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Varieties of target language
Thread poster: Angela Dickson

Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
French to English
+ ...
Jul 16, 2004

I was not sure under which heading to post this topic... it's not Linguistics in the way I understand the term. Anyway...

I would be interested to hear views on how far it is necessary to master different varieties of one's target language, and how much people use varieties other than their own for professional purposes.

My case, for example - I speak British English, have roots in Yorkshire but was brought up in the South so while I can understand a very broad Yorkshire accent/ dialect, I can't really reproduce it (apart from subconsciously adopting a mild accent when I'm up there).

More broadly, I recognise American usage/ pronunciation when I hear it, but I would not be confident in trying to translate, say, a French text into American idiom. Or even a British English text.

Any Brits out there who translate into US English - or any USians who translate into Brit? I imagine this also happens in, say, Spanish, Portuguese and, I guess, French as well. Best to specialise in one's own variety, or is it possible (with the help of style guides etc) to switch from time to time?

This is all very speculative and theoretical (particularly as I am still preparing for the DipTrans so have little professional experience) but hey, I like theoretical discussions. Anyone else?


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
English and Spanish Jul 17, 2004

The above are my languages and my specific varieties are USA English and Mexican Spanish. It is my good fortune to live on the border between these two very large and important countries, so the vast majority of my work involves local varieties of both languages with which I have an intimate familiarity.

I would not hesitate to translate texts of a general nature for worldwide consumption in either language, since both English and Spanish speakers do not mind consulting texts in their language from any origin and often find it necessary to do so. However, it would always be noted that anything I do in English will appear to be of USA origin and anything I do in Spanish will appear to be of Mexican origin. Just changing a few words here and there cannot adjust one's language to another variety because there are so many other issues of style involved.

Therefore I would have to say that although I can and sometimes do translate out of other varieties of my languages, I could not authentically translate into any varieties other than my own. Of course, this would only be significant when country and regional differences would be a critical factor in the quality of the translation.

So I guess you can say I can only be thoroughly authentic in the USA and Mexico and well understood but with an outside regional accent anywhere else in the English or Spanish-speaking world. That is not such a bad situation considering that the USA and Mexico have the largest populations in the world speaking their respective languages. Others may not like it, but we've got the numbers!


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 01:25
Italian to English
This is everyday life, not theory. Jul 17, 2004

Hi Angela,

It's always a good idea to ask your customers what "flavo(u)r" of English they use, or would like to use.

Often, you will find they haven't considered the question. In those cases, it is our job to make sure they know that their decision will affect the readability and market appeal of their text, not to mention the image the customer is projecting by using a particular dialect.

Getting clients to think about this before you accept a job can save trouble later on.

Of course, things sometimes get quite complicated. Currently, I collaborate with Italian Life, the English language page of the Corriere della Sera web site. The site's policy is to use UK English as a default dialect for news articles etc, and US for editorials, because these are linked for a couple of days to the New York Times web site.

Needless to say, my editorial translations are not "genuine" American English since I am not American, but I do make a conscious effort to render them as US-friendly as possible. Call it "cultural localisation", if you like, although it's really a question of avoiding UK-specific punctuation, stylemes or vocabulary as far as possible (the Chicago and Oxford style guides are indispensable). In any case, feedback from American readers has been generally positive and I enjoy the work, despite the very short deadlines.

Good luck with your diploma,

Giles


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translatol
Local time: 00:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
Varieties of English Jul 17, 2004

Hullo Angela,

I lived the first half of my life in England and the second half in Canada. So at quite an advanced age I came up against both Canadian English and Canadian French. I soon learnt - to adapt an old proverb - that \'When in Canada, do as the Canadians do,\' otherwise my texts (and likewise my speech as an interpreter) stood out as non-native. Canadian English is different from both British and American but is much closer to American. Fortunately there are Canadian dictionaries and style guides, and - for technical and government translators - the large term banks of the Canadian and Quebec governments.

Nowadays I live in Spain and often translate papers and articles by Spanish academics. They usually began by learning British English but have been exposed to both British and American and are sometimes quite unaware or confused. I ask them where they are submitting their texts for publication and then go on to translate accordingly. So far it\'s always been for a British or an American publication, but if it were for an Australian one for example I\'d be nonplussed.

I\'m surprised nobody else has mentioned our awful English spelling. Perhaps it\'s just too obvious. Yet, rightly or wrongly, it\'s often the first thing readers notice. Not only translators but also publishers change their spelling for an Altantic crossing. Canadian spelling is especially tricky, as some clients prefer it to be more American and others more British. One gets help by changing dictionaries in one\'s word processor, but even those dictionaries don\'t have all the answers.

To sum up: yes, it\'s an advantage know more than one widely used variety of a language if you\'re aiming to work in an international market. However, the differences between REGISTERS (academic, official, legal, business, literary, colloquial, etc.) are more important than the differences between DIALECTS.

Best of luck!

Translatol


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Steve Melling  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:25
French to English
+ ...
A sticky one! Jul 26, 2004

translatol wrote:

Hullo Angela,

I lived the first half of my life in England and the second half in Canada. So at quite an advanced age I came up against both Canadian English and Canadian French. I soon learnt - to adapt an old proverb - that 'When in Canada, do as the Canadians do,' otherwise my texts (and likewise my speech as an interpreter) stood out as non-native. Canadian English is different from both British and American but is much closer to American. Fortunately there are Canadian dictionaries and style guides, and - for technical and government translators - the large term banks of the Canadian and Quebec governments.

Nowadays I live in Spain and often translate papers and articles by Spanish academics. They usually began by learning British English but have been exposed to both British and American and are sometimes quite unaware or confused. I ask them where they are submitting their texts for publication and then go on to translate accordingly. So far it's always been for a British or an American publication, but if it were for an Australian one for example I'd be nonplussed.

I'm surprised nobody else has mentioned our awful English spelling. Perhaps it's just too obvious. Yet, rightly or wrongly, it's often the first thing readers notice. Not only translators but also publishers change their spelling for an Altantic crossing. Canadian spelling is especially tricky, as some clients prefer it to be more American and others more British. One gets help by changing dictionaries in one's word processor, but even those dictionaries don't have all the answers.

To sum up: yes, it's an advantage know more than one widely used variety of a language if you're aiming to work in an international market. However, the differences between REGISTERS (academic, official, legal, business, literary, colloquial, etc.) are more important than the differences between DIALECTS.

Best of luck!

Translatol



In France they actually differentitiate between "American" (sic) and English.I have crusaded on this point for some years explaining that if you ask an American which language they speak they will reply "English".
That said, there are, of course, differences.As I'm English,I have a tendancy to think English and will more easily say "flat" and not "appartment". Of course, if you know that your target audience is 100% UK or US, it's easier.And if,from my knowledge of the differences which can exist between the two styles, I think I might struggle, I'd leave it to an American. However, I'm not at all sure it's as clean cut as that most of the time.For example,I have translated a number of documents for a multi-national audience of employees of a Japanese firm.I've decided-rightly or wrongly- to be pragmatic and give priority to facilitating comprehension for all potential readers of my translation.
Sometimes the UK word will be easily understood by Americans and vice versa but not always.It's a bit of a minefield and should perhaps be looked at case by case.


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