The influence of direct translations on language change (reboot)
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:51
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Nov 23, 2012

G'day everyone

In what ways do direct translations into your target language affect the development of your language?

This would be one of the ways that e.g. English would influence other languages. Many English grammatical features have crept into languages that did not have those features or in which those features were not so often used, and I ask myself how much of that can be blamed on written direct translations.

When I read about or hear about the influence of one language on another, I usually associate that with non-translation contact, i.e. speakers of one language comes into contact with the other language, and this influences their language. I now wonder if the bulk of such influence is not perhaps through the work of professional translators who simply translate too directly.

This would mean that users of a language that changes won't realise that their language is being influenced by another language, because they never come into direct contact with that other language.

How big do you think the influence of [too] direct translations is on changes in your language (or other languages), as opposed to influence from e.g. visual and audio media in the influencer language?


[Reposted without the hook, as all previous repliers replied to the hook instead of the topic.]


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:51
Chinese to English
There is a theory... Nov 23, 2012

...that the heavy German style of Marx has influenced Chinese political prose. I don't see any signs that it has affected the language itself, but there are those who say that the default style for political proclamations today is a rather unnatural form of Chinese. Without being able to read German, I couldn't really comment.


David Wright  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:51
German to English
+ ...
German Nov 23, 2012

I know that there are several expressions that have allegedly crept into German that originate from the use of synchronisation in films (the need to keep the text the same length and for it roughly to match the lip movements), but I can't think of any offhand.

There are also direct translations from English such as "es macht Sinn" (it makes sense) that are not strictly speaking German. I've no idea though whether this is due to direct written translation or the huge amount of contact that German speakers have with English.


John Fossey  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:51
Member (2008)
French to English
Parallelism Nov 23, 2012

I certainly believe it's true for French in Canada, where there are many more linguistic parallels in constructions of Quebec French and Canadian English, compared to constructions of French in France. I'm not referring to "anglicisms" where a word from one language has been parachuted into the other, but rather ways of putting things and expressing things. But I'm not sure whether this is the result of translation or of a large proportion of bilingual speakers.

[Edited at 2012-11-23 13:44 GMT]


Dr. Matthias Schauen  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:51
English to German
TV and marketing Nov 23, 2012

I have noticed this in two fields:
1. TV, as already mentioned by David. "Hör zu, ..." as a direct translation of "Listen, ..." has crept into German so thoroughly that many people I talk to about this do not realize any more that this used to be "Hör mal, ..." or "He, ..." or "Ehm, ...". Or my theory blaming dubbed TV shows for this is wrong.
2. The increased and wrong use of spaces in German compound words (see for instance or ), where hyphens should be used, might be due to translators not daring to treat English brand names according to German orthography in the same way proper names were treated traditionally (Bertolt-Brecht-Platz, Bürgermeister-Schmidt-Straße, Goethe-Medaille).

ad 1: The publication "Linguistische Aspekte der Synchronisation von Fernsehserien: Phonetik, Textlinguistik, Übersetzungstheorie" by Thomas Herbst from 1994 (Übersetzungstheorie/dp/3484303182 ) mentions other cases like "über etw. reden" instead of "von etw. reden" for "to talk about sth.", and "Wir sehen uns später" instead of "Wir treffen uns später" for "See you later".

[Edited at 2012-11-23 14:19 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-11-23 14:23 GMT]


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The influence of direct translations on language change (reboot)

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