Question about translation of material already published in the target language ...
Thread poster: Patricia Rosas

Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 21, 2006

I hope I'm posting this is an appropriate forum.
I translate from Spanish into English, and normally, when I encountered quoted material, I do some research to see if the work has already been translated into English. If it has, I buy the book (usually without charging the client) and use that as the source for the translation of the quoted passage.

Today, I'm translating a history text filled with direct quotes from Hernán Cortés and his contemporaries. I was able to find a translation of one of his letters on-line, but it wasn't a good translation.

So, I went to Amazon and was about to start buying books when I realized (1) I was going to spend a fortune (and not make any money on this job); (2) a few of the works quoted are not in English; and (3) several more are in English but are out of print.

Since these works are all in the public domain, would it be a violation of "translator ethics" if I offered my own translation of them?

If it does matter, any suggestions about how I can minimize the burden of having to buy these works and then search through them for quoted material?

Thanks!


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 21:58
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
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Don't you have access to a library? Sep 22, 2006

Just a suggestion, depends of course on where you live.
Regards
Heinrich


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:58
English to Spanish
+ ...
My Way Sep 22, 2006

My way is to translate it, I would never use anyone else's translations or even care to see them.

The only time I look is when I am given a translation to translate back into the original (between English and Spanish of course). Then I look on the Net or in books for the ORIGINAL and use that, because it is the original.

So if you give me a quote from H. Cortés and it is in English, I'll look for the Spanish. If you give it to me in Spanish, I'll translate it.

When going the other way it is amazing what you will find. Horrendous translations abound. Back translation is something you don't even want to think about!

(Reply to Heinrich) Yes she does have access to an excellent library about an hour away, that I know!



[Editado a las 2006-09-22 00:49]


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for the support! Sep 22, 2006

Henry Hinds wrote:


(Reply to Heinrich) Yes she does have access to an excellent library about an hour away, that I know!



[Editado a las 2006-09-22 00:49]


Henry and Heinrich--thanks for the responding (I've been in a real funk about this today).

About the wonderful U of Arizona library: it is too far to go! It would take me 3 hours round trip, not counting parking and walking to the library or the time spent searching the stacks. But if I ever run into this in the future, I will plan better and go. (My doggies have a "doggie daycare" just blocks from the library, so I could make a day of it and get of out Rio Raquitico where I live.)

One question: If you did do research that took you almost the entire day, would you charge the client for the time you spent, or just absorb it?

Thanks again!


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Having written the client ... Sep 22, 2006

I did want to come back to what Henry says. He and I work in very different areas, but for academic publishing, it is VERY IMPORTANT to quote the "official" translated version of a major work. There are a couple of reasons:

1. Suppose I have to cite something written in a third language, such as a quote from Foucault. All the English readers will grab their copies of Discipline and Punish and turn to the page where the quote is cited, but of course, it won't be there because in the Spanish translation or the French original, it'll be on another page. So, even if my translation is stellar, they'll be left thumbing through the book trying to find the quote so that they can read the context for it.

2. Suppose that in translating Foucault, I choose a word that isn't in the English translation of the quotation. Let's hypothetically go so far as to say mine is a better choice. But if everyone who is reading Foucault is used to seeing one piece of jargon for a term and are now confronted with a different term, that could be a problem (so much social science writing seems--to me, at least--to be telegraphed through words and phrases that sort of take on a life of their own). And if the quote is well known in English, why would I want to tinker with it?

3. Suppose that I come across a quotation from Jorge Castañeda (a prominent journalist and former Fox cabinet minister in Mexico). I can guarantee that a lot of what he writes gets translated--often by him because he's bilingual, but if not, certainly by people who work for him. And I'm sure he checks those translations. In other words, to him they are "official" so if I produce my own version, and it gets printed up here in the States, it's doing him a disservice because it is not stated the way he wanted it to be stated.

Looked at another way, when I translate for someone from Mexico, and he or she reviews the translation and then perhaps even present the material in person here in the US, it would fry me that someone else would come along and re-do my carefully crafted work (without the author's approval) just because they were too lazy to track it down.

So, I don't expect this to apply to everyone, but it does apply to the clients I work for ... And now that I've said that, I'm back to worrying about whether I'm doing the right thing by not finding these quotes in print ...

[Edited at 2006-09-22 02:02]


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:58
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
OT: Google Book Search Sep 22, 2006

Sometimes you can get lucky at Google Book Search:

http://books.google.com/books?q=Hernán%20Cortés&btnG=Search%20Books&as_brr=0

Regards,
Gerard


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Sep 22, 2006

Gerard de Noord wrote:

Sometimes you can get lucky at Google Book Search:

http://books.google.com/books?q=Hernán%20Cortés&btnG=Search%20Books&as_brr=0

Regards,
Gerard



I knew about this part of Google, but rarely use, and yesterday, it didn't even occur to me! So far, no luck with Cortés's 2nd letter, but I'll try the other quotations later today. THANKS!


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Marian Greenfield  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:58
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
what constitutes an "official" translation??? Sep 22, 2006

Who gets to dub a translation "official"...

For someone like Borges or Cortázar, or for Harry Potter for that matter, that's easy, because the translator either works with the author or is chosen by the publishing house. But for classical works, there can be many "accepted" translations and endless debate about which is best...

A translator must find the original quote when dealing with a translation (that is, if you come across a quote in Spanish that you know was originally written in English), but it's not obvious to me that you need to search for TRANSLATIONS OF QUOTES other than in the cases above, where there really are "official" translations...

Best,
msg

Patricia Rosas wrote:

I did want to come back to what Henry says. He and I work in very different areas, but for academic publishing, it is VERY IMPORTANT to quote the "official" translated version of a major work. There are a couple of reasons:

1. Suppose I have to cite something written in a third language, such as a quote from Foucault. All the English readers will grab their copies of Discipline and Punish and turn to the page where the quote is cited, but of course, it won't be there because in the Spanish translation or the French original, it'll be on another page. So, even if my translation is stellar, they'll be left thumbing through the book trying to find the quote so that they can read the context for it.

2. Suppose that in translating Foucault, I choose a word that isn't in the English translation of the quotation. Let's hypothetically go so far as to say mine is a better choice. But if everyone who is reading Foucault is used to seeing one piece of jargon for a term and are now confronted with a different term, that could be a problem (so much social science writing seems--to me, at least--to be telegraphed through words and phrases that sort of take on a life of their own). And if the quote is well known in English, why would I want to tinker with it?

3. Suppose that I come across a quotation from Jorge Castañeda (a prominent journalist and former Fox cabinet minister in Mexico). I can guarantee that a lot of what he writes gets translated--often by him because he's bilingual, but if not, certainly by people who work for him. And I'm sure he checks those translations. In other words, to him they are "official" so if I produce my own version, and it gets printed up here in the States, it's doing him a disservice because it is not stated the way he wanted it to be stated.

Looked at another way, when I translate for someone from Mexico, and he or she reviews the translation and then perhaps even present the material in person here in the US, it would fry me that someone else would come along and re-do my carefully crafted work (without the author's approval) just because they were too lazy to track it down.

So, I don't expect this to apply to everyone, but it does apply to the clients I work for ... And now that I've said that, I'm back to worrying about whether I'm doing the right thing by not finding these quotes in print ...

[Edited at 2006-09-22 02:02]


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
yes, but ... ;-) Sep 23, 2006

[quote]Marian Greenfield wrote:

A translator must find the original quote when dealing with a translation (that is, if you come across a quote in Spanish that you know was originally written in English), but it's not obvious to me that you need to search for TRANSLATIONS OF QUOTES other than in the cases above, where there really are "official" translations...

[quote]Patricia Rosas wrote:

Hi, Marian, and thanks for your comments. I see what you are saying, but it seems to me that if there is a published version or a publicly available version that the author has commissioned, then that is, indeed, what I ought to be quote. (This is often--although certainly not always--the case in the material I'm given.)

But I'm figuring that 'em dead conquistadors ain't coming after me, so I'm taking a stab at it. But, as you saw from one of KudoZ posts this morning, it archaic or arcane (at least, for me) so this is going to be a headache no matter how I approach it.

It turns out that the deciding factor has been the people at the press, who have a tight deadline...

Have a good weekend!


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Krys Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:58
Member (2003)
Polish to English
+ ...
Official? Sep 24, 2006

I would also question the concept of an "official" translation of anything where the author of the original has not specifically authorised one particular translation. OK, if academics use a particular translation almost exclusively, there may be some justification for citing it, but otherwise, I think you have a free hand. After all, think what controversy there is over the diverse translations of the Bible!

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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
hmmm... Sep 24, 2006

Krys Williams wrote:

After all, think what controversy there is over the diverse translations of the Bible!


Krys, thanks for your comments. Fortunately, I think the press agrees with you. But after all, no one cites an unpublished version of the Bible, do they? That's really all that I'm saying. When material in Spanish has been published in (a widely circulated) form or is posted on the web (by the author or conference organizers, or journal, or whatever), other academics see and read that as part of the ongoing dialogue in their subspecialties, so I don't think (for modern authors, at least) that it is fair to create one's own version ... but I'm doing it for all the dead conquistadors (pray God, I don't to their words what they have done to others ...)


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
"official" in quotes Sep 24, 2006

By the way, when I first mentioned "official," I put it very intentionally in quotation marks. If something has been published in hard copy or on the Internet, then I think that should be used. If it hasn't been translated, then of course, we must translate it...

I still feel quite strongly that there is an obligation to search for the original document from which a quotation is taken, in print or on the Internet, to verify that it hasn't been translated. At least in my field (social science), there is a dialogue (or as they say, "the literature") and people rely on this corpus to develop their arguments. That's why providing scholars with sources in their native language is important, whenever possible.

If it's Bernal Díaz del Castillo or the Bible (or one of a few other rare texts that get reprinted and translated multiple times), then pick I'd pick the version that is appropriate for the context I'm working in.


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