We should not translate literally
Thread poster: Being Earnest

Being Earnest
Italy
Local time: 11:12
Italian to English
Nov 13, 2009

Driving along the motorway in Italy today I made the error which probably most translators make: I tried to translate the road signs, until I came across this: Stazione di servizio ad elevata automazione. If one translates this literally it would be something like: fully automated service station. The problem is that in the UK all service stations are fully automated. But then what does fully automated mean.

My message is: Do not attempt to translate things too literally. In real and proper English this would be service area or service station. We should all bear this in mind and take time to think about the translation before "we put pen to paper" or "fingers to the keyboard". I personally use the HP method (not Hewlard Packard, but Hunt and Peck).

Hope this helps some of you out there to realise that it is not easy to translate but think about what the thing or object is called in your native tongue and it will make the whole work a lot easier, rather than trying to invent the wheel!

Thanks

Importance of Being Earnest

[Edited at 2009-11-13 20:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-11-13 20:17 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:12
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Correct Nov 13, 2009

Being Earnest wrote:

Driving along the motorway in Italy today I made the error which probably most translators make: I tried to translate the road signs, until I came across this: Stazione di servizio ad elevata automazione. If one translates this literally it would be something like: fully automated service station. The problem is that in the UK all service stations are fully automated. But then what doews fully automated mean.

My message is: Do not attempt to translate things too literally. In real and proper English this would be service area ot service station. We should all bear this in mind and take time to think about the translation before "we put pen to paper" or "fingers to the keyboard". I personally use the HP method (not Hewlard Packard, but Hunt and Peck).

Hope this helps some of you out there to realise that it is not easy to translate but think about what the thing or object is called in your native tongue and it will make the whole work a lot easier, rather than trying to invent the wheel!

Thanks

Importance of Being Earnest


Correct, Earnest, I agree. That Italian circumlocution derives from the fact that elsewhere in Italy (ah, how nice!) there are still service stations where a human being will fill your tank for you, exchange a few friendly remarks, and generally promote the idea of humane, civilised existence that's being killed off everywhere else. That's why it has to be carefully explained to the passing motorist, with an elaborate form of words, that in this case there won't be a human being, just a dumb machine

In other words, a good translator needs to understand cultural differences, not just linguistic ones.

[Edited at 2009-11-13 20:16 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:12
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The fast and furious station attendant Nov 13, 2009

Tom in London wrote:
That Italian circumlocution derives from the fact that elsewhere in Italy (ah, how nice!) there are still service stations where a human being will fill your tank for you, exchange a few friendly remarks, and generally promote the idea of humane, civilised existence that's being killed off everywhere else.

Just a little bit off-topic: My nearest petrol station is still the "humane" kind, i.e. you actually have an attendant who asks you how much petrol you want, etc. etc. He also moves veeeery sloooooowly, as if the world stood still around him apart from the cars passing by. This guy's slow-mo approach to life puts a smile on my face, but when I am in a hurry... I take the non-humane, automated station...


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:12
Swedish to English
+ ...
Of course Nov 13, 2009

What kind of professional translator would ever consider translating literally? Culturally knowledge of both source and target culture is A and O of a professional translation.

[Edited at 2009-11-13 21:14 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:12
French to English
+ ...
Although.... Nov 13, 2009

... in saying that, I remember going to one of these French hypermarket filling stations for petrol on a Sunday afternoon when nothing else was open, only to find that it was indeed fully automated. Not even an attendant to take the money, so everything happened at the pump - and of course they didn't take English credit cards! So sometimes a little extra information wouldn't go amiss! Fortunately, I had enough petrol to get me back to the other side of the tunnel, but it could have been a very awkward situation!

[Edited at 2009-11-13 23:20 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
nruddy  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:12
German to English
No automated ones here! Nov 13, 2009

In this country, where you have three people doing one person's job, I have yet to see a filling station that is automated. You never fill your own tank or measure the air in your own tyres.

Some things you translate fairly literally, others you don't. It's all about context.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 12:12
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
"Cold Station" Nov 14, 2009

In Finnish fully automated (unmanned) service stations are called "kylmäasema", not officially though. If you translate that literally, it would be Cold Station.
The only difference though is that the cold stations have no café or shop, where you can pay for your gas. In any case you have to serve yourself at the gas pump. I cannot even remember when I have seen a station where someone actually would tank your car. Perhaps 30 years ago.

REgards
Heinrich


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Magda Phili
Italy
Local time: 11:12
Member (2013)
Italian to Greek
+ ...
Consider the exceptions... Nov 14, 2009

I agree completely but sometimes you need to consider who your audience is. In this occasion I can imagine that it would not necessarily be UK or USA people reading the translated road signs while travelling along the Italian roads, but it could be people from Finland or Mexico or people that would anyway need to differentiate between the two types of service stations as in their country they may have a similar situation.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:12
Member (2004)
English to Italian
exception to the rule... Nov 14, 2009

in the little town where I live, here in England, we still have a petrol station which is fully manned and is not "self service"... to get petrol you have to be "served"...

Direct link Reply with quote
 
Trans-Marie
Local time: 10:12
English to German
+ ...
It depends Nov 14, 2009

Whether or not the source text should be translated literally depends on a myriad of factors. Just using the target culture concept by default can be just as wrong as translating literally - it all depends on context and the target readership. After all this is about Italy not Britain and there will be texts where the TT reader should be alerted to the fact that not all service stations in Italy are automated.

[Edited at 2009-11-14 13:58 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:12
Swedish to English
+ ...
The dangers of literal translation Nov 14, 2009

EN-UK: black cab = highly regulated and legal, can only be driven by someone who's completed at least 2 years of "the knowledge"
SV-SE: svarttaxi = totally illegal, driven by a person using a private car without any professional insurance or legal right

EN-UK: inner city school = poorly performing school to which you wouldn't dream of sending your child, often with a great deal of disadvantaged students whose first language is not English
SV-SE: innerstadsskola = school performing well to which you want to send your children rather than the suburban alternative where few students have Swedish as their first language

And those are just the most obvious I can think of.

Cultural knowledge rules! Or according to the information I received from my teenage son yesterday "cultural knowledge is sick" (contrary to what your dictionaries might tell you, "sick" is now a synonym of "good" or even "great").

Edited to indicate that these terms reflect UK English and SE Swedish.



[Edited at 2009-11-14 15:30 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
Self service Nov 15, 2009

I like Giovanni's solution of self service, I'm sure the specification is made around my neck of the woods in Britain too. I also think that it is important to make the distinction. I can't think of any reason to leave this part of the road sign out, personally. It is important for translators to approach their source texts humbly.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:12
Italian to English
Fully automated Nov 15, 2009

One aspect of "elevata automazione" which is not standard in the UK is that, usually, you can only pay at a pre-payment machine and there is no manned till.
This can be a real problem with UK issued "chip and pin cards" since the machines have no pin entry facility. You can pay cash of course but, if you are returning a hire car to an airport, you cannot ask the machine to "fill her up"; you pay for a preset amount and therefore have to overpay to make sure the tank is full.

So from a personal point of view, the distinction "fully automated" can save me a wasted visit or wasted cash!

Many manned filling stations adopt this system after about 6:00 pm, using the slogan "self", meaning "self-service". One of many examples of the mis-use of English terms which can drive translators to distraction.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:12
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
A & O Nov 15, 2009

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote:

What kind of professional translator would ever consider translating literally? Culturally knowledge of both source and target culture is A and O of a professional translation.

[Edited at 2009-11-13 21:14 GMT]


I agree with you in regards to cultural knowledge of both languages being mandatory.
Although translating literally can be quite humorous at times, it can also get the translator into some serious trouble.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Ronald van der Linden
Mexico
Local time: 04:12
Dutch to English
+ ...
adapt translation to public is the real argument of this forum string Dec 21, 2009

The example for the gas station is a poor example to use for a statement to not translate literal. Actually, translating always depends on the public that will use your translation.

Imagine a tourist website, that only has Italian and an English option to read (just an example), and everybody else not familiar with Italian would read up upon using gas stations in Italy. Then, translating an "automated" station simply to gas station, would not suffice.

The argument is not, to translate literally, but, to adapt translations to your audience.

Ronald


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

We should not translate literally

Advanced search







SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search