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Poll: Which type of document/text is the most likely to get “lost in translation”?
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Oct 10, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Which type of document/text is the most likely to get “lost in translation”?".

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Paula Hernández
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:59
English to Spanish
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Not a matter of the text Oct 10, 2011

Probably there is a higher chance of getting lost in translation due to the background and knowledge of the translator, rather than the type of text.

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Paul Stevens  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:59
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
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Agreed Oct 10, 2011

Paula Hernández wrote:

Probably there is a higher chance of getting lost in translation due to the background and knowledge of the translator, rather than the type of text.

I totally agree with you, Paula, which is why I chose "Other/N/A"


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Marjolein Keyer  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:59
Member (2009)
English to Dutch
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Other Oct 10, 2011

With Paula and Paul.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 21:59
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Oct 10, 2011

I'm with Paula, Paul and Marjolein!

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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Poetry Oct 10, 2011

I think there's more to this question than meets the eye.

I agree with the opinions expressed above, but they're really only one side of the coin. My case in point is: I'm currently reading a very good translation of Beowulf by a very good translator. He won a Nobel prize for Literature, but just the fact that it's updated and made easier to understand means that some of the power of the original is lost. By comparing the sound of the original with the modern text, it's understandable how the original (when read outloud) must have been extremely gripping.


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 22:59
German to English
+ ...
Humour Oct 10, 2011

I suspect that it is possible somehow or other to communicate poetry in another language, but humour is sometimes aboslutely impossible. - or does the old chestnut

"My wife's gone to the Caribbean
Jamaica?
No, she went of her own free will"

translate into the language(s) you work with?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:59
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Humor Oct 10, 2011

The problem is that humor goes beyond translating the intent and the content, it entails a fit to the cultural environment. Putting it bluntly, what is funny in one culture may be bad taste in another.

While British humor may cause roaring laughter in a London pub, at best it would be met with a smirk in Brazil.

German humor defies my wit. While I don't understand the language, once I saw a piece of what purported to be a stand-up comedy program on Deutsche Welle TV. The comedian was laughing his pants off to the point that could barely finish the joke he was telling. The audience stared at him impassively. Who is expected to have all the fun there?

So, no matter how competent the translator may be in transposing the words and the content, the entire situation may leave all of its fun, not in the source language, but in its original culture.

One of the milestones in mastering a foreign language resides in being able to create jokes in it that have no meaning in the individual's native language. For instance:
In the late 1970s, the company I was working for decided to implement computer systems. So we received a computer expart (= expert expat) from the US who, in two years, was expected to "computerize" the entire operation. The term IT would still have to wait a long while before it would be coined. So his job title was M.I.S. Manager, short for Management Information Systems Manager.

Some two months after that man had moved in, some big shot from corporate headquarters visited us and, during some casual meeting, he asked me point-blank:
"So, what do you think about having an M.I.S. Manager here in Brazil?"
As struck by lightning, I blurted:
"I think it's great! Now we can blame any MISmanagement on him."


I don't think this would be translatable to any other language, the joke would be lost.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:59
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It takes some creativity Oct 10, 2011

David Wright wrote:

I suspect that it is possible somehow or other to communicate poetry in another language, but humour is sometimes aboslutely impossible. - or does the old chestnut

"My wife's gone to the Caribbean
Jamaica?
No, she went of her own free will"

translate into the language(s) you work with?


In Portuguese (BR):
- Minha mulher foi para a Flórida. (My wife went to Florida.)
- Orlando? (Hemming?)
- Não, voando. Foi de avião. (Nope, flying. She took a plane.)


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:59
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Poetry and Humor Oct 10, 2011

Both fields require not only an in-depth knowledge of the target/source languages, but also the certain "feeling" in regard to the localization part of such translations.

A good example is a poem which had been translated fromSpanish into English and then into German. It requires an expert to prevent from rhyme, "melody" and composition not to get lost in translation.

The same applies to the translation of humor. What might be funny in one country/language could easily be offensive or even insulting in another.


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Wolfgang Vogt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:59
English to German
+ ...
lost Oct 10, 2011

Though poetry is difficult to translate, as far as I have seen a good translator produces something worthwhile reading. This product is obviously not the same (the old discussion...), but I don't think the text got totally lost in translation.
Where I have seen the most mistakes are philosophical/sociological/psychological etc. texts and movies.
While it's debatable if Freud's text got lost in translation (Venutti would probably say yes), the first thing that came to my mind was a film that I watched yesterday. German original with Spanish subtitles. It was impossible to follow the plot for my fellow Spanish-speaking spectators! They translated "Halt die Fresse" (Shut your mouth) as "No comas demasiado" (Don't eat too much) and several times when the original line went like "I think we've gotta fight" it was translated as "I think we shouldn't fight". Which certainly makes a difference in a movie about terrorists...


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Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:59
Member (2009)
French to English
Poetry Oct 10, 2011

I voted for poetry, although I see in the meantime several good arguments have been made for humor. As someone who enjoys writing and reading poetry, I think that poetry is often lost in translation, but just as often lost before it is even translated. What makes a good poem? How do you break down the essence of anything into words? Is a poem more successful if it speaks truly to one person and no one else or if nearly everyone can catch a glimmering?

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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:59
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Other ... horses for courses Oct 10, 2011

I am primarily a technical translator and ... as though others have mentioned, in my opinion, while some types of text humour, poetry, political satire, analytical journalism, speeches, etc., may require infinitely finer knowledge and 'feeling' of both the source and target language on the part of the translator, unfortunately, my experience is that in the hands of the unskilled 'translator' the meaning of just about any text can pretty much dissipate into the ether.

In my career I have seen more than a few well written source documents in many fields e.g. medical, IT/telecoms, technical patents, genetics, manuals, etc., which have been turned in incomprehensible/hilarious target language gibberish by apparent 'professionals'. If I weren't bound by confidentiality I might consider publishing an anthology


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Heike Kurtz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:59
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
German Humor Oct 10, 2011

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:


German humor defies my wit. While I don't understand the language, once I saw a piece of what purported to be a stand-up comedy program on Deutsche Welle TV. The comedian was laughing his pants off to the point that could barely finish the joke he was telling. The audience stared at him impassively. Who is expected to have all the fun there?



Watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C8b3paSp3Y


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:59
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Poetry and puns Oct 10, 2011

Poetry involves many features - not only rhyme, but metaphor, simile, rhythm, etc., etc. - for which the target language may not have an equivalent. For example, the number of syllables in a word might be crucial, yet the semantic equivalent is bound to be longer or shorter. I'd venture to say that poetry can *never* capture *all* the nuances of a poem.

Puns pose the same problem: equivalents may not exist.

Other forms of humor may fare better, so I wouldn't generalize about *all* humor.

Of course, some humor is cultural. I'm a native speaker of American English, and sometimes British humor evokes no response from me at all - occasionally I fail to see what the Brits think is funny.

[Edited at 2011-10-10 21:25 GMT]


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