When right is wrong: On the universal importance of translation
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:24
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 6, 2015

https://www.tes.co.uk/news/blog/when-right-wrong-universal-importance-translation

[Updated to add: ... sometimes a writer's artistic choices get lost in the translation because the translator (or the editor or the foreign publishing company) do not have the same freedom to violate the standard rules for the sake of art lest they be viewed as mistakes or bad writing. No one questions the original author's choices, but sometimes the translator is not awarded this same freedom of expression as this can make the translation sound more generic and the writer's "voice" gets lost.

In the example given: "Something in her voice.". Would a monolingual Spanish speaker have reacted the same way to: "Algo en el tono de su voz."? Or perhaps another choice would be "Ese tono en su voz."

But previous posters are right, we often don't have the time to sit, consider and ponder these nuances, especially when there are now over 500 translation "start ups" that make translators race at lightning speed.]

[Edited at 2015-08-06 16:28 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:24
English to German
+ ...
Complex issue Aug 6, 2015



Thank you Jeff. What is often overlooked though is under which circumstances a book is translated, who had their hands in it, made editing decisions etc. ... (not that that's automatically bad); just in defense of the translator, and that everything has to be right from the right translator on, the right terms and conditions, to the time available, the commitment etc. to get that wonderful translation every writer wishes for.

[Edited at 2015-08-06 01:35 GMT]


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:24
Member (2014)
English to German
This is what I don't understand Aug 6, 2015

There is the author often taking a very long time to produce their novel which understandably is very close to their heart. Then they want to reproduce their 'piece of art' into other languages and expect the translator to do it under time constraint and at a low budget.

I wonder whether the translator had the time to read and re-read the original in order to understand why the author chose his words the way he did?


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:24
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, I agree. Aug 6, 2015

Rushed, low-budget translations of quality literary works make no sense at all—it is a total waste of money, and cultural waste, first of all—littering the cultural scene.

 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:24
Member (2014)
English to German
Language teaching? Aug 6, 2015

I think the question whether translation has a place in language teaching (especially in the beginning) is quite a different issue - I think.

 

PatrickMoreschi
United States
Local time: 04:24
Importance of translation Aug 6, 2015

Translation is not a straightforward process. It is more complex than replacing source language text with target language text. Mistranslating the word may change the meaning and it may become worse. Therefore, keeping the meaning & the original message from the source text in the language translation process becomes more important. It is very challenging for the translator to understand the idea, the mindset and the thoughts of the author. Once a translator understands and conveys the real meaning behind words, then he will surely be considered a professional and a successful translator.

 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:24
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I think that the main point of the article was that... Aug 6, 2015

... sometimes a writer's artistic choices get lost in the translation because the translator (or the editor or the foreign publishing company) do not have the same freedom to violate the standard rules for the sake of art lest they be viewed as mistakes or bad writing. No one questions the original author's choices, but sometimes the translator is not awarded this same freedom of expression as this can make the translation sound more generic and the writer's "voice" gets lost.

In the example given: "Something in her voice.". Would a monolingual Spanish speaker have reacted the same way to: "Algo en el tono de su voz."? Or perhaps another choice would be "Ese tono en su voz."

But previous posters are right, we often don't have the time to sit, consider and ponder these nuances, especially when there are now over 500 translation "start ups" that make translators race at lightning speed.



[Edited at 2015-08-06 12:52 GMT]


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:24
Member (2014)
English to German
Hm Aug 6, 2015

But the article was published by the TES (Times Educational Supplement - lays out in the staffroom of every school here in the UK). The author is a languages teacher, and translation is returning to the GCSE in 2017.

 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 04:24
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
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Thought-provoking Aug 6, 2015

Thank you Jeff. I think it is a marvelous article and not only for literary translators.

 

George Hopkins
Local time: 12:24
Swedish to English
Hm, again Aug 6, 2015

No two translators come exactly to the same result, not even in translations of ‘technical’ subjects which should give an accurate result in the target text. Poetic license to some extent is permissible in literary texts.

I read somewhere that the Polish Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska has said that it was thanks to her Swedish translator that she was awarded the prize.
Her poem PSALM is better, in my opinion, in the Swedish version than the English. But who am I to judge – I don’t understand a word of Polish.
Can anyone offer a qualified opinion?


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:24
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Fascinating. Films too. Aug 7, 2015

The same subtle criterion should apply to films based on novels or plays which are, in a sense, translations (or interpretations).
So many films utterly traduce the original book on which they were based. Two which spring to mind are The Name of the Rose and Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Although they are not bad films per se, they completely miss the author's point.
On the other hand, I think the film of Amadeus - marvellous - is actually better than the play by Peter Schaffer on which it is based. It presents the point of the story more clearly - the ultimate fruitlessness of Salieri's defiance of what he sees as God's injustice.
(Yes, Mozart fans, I know the story of Salieri's plot to finish off Mozart, his infuriatingly successful rival, is fiction, but it's a fascinating idea).


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:24
Member (2014)
English to German
Or Garcia Lorca Aug 7, 2015

From a cultural point of view - very difficult to translate.

 

asia20002  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:24
English to Polish
+ ...
very interesting Aug 7, 2015

Thank you for this link. This is a very interesting article and perfectly describes the error which translators often make when they want the translation to be better than the original. It is good a lot of times but not always.

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:24
Chinese to English
A topic I'm very interested in Aug 7, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

... sometimes the translator is not awarded this same freedom of expression as this can make the translation sound more generic and the writer's "voice" gets lost...

I went on a literary translation course last year, but frustratingly never got the chance to discuss this specific question with the authors who were there with us. It seems to me that there is an inherent friction in the way that English-language authors and translators work. For a commercial translator, a cliche is a win: if I manage to express the meaning of the source text using an English cliche, then I can be certain that I've avoided translationese, and produced authentic English. But for an author writing original prose, the cliche is a failure. (I limit this to English, because the same rules of "good" creative writing don't necessarily apply in other languages, e.g. my source language.)

To this day, I'm not sure how to resolve this contradiction - and as I'm remaining firmly in the commercial translation camp for the time being, I don't imagine that I'll find the answer any time soon. But it's a fun area to ponder when you have some free time.


 


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