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Translating slang from your native language/How do you approach this?
Thread poster: Sara Senft

Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 23, 2009

I recently took the written portion of exams for people who want to become interpreters in my state's courts. One of the sections consisted of some sentences we had to translate from English to Spanish.

Some of these sentences included slang expressions. When I translated them, I considered their non-slang meaning and translated them accordingly. I also take the same approach when I run in to slang when interpreting.

Is there a better approach, or is my strategy generally acceptable?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:19
Member (2008)
Italian to English
FROM Native language? Apr 23, 2009

Sara Senft wrote:

I recently took the written portion of exams for people who want to become interpreters in my state's courts. One of the sections consisted of some sentences we had to translate from English to Spanish.

Some of these sentences included slang expressions. When I translated them, I considered their non-slang meaning and translated them accordingly. I also take the same approach when I run in to slang when interpreting.

Is there a better approach, or is my strategy generally acceptable?



I never translate FROM my native language - this is another good reason why, in my opinion, one should not attempt it.


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Ivan Petryshyn
English to Italian
+ ...
re: (degree upgrading) Apr 23, 2009

the translation of any language slang is a very subtle and very risky thing;
there are 2 points here:
1. the non-correspondence of the stylistic registers of the 2 languages, the permittance or non permittance of the direct and accurate translation of the slang from 1 language into another or the necessity of substituting the slang with a different register, or with euphemisms (depending onthe cultural standards and religious beliefs of the translator/ interpreter);
2. the court requirement to translate accurately, fully and integrally (YOU SHOULD TRANSLATE ALL THE WORDS EVER SAID BY THE 2 PARTIES) - this is your job, it is not a question of shame or low culture- it's the question of the most full information possible as to a/ the information rendered, b/ the attitudes of the two parties in the spectrum of the socially and legally accepted norms;
* when translating slang, when ther's no time to ask and the risk of losing the information presents, ask kindly the Judge if he/she allows you to translate that language or ask for to be excused for your next step (as there will be labelled and slang language interpreted as the rendering of the defender's speech);
3. if you do not know about the policies of the slang translation, ask your interpreting service supervisor how to resolve the problem : every court interpreting services have their policy and experience in how to do it.
Ivan Petryshyn USA


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:19
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I would keep the slang if possible Apr 23, 2009

Translating/interpreting slang is difficult because lots of times there is no equivalent slang in the target language, so sometimes you just have to give the meaning; however having said this, whenever possible I prefer to use slang, as I believe we have to convey nuance/intonation/register/etc as well as literal meaning. If you change the slang when there is an equivalent you lost some meaning (at least in my opinion).

I don't see why this should be different in court, after all judges are used to hearing slang from the natives.


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good point Apr 23, 2009

You are right....translating slang is difficult, especially if you are going out of your native language. I do need to keep the meaning as well.

Apparently, my approach was at least partially successful. I didn't pass the translation section but was close to passing. I struggled with a few words and I think that is why I didn't pass.


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 18:19
French to Spanish
+ ...
As is, of course. Apr 23, 2009

Agree with Alex.
Otherwise, you twist the translation, and that's not our job. We're not paid "to be nice", but accurate.

Two difficulties:
1.- you must know slang, and that's not evident (must "go on the streets" to hear it, to learn it);
2.- slang changes quite quickly, so up-to-date issue is a must.

Good luck.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 01:19
English to Croatian
+ ...
Easier when translating Apr 23, 2009

... than interpreting, because you have more time to compare the meanings or look it up in an idiom dictionary, while you don't have that privilege while interpreting and must react quickly, therefore it is better just to convey the original meaning ( even if it's not in the slang form) rather than stand there in silence saying nothing, or skip the whole phrase.

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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's part of the test requirements Apr 23, 2009

Tom;

I agree that it's best not to translate from your native language. In this case, anyone in my state who wants to become a Spanish interpreter for the state courts must take and pass that section--regardless of their native language.

Tom in London wrote:

Sara Senft wrote:

I recently took the written portion of exams for people who want to become interpreters in my state's courts. One of the sections consisted of some sentences we had to translate from English to Spanish.

Some of these sentences included slang expressions. When I translated them, I considered their non-slang meaning and translated them accordingly. I also take the same approach when I run in to slang when interpreting.

Is there a better approach, or is my strategy generally acceptable?



I never translate FROM my native language - this is another good reason why, in my opinion, one should not attempt it.


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Teresa Adelson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:19
Member (2011)
English to Polish
+ ...
Tranlsating slang Apr 23, 2009

Tom in London wrote:

Sara Senft wrote:

I recently took the written portion of exams for people who want to become interpreters in my state's courts. One of the sections consisted of some sentences we had to translate from English to Spanish.

Some of these sentences included slang expressions. When I translated them, I considered their non-slang meaning and translated them accordingly. I also take the same approach when I run in to slang when interpreting.

Is there a better approach, or is my strategy generally acceptable?



I never translate FROM my native language - this is another good reason why, in my opinion, one should not attempt it.


Your approach is academically correct, but not from the pointof view of grasping the meaning. You need to know slang in both languages - at least to some degree. If you lack the knowledge of slang, you need to translate the meaning rather than verbiage.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:19
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
No choice for court interpreters Apr 23, 2009

Tom in London wrote:

I never translate FROM my native language - this is another good reason why, in my opinion, one should not attempt it.


Only a few high-priority cases ever have the benefit of more than one interpreter. I don't know the status of US courts, but interpreter arrangements in Spain, for example, are at the discretion of the judges, who give precious little thought to what's direct and inverse. Private clients occasionally hire more than one, but the reasons are as much the time the testimonies may take as the direction (a private client may take more interest in the proceedings of a patent claim, for instance). If this is not the case and the interpreter is ex-officio (i.e., to guarantee full observance of human rights), s/he is generally understood as a two-way facility.


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More than one mode Apr 23, 2009

We also should consider the fact that interpreting comes in several modes. Some court interpreting is done consecutively, some is done simultaneously, and we can't forget about sight translation. I personally believe that native language is less of an issue with consecutive interpreting, but it can matter if the interpreter is working in the simultaneous mode.

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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
written slang exams for (slang) interpreters? Apr 24, 2009

That's a good 'un

Well, I think that a couple of aphorisms would do. Why slang?
1) one *must* be a real pro... guru in both languages;
2) one *must* be at least good at that slang field (e.g. army slang, thieves's, miners' or surfers' slang etc)

The very first questions is: 'What is the use of such knowledge?' followed by 'What does it have to do with the interpreters' major?'

Dunno man, I mean I'm kinda sorry for da' thingamajigin' but da GuruZ rulz


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:19
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
We should try Apr 24, 2009

DZiW wrote:

.......

1) one *must* be a real pro... guru in both languages;


Well there will always be translation gurus, or real pros as you say, just as there are people who perform better that others in all professions and fields of life. That is just a fact of life


2) one *must* be at least good at that slang field (e.g. army slang, thieves's, miners' or surfers' slang etc)


Some translators will be slang experts, most of us will not, however if I don't understand army slang and have have to interpret it, I would have to ask the speaker to clarify what he meant and I would translate his clarification, but if I am fortunate and I understand the slang, I have two options, translate meaning, or whenever possible translate slang.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:19
French to English
From native Apr 24, 2009

Tom in London wrote:

Sara Senft wrote:

interpreters .... interpreting.



I never translate FROM my native language


Interestingly, though, it seems it be fairly common for interpreters.
At least, whenever we hear a foreign head of state talking on TV in the UK with a voice-over interpreter, they are invariably in a foreign accent, almost to a Clouseau-esque degree.
I cannot recall ever hearing an interpreter with a British accent (to be fair, we do get the occasional American interpreting for Middle East events).


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
look who's talking Apr 24, 2009

I think that jargon/slang is abusing both ordinary people and courteous ones with such a vituperative language. It conceals the meaning and twists a language as a means of communication.

And it's opposite to the interpreters' goal - to clarify and explain the meaning, to elucidate.

I can't say 'no-no', but slang still may be as an insult to one's feelings and dignity. It can really be so.


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