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Poll: Can the translation say it better than the source?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 04:49
SITE STAFF
Aug 15, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Can the translation say it better than the source?".

This poll was originally submitted by Mariam Osmane. View the poll results »



 

Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'm afraid so Aug 15, 2011

If the source text is badly written, as is all too often the case. I am often in receipt of badly written original texts which really should have passed through the hands of a good editor before being sent for translation. So I find myself almost doing the job of editor as part of my translation process. And I am truly delighted when given a well-written text to translate.

 

Manticore (X)  Identity Verified

Local time: 13:49
English to German
+ ...
@Gilla Evans Aug 15, 2011

You are absolutely right. - Therefore, I am not accepting badly written documents anymore. Unless the customer is happy with "garbage in, garbage out".

 

Interlangue (X)
Angola
Local time: 13:49
English to French
+ ...
Other Aug 15, 2011

Sometimes, but not necessarily.

 

Alexandra Speirs  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:49
Italian to English
+ ...
frequently Aug 15, 2011

Some of the texts we get are written by people who should NEVER write anything!
Full of mistakes, repetitions ... they don't read over what they write,.

At the moment I'm struggling with a piece of "art criticism" that is perhaps the worst I've encountered in over 30 years in this business.
Why is it "arty" to be incomprehensible?
If I manage to penetrate the enigmatic meaning of this piece, hopefully my result will be easier to read and understand.


 

Catherine Winzer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:49
German to English
+ ...
Yes, depending on source text Aug 15, 2011

If the source text is badly written, I think a well-written translation could potentially "say it better". If the source is of good quality, I'd be more inclined to say that something will always be lost in translation.

 

Veronica Lupascu  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:49
Dutch to Romanian
+ ...
totally agree with Catherine Aug 15, 2011

Catherine Knight wrote:

If the source text is badly written, I think a well-written translation could potentially "say it better". If the source is of good quality, I'd be more inclined to say that something will always be lost in translation.


It is also the case of texts written by non natives. I had more such situations and one of the texts contained a lot of "highly specialized" terms that don't even exist as words in English. The author simply used the term in his own language and added English endings to it

[Edited at 2011-08-15 13:13 GMT]


 

Mohsin Alabdali  Identity Verified
Saudi Arabia
Local time: 14:49
English to Arabic
+ ...
Translators are egoists Aug 15, 2011

The results of the poll, without reading the forum comments, confirmed what I had always suspected that translators are egoists.

After reading the forum posts so far, I understand why we translators have developed such huge egos. Often we are confronted with source texts that cry "trash"! At such times we feel superior.

Sometimes we get source texts that invite us to tincker with them a bit. At such times we feel superior.

At occassions we get source texts
... See more
The results of the poll, without reading the forum comments, confirmed what I had always suspected that translators are egoists.

After reading the forum posts so far, I understand why we translators have developed such huge egos. Often we are confronted with source texts that cry "trash"! At such times we feel superior.

Sometimes we get source texts that invite us to tincker with them a bit. At such times we feel superior.

At occassions we get source texts that are awkwardly written (what I call "legalese") and we succeed in turning the awkward into a lucid phrase. On such occassions we feel superior.

Is there a wonder how translators have become egoisits?

Repeated feelings of supriority have not turned us into superior beings. We are still our frailselves. Our egos, however, have grown to the point of thinking of ourselves as roaring lions when we are, in fact, mere kittens.
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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:49
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
It depends on the source text Aug 15, 2011

With some of the texts we receive, it would require the "worst, unexperienced" translator to turn the translation into something that's even more poorly written, reduncance, unnecessary repetitions and, yes, poor knowledge of the source text language are some of the criteria for this assessment.

On the other hand, I've come across some source texts that were so superbly written, that the translation, regardless of how well it was done, could only take "second place"....
See more
With some of the texts we receive, it would require the "worst, unexperienced" translator to turn the translation into something that's even more poorly written, reduncance, unnecessary repetitions and, yes, poor knowledge of the source text language are some of the criteria for this assessment.

On the other hand, I've come across some source texts that were so superbly written, that the translation, regardless of how well it was done, could only take "second place".
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Karin Usher
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:49
Member (2006)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, but... Aug 15, 2011

I think that if a text is badly written or difficult to understand, as a translator I am oblidged to transfer that into the translated text... not that I would make grammatical mistakes in the translation, but if something is written in a confused way, then it will be a bit confused in the translated text. (.. and I definitely point this out to the customer!).

However, sometimes there are some terms, expressions or phrases that just sound much better in one language then in the othe
... See more
I think that if a text is badly written or difficult to understand, as a translator I am oblidged to transfer that into the translated text... not that I would make grammatical mistakes in the translation, but if something is written in a confused way, then it will be a bit confused in the translated text. (.. and I definitely point this out to the customer!).

However, sometimes there are some terms, expressions or phrases that just sound much better in one language then in the other. So in these instances, I would say that the text may "say it better" when translated.



[Edited at 2011-08-15 13:55 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-08-15 13:56 GMT]
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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:49
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Absolutely! Aug 15, 2011

Fully agree with Gilla, and I wish I were in a position to do what Manticore suggests but--alas--if I imposed such a policy, I would quickly find myself on the street with hat in hand.

An excellent translator can pretty much improve a text in the same way as an excellent editor of the source language. In the end, however, the quality of a translation will always be limited by the quality of the original document. This means that if a text falls below a certain threshold of coherence
... See more
Fully agree with Gilla, and I wish I were in a position to do what Manticore suggests but--alas--if I imposed such a policy, I would quickly find myself on the street with hat in hand.

An excellent translator can pretty much improve a text in the same way as an excellent editor of the source language. In the end, however, the quality of a translation will always be limited by the quality of the original document. This means that if a text falls below a certain threshold of coherence, then it is simply impossible to produce a good translation.

[Edited at 2011-08-15 13:57 GMT]
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Allison Wright (X)  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:49
This poll appearing in my Facebook page now Aug 15, 2011

I added a category of response: depends on the source text and language pair.
We always talk of something potentially being "lost in translation". But are clear cases where something is "gained in translation". Both may be because of the translator in question (:) ), or simply depend on the text being translated and the language pair.


 

Manticore (X)  Identity Verified

Local time: 13:49
English to German
+ ...
@Mohsin Alabdali Aug 15, 2011

I wasn't aware that translators are egoists. But after I read your contribution I fully agree with your statement.

 

Oliver Lawrence  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:49
Italian to English
+ ...
Yes, but for another reason Aug 15, 2011

Aside from the obvious observation that a badly written source document can be improved in translation, there is also the difference in the structure of the languages to bear in mind. Some ideas are more pithily expressed in one language than another, so if the source text has to use a phrase to refer to something that has a dedicated noun of its own in the target language, then improvement can result in this way too.

 

Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:49
Member (2009)
French to English
One more pass through the sieve Aug 15, 2011

My first impression was that - no, of course the translation could not, or should not be better because we should match the level of the source text. But then I remembered a translation which I had recently done in which I corrected a misspelling of an English word (that had been in the French document) and added a few periods that had been omitted. Assuming that my translation was faithfully equal to the original, the resulting text was slightly better. In this case, the improvement was no more... See more
My first impression was that - no, of course the translation could not, or should not be better because we should match the level of the source text. But then I remembered a translation which I had recently done in which I corrected a misspelling of an English word (that had been in the French document) and added a few periods that had been omitted. Assuming that my translation was faithfully equal to the original, the resulting text was slightly better. In this case, the improvement was no more than any proofreader would have done on a final pass, but I think I can feel that my contribution was worthwhile.Collapse


 
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