Mobile menu

When the source language is poorly spoken...
Thread poster: Michelle Welchons

Michelle Welchons
United States
Local time: 19:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 22, 2006

I'm not sure which forum this should go in. I'm currently transcribing and translating a police interrogation that takes place in California. They are interrogating a Mexican, and one of the police doubles as the interpreter. His Spanish is pretty bad, and it often causes confusion. I asked my project manager about how I should go about translating it (ie lots of words that don't exist, he leaves out one word that changes the whole meaning of the sentence, etc), she just said translate what you hear.

But now I've run across my newest challenge, "herdido." (In Spanish, "wouded" is herido, and "wound" is herida, in this case, he's aiming at "herida").

Do I just put "wound" because we know that's wha the means? I'm not sure if the Mexican knows, because its in the middle of a horribly constructed sentence, "Ya sabes que de pegar a alguien, en la cabeza, eso se puede causar herdido muy feo? " Which, if literally translated would mean "You know, that about hitting someone, in the head, that, it may cause a bad herdido?"

Is there a rule of thumb for these situations?

Thanks.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 21:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
As we say in KudoZ: 'More context please!' Jun 22, 2006

Surely it all depends on the context. Is this the transcript of a real-life police interrogation, that you are translating for some legal purpose, or is it an extract from a gangster movie?

In the former case, above all, you'll need very clear instructions from your client.

In the latter case you'll need to get across the sense of confusion in the source dialogue by inventing comparable language errors in the target language.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 18:38
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Seconded Jun 22, 2006

As mediamatrix says, the purpose of the translation is crucial. In particular, if the translation is for legal purposes, it would be a falsification to smooth out the errors (explanatory footnotes or bracketed notes would be one option). If it is for literary purposes, it will be an interesting challenge in translation equivalence.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michelle Welchons
United States
Local time: 19:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's real-life. Jun 22, 2006

Hey guys. Unfortunately, mediamatrix, this is not a gangster movie (although it reads like one!), which would have been much more fun.

I am going to call my project manager and see what the client wants, because some of the stuff this policeman says is really ridiculous.

Thanks for your advice!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Carlos Montilla
Local time: 01:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translate the idea Jun 22, 2006

I'd suggest that you translate the intention, not what is actually said.

In your example, I'd translate "herdido" as "wound" (not wounded).

Only if you want to reflect that the policeman can't speak proper Spanish (which may be the case...), reproduce the mistakes.

If this is not your case, I'd go for a legible text.

You can always add a footnote saying the original text was horrendous and that you are reproducing the intention of the speaker.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:38
German to English
+ ...
Poor communication may be crucial Jun 22, 2006

If this is a translation for use in the legal system (court, lawyer etc.), they may want to draw legal conclusions from the dialogue, for example to judge the guy, decide on the sentence to give, justify an appeal or similar.

So it may be important to say "This is what the cop was trying to say, but the poor guy had no chance to understand it because the cop spoke such rotten Spanish."


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michelle Welchons
United States
Local time: 19:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes to both. Jun 22, 2006

Carlos - I agree that it's okay to translate the intention like in that case, because a spanish speaker can figure out that he meant to say "herida."

But, as Victor says, if this is for an appeal or to review the case, there are mistakes that are more important.


Like when he wants to say (i've changed the names) "Who did Bob hit wit the bat?"

and says "Quien pegaba Bob con el bat?"
(instead of "A quien le pegaba Bob con el bat?")

which totally confuses the Mexican guy, since Bob HAD the bat, but the question is a lot closer to "Who hit Bob with the bat.." ...well, you get the idea.

::SIGH:: pay an interpreter!! haha.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
Let them know Jun 22, 2006

As several colleagues have noted, you should let them know that that there were many cases in which communication was hampered due to the police officer's bad Spanish.

You might have to use a series of notes to explain all of this, doing your best to render the probable meaning but at the same time showing that it may not have been correctly understood.

Creative use of language just cannot convey all that. At times I have had to do back translations where the original showed through and I was able to get back to it fairly well, but to say that a Spanish speaker would have understood it equally well would not be correct.

Good luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 01:38
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Lost in translation? No way Jose... Jun 22, 2006

, dont let it hapen;)

Just summarizing the tenor of the thread


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Silvina Beatriz Codina  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 21:38
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You have to convey that the interpretation was bad Jun 23, 2006

If I ever have the idea of going to live in the US, that's the first job I would apply for... interpreter for the legal system or hospitals; at least I'm trained to do that.

I've read very frequently that this work is often performed by people who are only slightly acquainted with the languages they are supposed to be working with, and the results are really horrible mistakes, like people going to jail for things they didn't do, or patients in hospital undergoing surgeries they did not intend to give their authorization for, just because they could not make themselves understood.

I agree with what others have already said. With other subjects you can interpret what people really mean, but not in legal contexts: you have to stick with what the original says even if it is totally absurd, erroneous or false (though you can always inform the client about this circumstance). In this particular case I should say that it is very important to convey exactly that this Mexican person was placed in a very clear disadvantage because he could not understand what they were saying or could not make himself understood, because this may be an issue in his legal situation later on.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 18:38
English to Russian
+ ...
Poor US... Jun 23, 2006

Silvina Beatriz Codina wrote:

If I ever have the idea of going to live in the US, that's the first job I would apply for... interpreter for the legal system or hospitals; at least I'm trained to do that.

I've read very frequently that this work is often performed by people who are only slightly acquainted with the languages they are supposed to be working with.


Just curious - where and with whom exactly can one apply for "legal system or hospital" interpreter? Maybe people simply get what they paid for? Or bring their relatives to play the role. Or are U.S also obligated to provide top interpreters for every case at taxpayers' expense? ? Well, if you can not afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to you... Same goes for everyone, every single US citizen or resident, regardless...

Please, next time do not generalize about handicapped US interpreters, OK?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:38
This is not an issue for the translator to convey... Jun 23, 2006

Silvina Beatriz Codina wrote:

In this particular case I should say that it is very important to convey exactly that this Mexican person was placed in a very clear disadvantage because he could not understand what they were saying or could not make himself understood, because this may be an issue in his legal situation later on.


This is for a judge to decide, based on the documentation provided to him. The translator is not the defendant of the patient. That is why colleagues have been telling Michelle to be very careful on how she proceeds, since it is something that will be taken to court.

I personally believe one of the first messaages (using footnotes to explain the situation) is the best solution.

BTW, to be able to act as interpreter in the US one needs not only be fluent in at least two languages, and specialized in a certain field. It also takes knowledge of the medical and judicial systems. Enough qualified people to satisfy the demand are difficult to find but , in general, things are not as bad as you have read.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Silvina Beatriz Codina  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 21:38
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No intention to offend... Jun 23, 2006

I most certainly do not intend to offend any US interpreter, not even the people who have to do this work without being fully qualfied as it seems to be the case of this poor detective. It is just that I read often enough about the fact that the demand is so high that not always it was possible to find qualified people. It would be nice if the State (any State, not only in the US) could provide top interpreters, or top lawyers for people in need, but of course that would be in an ideal world. Anyway I'm glad the situation is not as bad as it was reflected on the press.

Just for the record, I do have knowledge of the judicial system. I had to learn, as part of my training.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:38
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Absolutely not! Jun 29, 2006

Carlos Montilla wrote:

I'd suggest that you translate the intention, not what is actually said.

In your example, I'd translate "herdido" as "wound" (not wounded).

Only if you want to reflect that the policeman can't speak proper Spanish (which may be the case...), reproduce the mistakes.

If this is not your case, I'd go for a legible text.

You can always add a footnote saying the original text was horrendous and that you are reproducing the intention of the speaker.


Sorry, to join this important discussion so late.

You cannot change, smooth out anything. That would only cause more confusion, because it would not reflect faithfully what was said, and in any case it is not the correct way to go about it.
This is the case, where no poetic licence or stylistic improvement is allowed.

The rules of legal transcribing - and the tapes are legal text - demand faithful reproduction. It is not a question "if you want to". The badly composed sentences, wrong use of words are part of what happened during the interview, and it may have influenced how much or what the Spanish person understood, therefore it had effect on his answers. The only thing you can do is to make comments, footnotes to the translation.

It can greatly influence the course of justice, if the English speaking participants in the case think, that the interview went even relatively smoothly as far as the language and understanding went. What a difference it can make, if it turns out, that it is not the case!

Your duty is to render what was said as faithfully as possible, and as most likely the English question was uttered firts, and then translated into Spanish, it should be clear that there is a big discrepancy. The same applies to the answers: you translate the Spanish answer, and then the policeman's translation. Again, the difference should come out, but the proper version would be side by side to the stilted one, in any case. In fact, one of the main purpose of your translation is to highlight the differences.

Good luck.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michelle Welchons
United States
Local time: 19:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all, what an important topic.. Jun 29, 2006

thanks to everyone for all your responses, hopefully this thread will also help other translators and transcribers in the future.

i ended up trying to find an equivalent mistake in english, and put an asterisk to every occurence of this in the transcription and then put a note at the top explaining that since it was a legal verbatim transcription/translation, i had tried to translate everything verbatim (obviously! haha), but that due to the poor quality of the interpreter's spanish, some words did not have equivalencies in english (ie he made them up, haha), and that i had tried to convey what the interviewee was perceiving, and that it had been marked with an asterisk. etc etc etc.

so far i have not heard back from my PM or the document reviewers so i have no idea if no news is good news or if they didn't like my solution and are changing everything. i'm hoping it's the former.

anyway, thanks to you all...

now go play outside!

-michelle

[Edited at 2006-06-29 18:27]


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

When the source language is poorly spoken...

Advanced search


Translation news





PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs