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Poll: When you come across a concept/term which has no equivalent in your target language, what do you do?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Apr 18, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "When you come across a concept/term which has no equivalent in your target language, what do you do?".

This poll was originally submitted by Thomas Tolnai. View the poll results »



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Karin.  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:43
Member (2008)
Spanish to German
+ ...
When it happens to me... Apr 18, 2012

I consult with an expert in the field or with the client.

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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 08:43
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Other Apr 18, 2012

I think "Consult with the author" would be the most sensible option for this question.

Or, how about "Panic" if the author cannot be contacted?

Happy translating!


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:43
English
+ ...
I agree with Julian. Apr 18, 2012

Ask the author. If for some reason that's not possible, then what I would do depends on the situation. I would consult an expert in the field if one were available, or I might propose my own term... or adopt the term as is. In the last two cases I would add a comment asking the author if he or she agreed with my decision.

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Petr Skocik  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 00:43
Czech to English
+ ...
Translate the definition Apr 18, 2012

A couple of weeks ago a had to translate a weird Czech expression into English. I turned out there wasn't an English version of it. I translated the definition and modified it to fit the places in my text where the original expression would go.

I think this is the right procedure: 1) Get the definition somehow (an expert, Google) 2) Work with it.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 00:43
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Other - preferably consult an expert Apr 18, 2012

It all depends on the context. Consult an expert if possible.
Google or use your experience and common sense...

Add a note in the translation if appropriate.

Close as my two languages and cultures are, it occurs surprisingly frequently.

Even in the terminology project I did on cars for my diploma, I remember I wept with frustration because I could not always find exact equivalents for the thingummyjigs involved. It was intended as a challenge, and it certainly was.

My ignorance of cars was no help of course!
I now refer clients with that kind of text to colleagues who do know what they are dealing with.

Food is a minefield. If you use the strictly correct term for some delicacy, the TL speakers' reaction is YUCK!
If you use a more attractive term, then they might not understand, and the SL term is not always helpful either.

Polite (phatic) expressions are a little easier to deal with, because although the precise concept does not exist, there is usually some suitable remark that can be used instead.

Colours are interesting. My mother-in-law loved purple, and I find it depressing. She, on the other hand, felt really 'blue' in my favourite colour. We never quite agreed on the terminology, and on both sides, carefully chosen gifts were taken back to the shop and exchanged... while the giver felt miffed and confused!

But this is where we humans win over MT every time!

Happy translating!


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 00:43
German to English
+ ...
Other Apr 18, 2012

I spend a great deal of time trying to find out if there really and truly isn't a term in English and then decide what strategy to adopt depending on the purpose of the translation. I might give the nearest english equivalent, use the orginal word or make my own translation (in each case adding a footnote if appropriate) - again, all depending on what the purpose of the translation is.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 23:43
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Apr 18, 2012

1. I research and try to figure out what is behind the word or the expression;
2. I get in touch with the author;
3. I consult an expert;
4. I seek advice from a terminologist.

I cannot remember one occasion when I had to use the original word...


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Apr 18, 2012

I'd need a concrete example of what the query is getting at.

Technical areas notwithstanding, there are many everyday terms in my main source (European) Spanish that have no specific equivalent in my native UK English. Colloquial nuances can be very culturally specific.

[Edited at 2012-04-18 09:33 GMT]


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 00:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
You are the expert Apr 18, 2012

If you have already ascertained that it doesn't exist, then you're the expert!

If it's a technical object, then description plus word in original language in italics (possibly including "known as xxxx in SL").

And if it's an expression, then I come up with an equivalent, even if it's not a set phrase, which will convey the meaning and not feel awkward.


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Rob Lunn  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Common in legal translation Apr 18, 2012

This happens quite a lot in legal translation, especially if you're translating from a civil to a common law system or vice versa.

Asking the author is rarely an option in this case, although there are a number of ways of dealing with this non-equivalence, from using a term that is equivalent (or "functionally" equivalent) in the given context to using descriptive paraphrases, neutral terms, borrowings, naturalisations and literal equivalents (all this according to Sarcevic by the way!).

What you'd do in each situation would depend on the context and the purpose of the translation, but apparently the approach that most translators end up adopting is to use functional equivalents, i.e., terms that cover the same function in the target legal system for the context in question (although, strictly, there has to be at least partial equivalence to use this type of equivalent).

So, after all that, I voted "other" .


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Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:43
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Descriptions: a good solution Apr 18, 2012

Noni Gilbert wrote:

description plus word in original language in italics


Yes, I find this method works quite well for menus too.

If the menu is going to be bilingual (lots of restaurants have bilingual menus) then I'd just use the description on its own, e.g. "mojo" on a Canary Island menu, would turn into "paprika sauce" in the English version.
Of course, you risk making the whole thing sound thoroughly unappetising. "Cold tomato soup" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "gazpacho".


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 00:43
English to French
+ ...
Other Apr 18, 2012

Several or all of the above, except "it never happened"!

[Modifié le 2012-04-18 13:04 GMT]


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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:43
German to English
+ ...
Agree Apr 18, 2012

Teresa Borges wrote:

1. I research and try to figure out what is behind the word or the expression;
2. I get in touch with the author;
3. I consult an expert;
4. I seek advice from a terminologist.

I cannot remember one occasion when I had to use the original word...


If all of the above fails, I ask a KudoZ question (which I suppose could be covered by 3. or 4. above).

Also useful, sometimes, is to search the document for repeated instances of the term (to get more context).

Research can involve reading other articles in the same subject field in the target language, finding something, backtranslating with the aid of online dictionaries and - hey presto! - problem solved.

Getting the right term often involves sleeping - and waking up the next morning, if not with the precise equivalent, at least with a "lead" which will result in its capture.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:43
Chinese to English
Most words don't have an exact equivalent... Apr 18, 2012

That's the whole point of us, isn't it?

I jump for joy when I come across a word that *does* have a simple equivalent in English.

But I guess I know what you mean, and the answer is that it depends on the purpose of the translation. Is it a source-oriented translation, where you might use a Chinese word for a Chinese cultural object; or a target-oriented translation, where you would pick a close equivalent to ensure a smooth read.


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Poll: When you come across a concept/term which has no equivalent in your target language, what do you do?

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