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Foreign terms in translation
Thread poster: Kathleen Shelly
Kathleen Shelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mar 14, 2008

I have always been taught that if there is a foreign term in a translation in a different language from the source and target language, that term is left in the original language, particularly if it is recognized literary or philosophical term. For example, in the lastest translation contest, the German word "Schadenfreude" is used. Most people tried to render it into the target language, but others (myself included) left it as is. The rationale is that if the English writer wanted to express the idea in English he would have done so. Its use also presupposes a certain educational level on the part of the reader in the source language which there is no reason to alter in the target language. Some feedback, please?

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Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 17:40
Member (2007)
German to English
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A little note Mar 14, 2008

Schadenfreude is actually a perfectly valid word in English, even though it is directly borrowed from German. So there's a big difference between using the word "schadenfreude" in English and using it in Spanish, where it is not an officially recognized (or used, for that matter) word!

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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
English to Arabic
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Not necessarily.. Mar 14, 2008

Just a quick thought, taking your "Schadenfreude" example. This German word has actually made it into the English language, even if it does presuppose some level of education. But that's not the case with all other languages. I can say with great certainty that even well-educated Arab readers would not recognise the word if I used it in an Arab document, unless their English was so good that they knew it through their knowledge of English. The word would have to be translated.

In other cases I would always use the foreign term used by the author, e.g if in an English text the author used an Indian or Chinese word e.g.. I remember for example someone once asking on Kudoz what a certain Indian yoga term meant. It was used without explanation in the English text. Of course, it would be useful for the translator to know what the term actually means, but if the English author didn't bother explaining the term or using an English equivalent, then I don't see why the Arabic translator should do that.


PS: I hadn't read Marcelo's reply before posting mine, but I see we agree!


[Edited at 2008-03-14 13:43]


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 19:40
Partial member
Spanish
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It depends Mar 14, 2008

Hello Kathleen,

I agree with you but only to an extent; there are many circumstances to consider.

Some languages have more things in common with certain languages rather than with others, so some words might sound similar or they might share the same root. For instance, Spanish-Italian, English-German, etc.

Another reason is immigration. There are also plain cultural reasons like some major issue known around the word, case in point, 'apartheid' is an acceptable word in many languages.

In English, for instance, it's not unusual to use loanwords from German, Yiddish, French, Spanish, etc. on a daily basis. One of the reasons is the flexibility of the English language when it comes to language rules. These 'foreign' words are considered part of the English language. Spanish is a much more rigid language; to put it candidly: some loanwords make the cut, most don't.

You mentioned the word "Schadenfreude", which is a perfectly acceptable English word, but in Spanish most people won't understand what it means without an explanation or a translator's note.

But like you said, you'd also need to consider your target public.


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Kathleen Shelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
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TOPIC STARTER
Another comment Mar 14, 2008

Well, I actually did not know that Schedenfreude was accepted in English. As a former scholar of Spanish and Latin American literature, I have actually used the German word in published papers written in Spanish with no thought of translating it from German into Spanish. Live and learn.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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I have a dim view of such writers, but... Mar 14, 2008

Kathleen Shelly wrote:
For example, in the lastest translation contest, the German word "Schadenfreude" is used. ... The rationale is that if the English writer wanted to express the idea in English he would have done so.


Perhaps the reason he (the original writer) did not do so is because he is lacking in that department (the writing department).

Or, perhaps he is afraid that his text up to that point does not sufficiently suggest to the reader that he is an educated writer, and decides to impress his reader with a foreign-looking word.

Perhaps he is one those writers whom everyone admires because they can't decide if he is much more intelligent or much less intelligent than they are, and they don't want to appear stupid by selecting the wrong one.

It may sound like I'm being sarcastic here, and perhaps I am a little, but the point is that there is a reason why the writer didn't use a "normal" word. The translator should decide what that reason was, and he should choose a word or phrase in the target language that achieves the same result.

Literary translation (I mean the arty-farty type of literary translation) is all about guessing what the writer meant, if you ask me.


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xxxAdrian MM.
Local time: 02:40
French to English
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Put an equivalent in brackets Mar 15, 2008

The first point should be whether to leave it with initial caps as in the German or use lower casing as/like Marcelo has.

I subscribe to Nesrin's point of a certain level of education being required to understand the term.

Unless you know the competition judges are in a German-speaking country or community of the US - virtually impossible to second-guess, then take a stab at an explanation in brackets or spoken afterwards like {gloating/ recrearse con la desgracia de otros}.

Though neither the English, nor the Spanish, can convey the historical, Nazi-criminal and cultural baggage the term carries, there may come a time when the children's malicious cartoon-book Struwelpeter and Wilhelm Busch's spiteful characters Max & Moritz one day permeate Hispanic culture and then the word will literally spread.



[Edited at 2008-03-15 00:22]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
All speakers don't know all history Mar 15, 2008

Tom Thumb wrote:
Though neither the English, nor the Spanish, can convey the historical, Nazi-criminal and cultural baggage the term carries...


This is a good point. If the speaker used the word because he wanted a word with all that historical baggage, his actions would have been futile if his reader's interest at school lay somewhere else than history. Not everyone knows all history.

And as we're getting further and further away from the original events, fewer and fewer people know what the original, baggaged meaning of the word used to be, and instead uses it in other, newer ways that is more relevant to today's world.


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Jim Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Hungarian to English
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Journalist's joke illustrates that "schadenfreude" is now English Mar 16, 2008

Came across this quote today, from a journalist with a sense of humor:



"The very mention of the strong-dollar policy now elicits raucous bouts of knee-slapping in even the most sober Swiss banks. (How do you say schadenfreude in German?)"


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