We may be losing the "art" of translating by relying on glossaries and terminology bases
Thread poster: David Brown
David Brown  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:48
Spanish to English
May 1, 2004

Recently I was refused a job after translating from Spanish "principio activo" to English "active principle" in a test translation, as I was told this was an "error importante". I recently posed this question to proz.com (kudoz number 701930). I received three different translations (active ingredient, active substance and active principle) all from respected experienced translators. Today (kudoz number 702461) in a reply to a question someone said "but it's not carne(with an accent on the "e") but carnet". Someone else agreed with "carnet", but another said carne was the correct translation as agreed by the DRAE. I happen to believe in carne (with the accent) as it is in my bachillerato dictionary too as the correct term (and carnet is described as "see carne"). I am relatively new to translating (but not to life) and fear that we may be losing the "art" of translating to relying on glossaries and terminology bases (if it's not in my data base it's wrong mentality)



[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2004-05-02 00:33]


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:48
English to Spanish
+ ...
Maybe.... May 1, 2004

Dear David,
I kind of agree with you. It is difficult to keep the art alive and respect the rules. I only wanted to mention the fact that the example you offer ‘carné/carnet’ is quite singular since this is a word with which the RAE has been quite progressive and accepted the term as it is used/pronounced but we are reluctant to write it like that and even not pronouncing the ‘t’ we write it with it. I think ‘carné’ is not appropriate for a formal text (if for any) but I guess you have the right to choose in this case.


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Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:48
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
knowing your subject beats relying blindfolded on glossaries May 2, 2004

David wrote:
... and fear that we may be losing the "art" of translating to relying on glossaries and terminology bases (if it's not in my data base it's wrong mentality)


Hi, David.
I think it boils down to translating texts from topics/fields one is familiar with, or not.
If you embark on a translation in a field you know nothing about, or very little, or with no first-hand experience, then there is little else to do than relying heavily on whatever you find in glossaries and databases, and the result may sound alien to the "insider" end-reader.
While if you know your subject well and are familiar with it in both source and target languages, then you are aware of nuances, of words/expressions used in different contexts with different meanings and translations, and with the "insider" language and style in general.
Another great source of reliable information comes from "human resources" all around you: when I find legal or financial terms in my non-legal/financial texts, for instance, I call friends who work as accountants, lawyers, whatever, and ask them something like: "does this make sense to you? would you understand it? how would you say it differently?"...

ciao,
Roberta


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
Use all resources available May 2, 2004

David

Sorry to hear of the problem you had.

You are right about what you say, and I also agree with Roberta.

Glossaries and databases are complied by translators, and depending on who creates them, there is a greater or lesser degree of reliability. The ProZ glossary is very useful, for example, but contains many errors, with the danger that this perpetuates error. At least,however, we can access the Q and the other answers, so we can make a balanced decision of our own based on our own context.

What you have to do is check against every available source if uncertain about which term to choose, and also look for (reputable) contexts in the WWW. For example, 'active principle' IS used, although far less than 'active ingredient', moreover, it is used, 'a primera vista', in .ORG sites. I see an entry in the Ency. Britannica with 'active principle', but the FDA refers to 'active ingredient', PubMed and Medline both contain references to 'active principle', and so on.... These sites are written/edited by field experts, which sets them apart from glossaries, usually devised for/by non-experts.

The testers are perhaps not entirely correct in claiming that 'active principle' is wrong. They may have an in-house preference for 'active ingredient', but you could possibly argue your case...

Britannica.com:
The psychopharmacological drugs ..... The most important of these are (1) d-lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD-25, which originally was derived from ergot (Claviceps purpurea), a fungus on rye and wheat, (2) mescaline, the ***active principle of the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii), which grows in the southwestern United States and Mexico, and (3) psilocybin and psilocin,...........
http://www.britannica.com/psychedelic/textonly/hallucinogen.html


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David Brown  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:48
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Reluctant to write it like that May 2, 2004

Jesus Marin wrote:

Dear David,
I kind of agree with you. It is difficult to keep the art alive and respect the rules. I only wanted to mention the fact that the example you offer ‘carné/carnet’ is quite singular since this is a word with which the RAE has been quite progressive and accepted the term as it is used/pronounced but we are reluctant to write it like that and even not pronouncing the ‘t’ we write it with it. I think ‘carné’ is not appropriate for a formal text (if for any) but I guess you have the right to choose in this case.



I have a spanish dictionary published in 1991 where the entry for "carnet" refers back to "carne". Carnet is the French spelling of the spanish word carne. Of course it is acceptable, but it does not mean the other is wrong or unacceptable.


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 11:48
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
The particular problem of Spanish May 2, 2004

Dear David

Your topic is much larger than this specific problem, but I'm sure that you're going to be again in the same situation than with "carné" but with other words.
The Spanish language evolves faster than the French one for instance. When new words come from other languages they are first (before being included in the dictionary) pronounced in a Spanish way. Then, when included in the dictionary, the spelling is defined according to the pronounciation.
"Restaurant" ->Restaurante -> Restaurán -> Restorán
Then people think "I'm reluctant to write it like that" and some countries are more purist than others and you will see Spanish speaking countries that accept the new spelling and others that don't, and people who keep their whole life writing the word as they learned it.
This leads to several accepted spellings, all of them right.
The examples of words with at least two spellings are very numerous.

What to do in this cases:
- check (in ProZ) what do people from the country where the translation is going to be used, prefer.
- ask the client for his opinion. Even if he doesn't know, whenever there is a proofreader after you who says "He should have written this like that", you'll be in the safe side because you asked.
- be very open minded. Spanish needs that.

I think that the art of translation is not in danger because of glossaries or dictionaries. More dangerous seems to me not to be opened enough to other (re)sources.


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Sol  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
restaurante May 2, 2004

May I butt in? Actually the word "restaurante" comes from the Spanish verb "restaurar", it does not come from French or English. It is so interesting to see words "come back" with changes in pronunciation and spelling. Another example is "shampoo", which comes from "champú", the root of a Chilean tree.

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