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Does the perfect translation exist?
Thread poster: Raf Uzar

Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 16:10
Polish to English
Jul 28, 2009

I've always told my students that the 'perfect' translation does not exist. We all agree, don't we?
But this little article from http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/ has got me thinking.
What if the perfect translation DOES exist? Ouch!
Here's the article:
http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/2009/07/28/shadows-of-ideal-translations/


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:10
Member
Italian to English
A sweeping statement Jul 28, 2009

I find it rather presumptious to say that "the perfect translation does not exist" - not in any language combination, any text type, anywhere in the world in the history of translation? I think a translation often improves on the original; I guess it all comes down to your definition of "perfection", and IMO many linguistic choices are subjective; what's perfection to me may not be to you.

So does the perfect translation exist? I think it does.


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Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:10
English to Serbian
+ ...
Why not. :) Jul 28, 2009

It exists, why not? A good example from this part of the world would be Alan Ford comic books http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Ford_(comics) an Italian comics that achieved cult status throughout Ex-Yugoslavia, much because of the great translation work.

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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:10
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
who is the judge? Jul 28, 2009

It's a beautiful piece, Raf, and I enjoyed reading it (thank you for putting me in touch with the site!). Then I went back to translating a technical specification for a new breathing apparatus and wondered, "would my client be interested in this debate?" I think not - sadly, many of our clients are pragmatic business people who are not in search of perfection, merely clarity. Therefore, I feel this must also be my aim.

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Daniel Šebesta  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 16:10
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
Source-text perfection Jul 28, 2009

Fiona Peterson wrote:

I think a translation often improves on the original;


That was one of my thought when I read the article. Is a translation even supposed to be perfect if the source text has some flaws? And is there a flawless source text at all? Then, the question of perfection moves from translated texts to any texts in general.

Daniel


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Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 16:10
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Perfection? Where? Jul 28, 2009

Don't you just love sweeping statements, Fiona? I'm not sure I can agree with you. I don't think you can ever talk of perfection. I'm not sure I'd trust a translator who said his/her work was 'perfect'. From what I understand of the http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/ article, it suggests that perfection #could# be a possibility but does that mean that perfection exists? Hmm...

Miroslav, just because a translator is fantastic (and I've seen many wonderful translations), it doesn't mean they can be called 'perfect'.

Autor, I completely agree. The 'perfection' argument is not an issue for most clients - "give it to me fast and make a 'good' job of it" is the most common attitude.

The original article:
http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/2009/07/28/shadows-of-ideal-translations/


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Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:10
English to Serbian
+ ...
Hm Jul 28, 2009

Miroslav, just because a translator is fantastic (and I've seen many wonderful translations), it doesn't mean they can be called 'perfect'.


Then again, what is the difference between fantastic, wonderful and perfect?


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Epameinondas Soufleros  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 17:10
Member (2008)
English to Greek
+ ...
No Jul 28, 2009

There's no definition of "perfect" and no definition of "translation". That's the short answer. This question tantalizes so many people, but it definitely shouldn't. The answer is simple—I just gave it to you.

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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:10
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Exactly... Jul 28, 2009

Epameinondas Soufleros wrote:

There's no definition of "perfect" and no definition of "translation". That's the short answer. This question tantalizes so many people, but it definitely shouldn't. The answer is simple—I just gave it to you.


...perfection, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
The Benchmark Jul 28, 2009

We are paid to produce a valid translation -- taking into account the specific target audience -- that reads well (ideally like an original) and follows all target language conventions.

The 'perfect' translation does not exist: (i) as autor points out, perfection is in the eye of the beholder and (ii) any piece of written text -- translation or otherwise -- can always be improved.

Besides, who is to say what is 'perfect'?



----------------------------------------


The fact is standards differ -- that is quite evident from the short ES>EN legal editing job I'm doing tonight.

Not only has it just been delivered three hours late, but it's a mess (for lack of a word I can safely use on a public forum). Whoever did it, if you're reading this from where you are smugly sitting, ignorantly under the impression you delivered 'perfection', you didn't -- in fact, you should be ashamed of yourself!

At the very least try a spell check next time please, for goodness sake. And since when has giving notice of a claim in bankruptcy proceedings been 'communication of credits'???????!!!!!





[Edited at 2009-07-28 23:29 GMT]


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Martine Etienne  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 16:10
Member (2003)
English to French
+ ...
perfection !!! Jul 28, 2009

When you deliver a job, at least, you believe you have done a perfect job, or you do not deliver it, or you have not correctly considered the job, the deadline... But perfection is often different from one person to another. Something I do consider as a perfect translation (sometimes, I have that impression when i get a wonderfull answer to a Kudoz question) will perhaps not be judged the same way by someone else.


The client deserves what we may call "your most perfect (correct, faithfull) translation" !


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
Really? Jul 28, 2009

Martine Etienne wrote:

When you deliver a job, at least, you believe you have done a perfect job, or you do not deliver it, .....


Personally, I'm not that presumptious. I rather tend to believe or at least hope I have delivered a translation that is valid and fit for purpose.


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Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 16:10
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Perfection vs. No Perfection Jul 29, 2009

Phew! I've broken out in a sweat just reading all these comments.

Miroslav, there IS a difference between wonderful, fantastic and perfect.
Epameinondas, there IS a definition of perfection and translation - look them up in the dictionary. Do you perhaps mean there is no definitive or unquestionable meaning?
Lawyer-Linguist, I wholeheartedly agree - we try and produce a valid translation and we keep to standards. This, I believe, has very little to do with perfection.

The original article:
http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/2009/07/28/shadows-of-ideal-translations/


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:10
German to English
+ ...
Who or what is perfect? Jul 29, 2009

This discussion is at risk of becoming an exercise in navel-gazing. It only focuses on our own little piece of the world (translating). But what about the rest of the world?

Does the perfect source text exist?
Or is there imperfection in every contract / technical manual / poem / financial statement / novel / advertising text / computer game / birth certificate?

Worrying about perfection is an exercise for perfectionists.
I prefer to be pragmatic.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 16:10
English to Croatian
+ ...
Do perfect people exist? Jul 29, 2009

"Perfect" would imply there is nothing in it that can be changed, and there is always something that could potentially be changed even in best translations ( if nothing, for the sake of various stylistic preferences).

While I agree it may be perfect measuring its effect on the target audience, I also realize that when it comes to proofreading by editors/proofreaders, it will never be " perfect" enough.

It's just like classical music. Say there is a violin performer/musician performing in front of a colorful audience in which there are musicians/ classic music specialists and just ordinary people who can't even play an instrument. You will imagine they will hear this music in two completely different ways.


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