
English to Italian
Sorry, I thought it was an Italian Forum Dec 9, 2008

As far as I know, there is no such a book or manual, about these 'rules'. Since 1996 I've been translating travel guides: this kind of issue depends on the context and the client. The publishers I cooperate with always provide me with their rules; in case of doubts we agree on each single point.
As a general rule, if the monument is expressed in the local language, the name has to be left in the original, with the relevant translation into Italian between brackets. In non English-speaking countries, every name in English is to be translated. In the countries where English is quite common, the monument or site in English is to be translated only when there is no description of it.
The approach is quite different with streets, squares etc. as these are useful to get to destination. In this case they are to be left in the original language so that the visitor may communicate with local people, taxi drivers and public transport drivers etc to get to monuments or sites. The original address is necessary also when you need to send letters, postcards, and so on.

However, I think that, apart from asking yours clients, common sense is always the best 'rule'.

Sorry again for the misunderstandingCiao

Carla


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 08:02
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Every language has its own rules Dec 10, 2008

So there can be no general rule. This reminds me of a case, where an Italian website had to be translated. There was some kind of feedback form for the postal information of customers.

Not only were there the usual fields for Title (Herr, Frau, Fräulein etc.) which is quite unnecessary in Finnish (why does the recipient have to know the sex of the customer and if she is married or not?), as we don't use titles, but there was also a field for the street address with selectors for "strada, via, piazza, passagio, largo, campo..." you name it.

So this form was completely nonsense to non-Italians. No German or Finnish address is "Straße Wagner" or "Katu Sibelius", but Wagnerstraße and Sibeliuskatu. So it was pointless to translate this form.

Fortunately US-americans have already realised that other countries have no states. Many times online shopping failed because it was obligatory to fill in a state even if one had selected Germany or Finland. The information was not excepted without a state-entry.

But to returning back to the subject: in Finnish names of Saints and rulers like Kings and Queens must be translated into the Finnish equavalent. So King George becomes Yrjö-kuningas.

Regards
Heinrich


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:02
English to French
+ ...
Indeed, Heinrich Dec 10, 2008

First off, thanks, Carla, for letting us know what your initial post was all about. This allows everybody to participate in the discussion.

I agree that every language has its own rules. I am in a particular situation here, given that I live in Quebec, and most of the material I translate that contains names of places deals with places in Canada. Most geographic features have both English and French names, so that's easy. As for non-geaographic names of places, I always stick with the general idea that names are not translatable, except for the part of them that are not proper nouns. So, for example, Union Street becomes rue Union in French. As a general rule, in case of doubt, I keep the original name and don't change a thing. I hate the English word 'river' because it can be either 'rivière' or 'fleuve' in French - how to decide which one is correct? The same goes for the word 'mount' - how to decide whether it will be 'mont' or 'montagne' in French?

I think that monuments, since they either deal with history or religion, are pretty easy to translate. Churches are pretty much the same - chances are, the string 'Immaculate Conception' has already been translated a long time ago into pretty much any language, so it is easy to find the correct translation. As for piazzas and parks, I do as I mentioned earlier - I translate the common noun part and leave the proper noun part untranslated. So, Piazza Della Madonna becomes Della Madonna Plaza, and not the Lady's Plaza.

I just edited a document that contains a bunch of place names, and I came across some very bad judgment. Cape Enrage was translated as Cap Enragé, and Reversing Falls was translated as chutes réversibles (all in lowercase!). I quickly reverted both into their original English, seeing as there was no possible way to render them in French without things getting lost in translation.

The context matters a lot. If the names of places matter a lot (environmental assessments, tourism documents), you need to stay as true as possible to the original name. But if the document is less technical, you can get more creative and the only thing that really matters is for people to know what the translated name refers to. I guess in the end, what it comes down to is using your judgement to make sure that whoever reads your translation knows exactly what the translated name refers to.


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Päivikki Eriksson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 07:02
Member (2008)
Swedish to Finnish
+ ...
Names of kings in Finnish Dec 10, 2008

Sorry if it's a bit off topic, but I just want to correct what Heinrich wrote about translating names of kings into Finnish. It's true as to historical names, but will not be applied in the future. When Prince Charles becomes king, he will not be called "Kaarle" but Charles.

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_Vivi_  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:02
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Viktoria, your comments are very helpful. Dec 10, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

First off, thanks, Carla, for letting us know what your initial post was all about. This allows everybody to participate in the discussion.

I agree that every language has its own rules. I am in a particular situation here, given that I live in Quebec, and most of the material I translate that contains names of places deals with places in Canada. Most geographic features have both English and French names, so that's easy. As for non-geaographic names of places, I always stick with the general idea that names are not translatable, except for the part of them that are not proper nouns. So, for example, Union Street becomes rue Union in French. As a general rule, in case of doubt, I keep the original name and don't change a thing. I hate the English word 'river' because it can be either 'rivière' or 'fleuve' in French - how to decide which one is correct? The same goes for the word 'mount' - how to decide whether it will be 'mont' or 'montagne' in French?

I think that monuments, since they either deal with history or religion, are pretty easy to translate. Churches are pretty much the same - chances are, the string 'Immaculate Conception' has already been translated a long time ago into pretty much any language, so it is easy to find the correct translation. As for piazzas and parks, I do as I mentioned earlier - I translate the common noun part and leave the proper noun part untranslated. So, Piazza Della Madonna becomes Della Madonna Plaza, and not the Lady's Plaza.

I just edited a document that contains a bunch of place names, and I came across some very bad judgment. Cape Enrage was translated as Cap Enragé, and Reversing Falls was translated as chutes réversibles (all in lowercase!). I quickly reverted both into their original English, seeing as there was no possible way to render them in French without things getting lost in translation.

The context matters a lot. If the names of places matter a lot (environmental assessments, tourism documents), you need to stay as true as possible to the original name. But if the document is less technical, you can get more creative and the only thing that really matters is for people to know what the translated name refers to. I guess in the end, what it comes down to is using your judgement to make sure that whoever reads your translation knows exactly what the translated name refers to.


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_Vivi_  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:02
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for your input Heinrich Dec 10, 2008

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

So there can be no general rule. This reminds me of a case, where an Italian website had to be translated. There was some kind of feedback form for the postal information of customers.

Not only were there the usual fields for Title (Herr, Frau, Fräulein etc.) which is quite unnecessary in Finnish (why does the recipient have to know the sex of the customer and if she is married or not?), as we don't use titles, but there was also a field for the street address with selectors for "strada, via, piazza, passagio, largo, campo..." you name it.

So this form was completely nonsense to non-Italians. No German or Finnish address is "Straße Wagner" or "Katu Sibelius", but Wagnerstraße and Sibeliuskatu. So it was pointless to translate this form.

Fortunately US-americans have already realised that other countries have no states. Many times online shopping failed because it was obligatory to fill in a state even if one had selected Germany or Finland. The information was not excepted without a state-entry.

But to returning back to the subject: in Finnish names of Saints and rulers like Kings and Queens must be translated into the Finnish equavalent. So King George becomes Yrjö-kuningas.

Regards
Heinrich


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:02
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Additional caveats Dec 10, 2008

The common sense that governs the translation of place names is also sometimes subject to non-linguistic information.

There is a "Calle Trafalgar" where I live (Madrid, not London), not to be confused with the square or any other Trafalgar streets anywhere else in the world. Likewise, there is a Madrid in Iowa that can't be confused with the capital of Spain, whatever possibility any original sent to Spain may open. (You'd possibly have to advise the client).

Putting yourself in the reader's shoes will help. As far as Italian is concerned, many English travel guides use Italian designations to help the traveller get oriented. I also receive the occasional text in Spanish about Italy and I observe the same rule of thumb in that language.

Proper names are another long story where historical texts are concerned. Some of these have translations (or not) by virtue of sheer convention, others (like the Pope's) follow a protocol.

If you feel comfortable with the idea of presuming that a chapter will be read in one sitting, you could make mention of both possible versions, always taking care you leave an original in place for orientation purposes while making sure the reader will know what exactly to look for in terms of his own language. This has the advantage of smoother reading that sounds like an original with not too many parentheses. However, it may also be applicable only when you're doing the entire text (i.e., an ultimate decision could be a job for the overall editor).

Hope it helps.


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xxxTranslatorB
English to Croatian
as agreed Dec 10, 2008

It is specific for every title or name of an institution, public place etc.. It is mostly governed by the decision of people who are in charge of the place or who authored it.. another point is related to the term's potential to be translated , or its " translatibility..." sometimes it will sound very " clumsy" when translated in the target language, and then the target audience will accept the original title, often with just adaptation in terms of transcription and pronunciation.

for example, it is common in Serbian that they translate " Kip slobode ", that is " Statue of Liberty"... however, for example " Big Ben", it is known in Serbian as " Big Ben", as it could not be appropriately translated. Often, titles with figurative or idiomatic meaning are harder to translate.

also, it is contextually-dependent,

[Edited at 2008-12-10 14:44 GMT]


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_Vivi_  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:02
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Parrot, your advice, suggestions and insight are appreciated Dec 10, 2008

Parrot wrote:

The common sense that governs the translation of place names is also sometimes subject to non-linguistic information.

There is a "Calle Trafalgar" where I live (Madrid, not London), not to be confused with the square or any other Trafalgar streets anywhere else in the world. Likewise, there is a Madrid in Iowa that can't be confused with the capital of Spain, whatever possibility any original sent to Spain may open. (You'd possibly have to advise the client).

Putting yourself in the reader's shoes will help. As far as Italian is concerned, many English travel guides use Italian designations to help the traveller get oriented. I also receive the occasional text in Spanish about Italy and I observe the same rule of thumb in that language.

Proper names are another long story where historical texts are concerned. Some of these have translations (or not) by virtue of sheer convention, others (like the Pope's) follow a protocol.

If you feel comfortable with the idea of presuming that a chapter will be read in one sitting, you could make mention of both possible versions, always taking care you leave an original in place for orientation purposes while making sure the reader will know what exactly to look for in terms of his own language. This has the advantage of smoother reading that sounds like an original with not too many parentheses. However, it may also be applicable only when you're doing the entire text (i.e., an ultimate decision could be a job for the overall editor).

Hope it helps.


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