Translating English that doesn't obey the rules :)
Thread poster: hfp

hfp
United States
Local time: 19:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 27, 2009

Hey, everyone. What are your thoughts on translating grammatically incorrect English into Spanish? I guess this question could apply to other languages too, but Spanish and English are the only languages I work with. I once read a Spanish translation of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and it was pretty strange because the Spanish translation of the dialogues and narrations were often written in correct Spanish, whereas the English sentences were understandable, but not written in traditionally correct English. There was a forward that mentioned that the English version was written with several grammatical flaws, intentionally, but that was all. Is this just a time where you have to make sacrifices and allow some things to be lost in the translation?

This sentence is not from the book, but you could see it in southern literature from the United States.

"I ain't goin' do nothin' you say."


 

conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:43
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Hmm May 28, 2009

That kind of thing is a good question. I think in most (?) cases, those types of things wouldn't translate over. And if the translator did translate them, it might come out sounding odd in the target language, because it might not come across with the exact same nuance the original had, if it was translated into grammatically incorrect target language.

It's not exactly the same subject, but this reminds me of when I was watching an American comedy movie with my host family in Japan. The movie was subtitled in Japanese, so I was listening to the English sound and they were reading the Japanese subtitles. In some places I busted out laughing, but they didn't laugh because the joke was structured around language and didn't really translate over into Japanese.

One of those hard things about translation, I guess.


 

Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 19:43
English to Spanish
It depends May 28, 2009

Hi!

I'm not a literary translator, but in the example you cite, I'd say that at least the dialogues should've been rendered in an Spanish that matched the English register/style. Being Mark Twain's work, I think we could safely assume that he did not pen them in 'agrammatical' English by chance or for kicks; just like I think it's safe to assume that José Saramago doesn't omit punctuation due to ignoranceicon_razz.gif

There's a novel I'm pretty fond of, called Flowers for Algernon, in which the main character goes from being a man with a low IQ to a man with an extremely high IQ, and everything in the narration reflects this change: the spelling, the sentence structure, punctuation...

With that said, I believe that some things just cannot be transmitted from one language to another.

On the other hand, outside the realm of literary translation, I at least write in proper Spanish and correct convoluted, hard to understand sentences for the reader's benefit. Unless, of course, there's an intention behind the weird sentence structure (case in point: in a research paper, examples of sentences said by aphasic patients).

Greetings
Andrea

[Edited at 2009-05-28 16:43 GMT]


 

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:43
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Agree with Andrea May 28, 2009

The very idea of translating Huckleberry Finn into ANY language's normal literate style is an out-and-out absurdity. Yes, it's a challenge to figure out how to evoke a similar idea of dialect in a different language, but if you don't do your best to find SOME way to do it, you can only end up with a monstrosity from which the reader will glean no idea of what the source text was all about.

I've never tried to do it, and I'm sure it's much more easily said than done. (Huckleberry Finn in German with a rural Bavarian accent? Ouch!)

Good luck,
Susan


 

Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 19:43
English to Spanish
No kidding! May 28, 2009

Susan Welsh wrote:

I've never tried to do it, and I'm sure it's much more easily said than done. (Huckleberry Finn in German with a rural Bavarian accent? Ouch!)



I've been racking my brain on and off since I read this topic, trying to find a way to render the sentence that hfp gave as example in an equivalent Spanish, and I can't for the life of me come up wth a decent proposal.

I guess that's why I've never considered literary translation as a career pathicon_razz.gif

Greetings
Andrea

[Edited at 2009-05-28 21:27 GMT]


 

hazmatgerman (X)
Local time: 00:43
English to German
@Welsh, May 29, 2009

some German translations - especially older ones unencumbered by p.c. - read very nicely. Any attempt to put, say even Life on the Mississippi, into academic German would be silly. For Tom and Huck - ridiculous. An attempt at the sample sentence could read thus: "Du hasch mer gaanix zu saae" (Sorry, but I don't do literary work).
Regards.

[Edited at 2009-05-29 08:07 GMT]


 

Kathryn Sanderson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:43
French to English
You might want to read this May 29, 2009

This article might prove useful. I enjoyed reading it even though I translate French>English

http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/605/


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 00:43
German to Serbian
+ ...
Dialects May 30, 2009

hfp wrote:

This sentence is not from the book, but you could see it in southern literature from the United States.

"I ain't goin' do nothin' you say."


Exactly, that's not " grammatically incorrect English", but the Southern U.S. dialect ( or idiolect) of the Mark Twain's era. You should make a difference between the two.

Grammar is fluid, grammar rules were not the same in all historical periods.

I don't think that Mark Twain, especially "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", is a good argument for this discussion. That dialect is the heart of the novel. If you are asking how to translate it into Spanish, the ideal way would be to use the appropriate Spanish language and terminology from the same era.



[Edited at 2009-05-31 13:58 GMT]


 


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