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J.B. Phillips\' three tests of a good translation
Thread poster: GoodWords

GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 08:34
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 20, 2002

From TRANSLATOR\'S FOREWORD to the The New Testament In Modern English by J.B. Phillips, 1958.





There seem to be three necessary tests which any work of transference from one language to another must pass before it can be classed as good translation. The first is simply that it must not sound like a translation at all. If it is skilfully done, and we are not previously informed, we should be quite unaware that it is a translation, even though the work we are reading is far distant from us in both time and place. That is a first, and indeed fundamental test, but it is not by itself sufficient. For the translator himself may be a skilful writer, and although he may have conveyed the essential meaning, characterisation and plot of the original author, he may have so strong a style of his own that he completely changes that of the original author. The example of this kind of translation which springs most readily to my mind is Fitzgerald\'s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyaim. 1 would therefore make this the second test: that a translator does his work with the least possible obtrusion of his own personality. The third and final test which a good translator should be able to pass is that of being able to produce in the hearts and minds of his readers an effect equivalent to that produced by the author upon his original readers. Of course no translator living would claim that his work successfully achieved these three ideals. But he must bear them in mind constantly as principles for his guidance.



--J.B. Phillips





[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-08-20 15:12 ]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:34
Spanish to English
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Thank you Aug 20, 2002

Goodwords,



I particularly support the first and the third and even see them as realted, perhaps. As for the second, I think that that one is possibly the most difficult of all to assess.



Thanks again.



Ailish


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Nikita Kobrin  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 16:34
Member (2010)
English to Russian
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ABSOLUTELY! Aug 20, 2002


NATURAL LANGUAGE

+

ORIGINAL STYLE

+

ORIGINAL IMPRESSION




Nikita



[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-08-21 20:20 ]


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krishna mallick
India
Local time: 19:04
Japanese to English
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I AGREE----and thanks Phillips Aug 21, 2002

The first one (shouldn\'t look like a translated document) usually judges whether the translation is perfect or not.





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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:34
English to German
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I agree but Aug 22, 2002

do these rules apply to gobbledegook as well? Sorry, I am just struggling with the most atrocious peace of corporate \"communication\".

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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 08:34
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
GIGO or value-added service? Aug 22, 2002

Quote:


On 2002-08-22 00:47, OlafK wrote:

do these rules apply to gobbledegook as well? Sorry, I am just struggling with the most atrocious peace of corporate \"communication\".





Good point... As another translator once said in a different forum:



And some of us serve the client, not the God of Translation Equivalence...



In other words, we\'re providing business services, and if the purpose of the translation is clear communication, there is nothing traitorous about improving on the original. On the other hand, if the reason for having the text translated is to communicate the awfulness of the original to the readership in the target language, then, yes, be creatively bad.



Opinions?





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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:34
English to German
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That should be "piece" up there of course Aug 23, 2002

You see how confused I was by all this marketing gibberish. I hate how they turn nouns into verbs and vice versa and try to hide what they really want to say behind convoluted sentences full of buzz words.

Sometimes I have to read a sentence over and over in order to understand it and my translation will always be clearer than the original even if that wasn\'t the author\'s intention. But a translation that is too vague just looks like a bad translation, even if in that respect it is true to the original. English advertising copy is sometimes particularly bad because it is so full of self-praise, repitition and redundancy. Usually it has to be toned down and edited down in German, otherwise it would make people laugh. So adaptation to a different culture has to be taken into account as well. But maybe that\'s part of the third test.


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