Poll: Have you ever felt like you've won a hard battle with a particularly difficult sentence?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 12:57
SITE STAFF
Nov 10, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever felt like you've won a hard battle with a particularly difficult sentence?".

This poll was originally submitted by Davide Grillo. View the poll results »



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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:57
Hebrew to English
Yes Nov 10, 2012

Hebrew seems to suffer from a severe aversion to punctuation, especially in contracts I find, so on occasion I have grappled with a particuarly difficult "sentence" (read: "paragraph") which is quite difficult to untangle and unravel because of a chronic lack of commas and full stops (creating no end of ambiguity/multiple interpretations etc).

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 20:57
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, sometimes Nov 10, 2012

Almost every time I translate articles from “The Economist” for a Portuguese weekly newspaper I get stuck with some apparently “untranslatable” sentence while trying to preserve both its meaning and its essential form.

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:57
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
German patents Nov 10, 2012

I used to translate German patents at one time, and what with German word order being so different from English, with verbs at the end of clauses, and what with the patent convention of always presenting a claim in the form of one sentence, which can be a page long, I sometimes had great difficulty in sorting it out. I don't do German these days.

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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:57
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Long sentences plus poor writing equals major headaches Nov 10, 2012

Long and often convoluted sentences are often the norm in Spanish. When this is combined with ambiguous and careless writing, the result is that the translator's work involves a good deal of editing and--in the worst cases--a fair amount of guesswork as well.

I'm sure I'm not the only translator who has often dealt with material that has obviously not been submitted to any kind of rigorous editing--or even any editing at all. In an ideal world, we would refuse to take on such work in the absence of some generous surcharge. Unfortunately, most of us are not in a position to be that choosy, and simply accept such things as par for the course.


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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:57
German to English
+ ...
Twice Nov 10, 2012

I have twice in my life been reduced to colour-coding a very long German sentence, so that I could see the wood for the trees.

I did it in Word with a two column table, one for ST and one for TT, with the colours of the TT words matching the relevant words in the ST. It was impressively psychedelic.

As one does, once I was finally was able to see the basic "The body kicked the dog." part of the structure, I picked my way slowly through the rest.

I kept it as one sentence in the TT, despite my usual method:



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Anna Haxen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:57
Member (2005)
English to Danish
+ ...
No, I don't fight with my texts Nov 10, 2012

I just manipulate them until I get my way.

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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:57
German to English
+ ...
Best poll response in ages! Nov 10, 2012

Anna Haxen wrote:
No, I don't fight with my texts.
I just manipulate them until I get my way.


Love it!


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Catherine Winzer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:57
German to English
+ ...
Plays on words Nov 10, 2012

For me it tends to be plays on words that I "fight" with most, particularly in marketing texts. Sometimes I have to settle for something that I'm less than happy with, which conveys the meaning but loses the wittiness. Occasionally, after thinking about a tricky phrase for a long time, I come up with an English equivalent that carries a similar meaning and is equally catchy. Then I feel that I've "won the battle"!

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Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:57
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
Regularly Nov 10, 2012

Everyone else must be more fluent in their source languages than me. I feel as if I go into battle with words every day, although more with Russian words than French, shuffling them around in the sentence until I come up with something that sounds reasonably English. It's not an unpleasant battle, though, - just energy consuming. I think that is why I like translation so much, as I feel a sense of achievement at the end of it.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
No Battle Nov 11, 2012

After so many years, the sentences just flow out. That is how experience really helps productivity.

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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 05:57
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Yes, almost every week Nov 11, 2012

Anna Haxen wrote:
I just manipulate them until I get my way.


Sounds like a Sumo wrestling match.

Ty Kendell wrote:
Hebrew seems to suffer from a severe aversion to punctuation ... a chronic lack of commas and full stops (creating no end of ambiguity/multiple interpretations etc).


Oy vey ist mir or "kawaisoo ni" as we say over here.

Even with the technical documents I translate day in day out, I often have to guess what the subject is and figure out who is supposed to be doing what to whom. Oh, and you can't tell if the object, even if provided, is singular or plural without proper context or a counter. It's a right old guessing game. At least we have punctuation in Japanese though it can be confusing and misleading at time in the wrong hands. In this respect, @Robert, you echo my sentiments entirely.

The old joke here is that if you ask an engineer why he studied the sciences instead of the arts, the answer will be "Because I was no good at Japanese (language)." And guess who writes the technical documents I have to translate!? Unfortunately, this is very true in lots of cases.

So saying, being a descendant of the famous detective, I do like to get my teeth into a good mystery once in a while.


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