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Translating proper nouns - What are the pros and cons?
Thread poster: VIBOL KEO

VIBOL KEO  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:25
Member (2009)
English to Khmer (Central)
Jan 10, 2008

I have observed that the proper nouns with some subject matters are translated with a focus of meaning rather than phonetic translation. I gree for learning more about why they are named.

However, I wonder whether there are someones who are able to explain about its pros and cons resulting from a translation of the proper nouns.

I look forward to learning more from you, if possible. Thanks!

[Edited at 2008-01-10 05:00]

[Edited at 2008-01-10 05:04]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:25
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Spanish to English
+ ...
Moving this topic to "Translation Theory and Practice" Jan 10, 2008

Just for clarification, however, when you talk about "phonetic translation", I presume you are referring to what happens to proper nouns between alphabets and phonetic systems. In any case, examples of what you mean specifically would be interesting.

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VIBOL KEO  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:25
Member (2009)
English to Khmer (Central)
TOPIC STARTER
Very big thanks and ...! Jan 10, 2008

First of all, I would like to say thank you very much of your kind advice to changing/move the subject line to the Translation Theory and Practice due to some kinds of my constraints regarding a decision making for editing.

I have presumed is perfect and useful for a further discussion as you are interested in such issue. Furthermore, 1). I wonder whether u could advise me for if I am asked to translate "XYZ Import & Export Company" or a bible "Mathew" which is a name (i.e. how to do it as well as XYZ, Import & Export, Comapny ...).

I hope you will have found useful.


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
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Russian to English
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Consider trademarks Jan 10, 2008

Cambodian is not one of the languages I do, so I'll illustrate my point with Spanish.

Let's say you have a reference to "Autobuses del Oriente, S.A. de C.V.". This is a Mexican company (or at least it was in 1971), properly registered under the laws of Mexico with that name. I run into some problems if I choose to call this "Eastern Buses, Share Corporation".
a) This bus company, which as far as I know only operates in Mexico, probably doesn't have the English name registered with anyone. They don't have many English-speaking passengers and doesn't market to English-speaking people.
b) It is entirely possible that this English name is someone else's trademark. You don't want to have the two companies confused or worse, be accused of trademark infringement.

For these reasons, unless you are a trademark attorney (and most translators aren't), I would recommend leaving the name in the source language, perhaps adding an explanation of what the company is, e.g., [a bus company]. As a side effect, this makes it clear in responses what company is under discussion. (e.g., you won't find a reference to Autobuses Orientales because someone translated "Eastern Buses" differently.

However, some organizations have official target language names. If you have a reference to Banco Internacional de Desarollo, for example, that should be the International Development Bank, because that is its official English name.

I would put the Bible in this category. If I have a reference to Mateo and it is clearly the Apostle who is meant, that would be translated as Matthew.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:25
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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Yes, it's interesting Jan 11, 2008

VIBOL KEO wrote:

I have presumed is perfect and useful for a further discussion as you are interested in such issue. Furthermore, 1). I wonder whether u could advise me for if I am asked to translate "XYZ Import & Export Company" or a bible "Mathew" which is a name (i.e. how to do it as well as XYZ, Import & Export, Comapny ...).


In fact, if I had to do a thesis all over again, this would be one of my candidate topics.

Paul has a very important point. Names under modern legal systems are practically fixed entities (legal personalities in the case of companies). Therefore, "Microsoft" can't look like anything else wherever the Latin alphabet is used, and is only transliterated into other alphabets. However, some entities, like the United Nations, have an official version in every official language that they use, and may also have translations accepted and used by governments of member states.

On another hand, names that have historically and traditionally been translated (Popes -- presuming everyone departs from Latin -- Queen Elizabeth in the Spanish press, Prince Rainier in Italian -- considering his family origins) will change depending on the language. Thus, HRH Norodom Sihanouk is known to the west by his French transliteration, while you will have several versions of the late King Farouk/Farouq/Faruk: a reflection on the foreign relations of Egypt in that day.

History is one source for proper name translations in this respect, particularly literary history. Now that you mention Matthew, he falls into the category of universally-translated authors. There are others: Homer, Aristotle, St. Jerome... and their creatures, as well, to the extent that these form a kind of universal database (think: Cinderella has other names in a great number of languages).

Things that are a part of this universal treasure-trove tend to have translations. All the similes that Aesop originated (cunning as a fox, eyes of a lynx, crows that will pick your eyes out) have their versions in all the languages descended from that heritage.

The tough part is, as soon as you attempt to phrase a rule for translating proper nouns, you'll find an exception. So the safest bet is to study the connections and leeway that the target language offers. In this sense, this is like law: in the grey areas, we look at the jurisprudence.

Hope it helps


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VIBOL KEO  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:25
Member (2009)
English to Khmer (Central)
TOPIC STARTER
Candidate topic regarding PEST?! Jan 15, 2008

Hi Parrot and Paul Merriam!

Great to hearing what you explained and thanks for your times, but sorry for a delay as it is becuase my time constraint.

Parrot, would you address your candidate topic regarding political, socio-economical, and technological factors? I think it would be great, if so.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:25
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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PEST Jan 17, 2008

... took me some time to figure that out

However, yes, it's very interesting and worth a glance. I first observed this because I have a (very low) reading knowledge of Arabic. Words and names coming from that language are transcribed very differently in Latin, depending on the writer's language and the references people use (for instance, the word "bedouin" pronounced in French more realistically reflects the Arab pronunciation, and despite this, it was grafted wholesale into English, where the root would sound more like "badu"). This by itself can tell you a story-between-the-lines about international relations.

Elsewhere I wrote that some such translation problems are better resolved "retroactively"; i.e., by referring to older historical forms rather than by plunging forward and wreaking globalized havoc upon the receiver language. Spanish, for instance, has a choice between anglicizing certain more recent neologisms or breaking out older expressions based on Latin, Greek or Arabic. (The subsequent integration of these loaned devices give such language a more "organic" feel).

It helps to have a long perspective of one's target language. My second native tongue, for instance, is Tagalog, whose speakers are mostly bilingual and don't even think twice about grafting a concept as alien as "land line" or "hair-dryer" wholesale. Nonetheless, it has devices that hark back to Spanish, Arabic and even Sanscrit, and would be using a different writing system if Latin had not been imposed during its colonial history.

I'm not familiar with Khmer, even though I did some interpretation in Siem Reap regarding epigraphy and restoration. I understand it roughly has similar devices, particularly with reference to shared cultural packages. The experience certainly made me want to come back some day!


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