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do you use footnotes?
Thread poster: Doroto
Doroto
Local time: 20:10
English to Chinese
+ ...
Nov 22, 2007

Very often we encounter situations where you just cannot find any equivalent counterpart for a given word in another language, say, English to Chinese or vice versa. Espetially in my specialized legal field, many legal terminologies are strictly defined carrying a certain meaning known to lawyers, but not necessarily to laymen. When translating such terms, i used to not put any explanation or notes therefor as is the case in the practice (drafting agreement, contracts etc.) by many foreign law firms in China.

But this may seem inappropriate and unprofessional if the nuance is not brough to notice. So I discuss with my collegues (also lawyers and translators) and some agree to add footnotes and some disagree.

I am not sure whether other international fellow translators have tried this technique in your work. Please share with me your experience.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:10
German to English
+ ...
Only where I feel the source text is not clear Nov 22, 2007

Legal translation is one of my main specialisms, but I am not a lawyer, and I do not feel that it is my responsibility to explain the implications of the law or give definitions of legal concepts in my translations.
It is important, however, to make sure that it is clear what jurisdiction applies.
My texts (mainly German to English) often deal with transations and the legal position in Germany. Sometimes, I add the country name to any references to statutes, e.g. in English I write "the German Civil Code", "the German Commercial Code" etc., although the word "German" is not in the German original. So the English reader will know that if he/she wants to explore the implications of this concept further, he/she will need to consult a lawyer who is qualified in Germany.
As a translator, my job is to translate what the legal eagles write, not to give legal advice.
In fact, in most countries we could be prosecuted for giving legal advice if we are not registered lawyers, so I would be very careful about giving too much interpretation. If I spot any contradictions in the text or consider that something has been overlooked, I may occasionally point this out to the client depending on the circumstances, but only as a suggestion that the client may wish to consider this point, not as legal advice.


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Marisa Condurso de Nohara  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 09:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
Different field, but similar situation Nov 22, 2007

Doroto wrote:

Very often we encounter situations where you just cannot find any equivalent counterpart for a given word in another language.....


Hi Doroto,

Hundreds of times I have wondered if I should or shouldn't add a footnote when I know that my translation will go directly to the end user. My field is quite different from yours, but similar situations appear from time to time. I really hate meanings "lost in translation" and take them as real challenges. Long, long ago, I was freightened by the idea that the customer would feel that I was interfering in his/her own text.

But after many years, I have started adding not only footnotes but inserting commentaries within the very text, too, namely:

- I use footnotes in cases where the explanation is far too long.
- When the English word is more common than the Spanish one (for example in the medical field) I write between square brackets the English original word following my translated word.

For example:

"Women with benign, borderline or malignant tumors......"
"Las mujeres con tumores benignos, dudosos [borderline] o malignos.....",

since Spanish-speaking oncologists are quite familiar with that English term "borderline", rather than with "dudoso".

The question here deals with how many times you can resort to footnotes or square brackets. I think that it all depends on the particular features of your language pair. But to give you a wide panorama, I resort to footnotes very scarcely and when I do, I notify the client that I have added them to better clarify the author's original idea. If the client does not agree, he/she will only have to delete my footnote, but I ensure pretty well that he/she has received my warning.

So far, my footnotes and square brackets have never been rejected. On the contrary, I have been thanked for my involvement and commitment towards the client's interest.

But I have one advantage: My translations usually go for the pharmaceutical industry, and in my mother tongue for customers whose mother language is the same as mine, and only afterwards, my translations get to the end user's desk: doctors.

Hope you can enjoy this advantage too. If I were you, I would not overuse this resource, but do your best to convey the real meaning of the source language in the way you can. That's our daily challenge!

Regards,
McNohara


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Doroto
Local time: 20:10
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agree. Nov 23, 2007

Victor Dewsbery wrote:


As a translator, my job is to translate what the legal eagles write, not to give legal advice.



Right, Victor.

A translator shall not in any manner intend to interpret legal terminologies. The point is that if you don't tell it you might put your client in maze about some words of almost the same meaning. To illustrate this:

In Chinese civil procedure law, two terms, ("canjiaren" and "canyuren", these are Chinese pinyin spelling not characters) are very much the same thing in daily discourse but were given different meaning in that statute. "Canjiaren" refers only to the parties to the dispute and their agents ad litem, while "canyuren" includes not only "canjiaren" but also witnesses, appraisers and other supportive participants. To translate those terms into English, the counterparts I can think of for them are "attendee" and "participants". What are the difference between these two English words? Even if there is difference, it does not match their Chiese counterparts.

In such a case, I tend to add a footnote to remind clients or readers of the difference that may matter a lot to them. Of course, we need to let our client know that we have done this for their interests in our work.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
Notes Nov 23, 2007

To make it simple, sometimes there are things that are difficult to translate because they not only belong to a different language, they belong to a different system. Such is often the case in law.

What I use are "translator's notes" (T.N.) that can go at the foot of the page if there is room, and if not in another page reserved for such matters.

I recommend their use whenever you find it appropriate.


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Doroto
Local time: 20:10
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you for sharing your expertise Nov 23, 2007

McNohara wrote:
So far, my footnotes and square brackets have never been rejected. On the contrary, I have been thanked for my involvement and commitment towards the client's interest.

Hope you can enjoy this advantage too. If I were you, I would not overuse this resource, but do your best to convey the real meaning of the source language in the way you can. That's our daily challenge!

Regards,
McNohara



Brackets are often employed in my legal drafting work. For example, in China a company does not have a formal English name, and when we draft a contract involving a Chinese company we usually use brackets to bring the Chinese name to attention for purpose of being accurate.

In all, all we want to do is to help clients to understand the source language and in some cases, I will think it will be appropriate to use footnotes as a reminder and clients, like yours, would appreciate our efforts.

Great Day for you all.

BTW, it would be a great idea to get in touch with you guys personnally for future cooperation or help, since Proz does not allow me to show my MSN and website, please go to see my profile on this website.


[Edited at 2007-11-27 01:35]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:10
French to English
Equivalent impact and info Nov 23, 2007

Whenever possible, I try to ensure that the English-speaking reader (in my case) ends up with the same 'impression' after reading the document as the French reader has (in my case).

Sometimes this does mean you have to spell things out, or explain things. None of us, for example, see a problem with expanding/translating/explaining the name of an organisation existing only in the source-language country. So why not do the same with other aspects?

For example, not long ago, I was translating some Works' Council minutes. It is an offence in France to 'obstruct' the WC from operating effectively. Any French-speaking employee representative would know this. Many English-speaking equivalents would not. Since that whole section of text only made sense if the reader knew how serious it was (i.e. it wasn't just someone being "awkward", it was a serious issue), I added a brief note. Thus (I hope) any English-speaking reader would get the same "impact" from the document as French readers did.


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DBG  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:10
Member (2002)
French to English
Another example-academic documents Nov 23, 2007

I have most often used Translator's Notes when translating academic documents for students applying to study in the US , but I've also used them (sparingly) in other areas, for reasons mentioned by others.

One has to be very careful not to "give" or even imply equivalency between degrees of different educational systems when that has not been clearly and officially established. If the name of the diploma or certificate gives no or little clue to the level of study completed, a translator's note can clarify in a neutral way.

For backgkround, I've done most of my academic document work for a TC and for an NGO, which are responsible for and stamp the translations.

e.g. "Ingénieur d'Application" in the field of agriculture. I would leave this one in French, with a t.n. explaining that it represents X years of post-secondary study at the agricultural institute.

e.g. D.E.U.G. (Diplôme d'études universitaires générales). I 'd give a literal EN translation of this and a t.n. re completion of two post-secondary years at the university. I would NOT for e.g. venture to say it was comparable to a US Associate of Arts degree.

Depending on the format, the t.n. may be placed next to/under the item, more often at the bottom of the page to avoid a cluttered appearance.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:10
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Translator's notes Nov 23, 2007

Henry Hinds wrote:

To make it simple, sometimes there are things that are difficult to translate because they not only belong to a different language, they belong to a different system. Such is often the case in law.

What I use are "translator's notes" (T.N.) that can go at the foot of the page if there is room, and if not in another page reserved for such matters.

I recommend their use whenever you find it appropriate.


I agree with Henry. I also occasionally insert footnotes clearly labelled "Translator's note" (underlined) when, for example, there are mistakes in the original - wrong date, amount in figures different from amount in words, incomplete or illegible words, and so on. This clearly distinguishes my notes from any footnotes there may be in the original. When translating factual matters, such as books about art, history, natural disasters, health, etc. and I notice what I believe to be an error or contradiction, or something that I think could valuably be added to the original as a matter of interest, I also add a translator's note clearly identified as such. I've never received any complaints about this.
Best wishes,
Jenny.


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:10
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Do you use footnotes Nov 23, 2007

The short answer is, yes, I do, especially in medical texts. Any medical person would know that a translator is not a medic therefore footnotes are a must, unless you are one of those translators who thinks your work is 100% correct =). It also shows that the translator is taking their job seriously and professionally, especially when the footnotes cite medical sources, so you cannot be accused of interpreting the translation!

I know for a fact that anybody who studies for the Chartered Institute of Linguists' Diploma in Translation is encouraged to use footnotes, so it must be a good thing, whether to explain a cultural concept/acronym/editing technique.

Oh, yes, and I have never received any negative comments from clients about using footnotes.

Liz Askew

[Edited at 2007-11-23 15:18]


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