length of english sentences
Thread poster: Violeta Leon Herrero

Violeta Leon Herrero
Spain
Local time: 18:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 21, 2007

I’m doing my first translation from Spanish into English. Spanish is actually my mother tongue, so I found one question while translating it.
Should I shorten the sentences in the target text being this a language that tends to use shorter sentences?
I think that’s what I should do (and haven’t really been doing yet), I’ve been translating the sentences segment by segment, and now when reading it somehow doesn’t sound very natural.
Please, can some native speaker help me!
I’ll be very grateful
lila


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Often it's the best solution Sep 21, 2007

lila82 wrote:

I’m doing my first translation from Spanish into English. Spanish is actually my mother tongue, so I found one question while translating it.
Should I shorten the sentences in the target text being this a language that tends to use shorter sentences?


Spanish supports long sentences much better than English does. I suspect it has to do with the fact that so many parts of speech in Spanish are marked by gender and number, which makes it easier to figure out all the antecedents.

In any case, "run-on" sentences are considered bad form in English and are difficult to read. I often break up Spanish sentences into shorter bits. Conversely, when translating from English into Spanish, I often combine sentences if the original structure seems too choppy for Spanish.

There are times, though, when I try to make the original sentence structures work. This occurs mostly in literary translations if it seems the author is trying to achieve something specific with the sentence length.


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Caroline Reiss  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
which variant of English? Sep 21, 2007

Hi Lila,
You don't mention which variant of English you're translating into? US English conventions may prefer shorter sentences but UK English does not necessarily use shorter sentences. I agree with Steven that the author may be using longer sentences as a marked feature of the text which would then need to be reproduced in your translation.
There are many different punctuation marks which could help you to preserve the sentences' length eg. try www.correctpunctuation.co.uk, this site also recommends various reference books for both UK and US English.
However, as Steven also points out, if the sentence length doesn't seem to important then you could break them up as you see necessary.





[Edited at 2007-09-21 17:53]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
I'm with Steve Sep 21, 2007

I think Steve has already expressed my own opinion and practice on the subject quite well, so I will merely second him!

I do not know UK usage, but what Steve says seems to be good practice for the USA.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:53
German to English
Length of English sentences Sep 21, 2007

Hi, lila - before getting into writing style, you might start by capitalizing the word "English" We see a lot of native speakers using lower case for nouns and adjectives referring to nationalities, languages, etc. but they're not translators/writers. Do you have a good book on English style and usage? After that I'd recommend you find a good book on English composition.



[Edited at 2007-09-21 18:12]


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elherrera  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:53
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
Variety, the spice Sep 21, 2007

I agree with Steve too. Short in general but don't get short-changed. English supports all sorts of sentence structures stereotypically simple to very complex. So make the most of it and vary them - it's the spice of life. Readers will find it more engaging. Meaningful segments and sentences often don't match so take advantage of this variety in sentence structure and the vast store of English words to get the most you can.

Go for a good rendering of the meaning not just the segment, however that works out in the target. I agree with Caroline - punctuation is another great tool to rely on.


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Violeta Leon Herrero
Spain
Local time: 18:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your recommendations Sep 21, 2007

First I want to thank you all for your comments.

Steve, you are right that I didn´t specify the English variety I’m translating into, which in my case is UK English.
The text I’m translating is a psychology research and very often the sentences explain some complicated procedures or whole ideas, so i tried not to break the sentences which implied a complete meaning.


Caroline, you say UK English can support long sentence, so I think i will apply your suggestion about punctuation, and thank you for the site as well.


Kim, I’m just at the beginning of my career and I’m very eager to learn.
I actually was thinking on getting some new resources, so if you could recommend me a good English style book I’d be very grateful.


lila


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
A matter of degree Sep 22, 2007

Caroline Reiss wrote:

US English conventions may prefer shorter sentences but UK English does not necessarily use shorter sentences.


I'm not sure about the differences between British and American sentence length. However, I suspect that even British English does not readily support the page-long sentences that can read so well in many Romance languages.

The question I usually ask myself is whether the English translation (preserving the original sentence length) reads as clearly and easily as the source text. If not, I consider dividing sentences.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:53
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Fowler's Modern English Usage Sep 22, 2007

lila82 wrote:

First I want to thank you all for your comments.

Steve, you are right that I didn´t specify the English variety I’m translating into, which in my case is UK English.
The text I’m translating is a psychology research and very often the sentences explain some complicated procedures or whole ideas, so i tried not to break the sentences which implied a complete meaning.


Caroline, you say UK English can support long sentence, so I think i will apply your suggestion about punctuation, and thank you for the site as well.


Kim, I’m just at the beginning of my career and I’m very eager to learn.
I actually was thinking on getting some new resources, so if you could recommend me a good English style book I’d be very grateful.


lila


I agree. (Note short sentence!) The best solution is often to break the long sentence up into shorter ones. Fowler's Modern English Usage is a great standby and also quite fascinating - and even humorous - for any linguist. Published by Oxford University Press.
Kind regards,
Jenny.

[Edited at 2007-09-22 06:48]


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