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"Township": would you translate this word ?
Thread poster: Michael Mestre

Michael Mestre
France
Local time: 09:25
English to French
+ ...
Aug 30, 2010

Dear colleagues,

I am writing in this forum to ask the opinion of South Africans, or translators who have some knowledge about this country.
(Samuel Murray, I am not thinking /only/ about you but your name certainly comes to mind !)

I am translating the CV of a South African national that will be read by an European company.

The CV mentions works on new township projects in the late 90's.
My question is: would you translate "township", or would you leave the original term ?

This term is actually well-known in my target language (associated exclusively with South Africa) but has (in my opinion) a very negative connotation.
I understand that in South-Africa it is also a neutral, administrative term that can be exempt from such a connotation.

I am tempted to replace this term by a more "neutral" translation that would not change much in terms of meaning in order not to convey the wrong impression to the reader.
But I am wondering if this is the right approach.

What would you do in my place ? Would you translate it ? If yes, would you try to describe the concept, or would you just replace it by a vague equivalent (such as "real-estate projects") ?

Thank you in advance for your suggestions !
Michael


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:25
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Little knowledge about the country Aug 30, 2010

Dear Michael,

I have little knowledge about the country but I see you translate into English too. What would you do when you had to translate 'banlieue' from French into English? In French 'banlieue' can be a neutral word as well. In Dutch we always translate 'township' with 'township': entrepreneurship in the townships, riots in the township. We do the same with 'banlieue': entrepreneurship in the banlieues, riots in the banlieue.

The Dutch audience is used to 'township' and 'banlieue'. There's no need at all to protect them or confuse them with a neutral translation.

Cheers,
Gerard


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Michael Mestre
France
Local time: 09:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The banlieues and les townships Aug 30, 2010

Dear Gerard,

Thank you for your answer and for providing your opinion.

My translations into English are actually usually limited to my areas of specialization (science), meaning that I wouldn't be at ease with such considerations.
I found out that I was very bad at explaining France's social problems in English due to the different connotations that (otherwise identical) words can have.

I really don't know if I would translate banlieue in a written text - in casual conversation I usually do, because not all the "banlieues" are crime-ridden ghettos (actually most are not !), and using the French word in English does convey the wrong idea.
In French, you can say "J'habite en banlieue" without scaring your conversation partners - I am not aware whether this is the case in other European countries (but I guess that the opposite is true, due to the depictions made by the media).
When I just want to express the idea of a municipality located outside of the center, I just say "suburb" which is (at least in Europe !) quite a neutral term.

Best regards,
Michael


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Hans G. Liepert  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 09:25
English to German
+ ...
A township is a township is a township Aug 30, 2010

If you ever have been to a S.A. township you will recognize immediately, why the average European or American attaches a certain brand to it. Why do you want to change that?
Political correctness? There is no crime and unemployment, only lack of industry and exaggerated juvenile energy?

The township has changed gradually in recent years and will do so in the future - but it will remain a 'township' for many years to come.

Kind regards
Hans


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:25
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Political correctness Aug 30, 2010

Hans G. Liepert wrote:

If you ever have been to a S.A. township you will recognize immediately, why the average European or American attaches a certain brand to it. Why do you want to change that?
Political correctness? There is no crime and unemployment, only lack of industry and exaggerated juvenile energy?

The township has changed gradually in recent years and will do so in the future - but it will remain a 'township' for many years to come.

Kind regards
Hans


Yes, it seems political correctness is Michael's prior concern. Why else invite Samuel Murray to comment? I know from his contributions to another forum that Samuael has visited Europe recently but what makes him an expert on the current use of the word 'township' in Europe? By the way, Michael could make things easier by stating the target language and target audience(s).

Cheers,
Gerard


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Michael Mestre
France
Local time: 09:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No offense intended Aug 30, 2010

Lol, no offense intended : Mr Murray is one of the most visible South Africans on the forum, his name was the first to come to my mind when I wrote the first post.
If I had known many more I wouldn't have needed to write in this forum


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Michael Mestre
France
Local time: 09:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Aug 30, 2010

@Hans : Thanks to you too for your precious comments !

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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:25
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Linguistically speaking Aug 30, 2010

Michael Mestre wrote:

Lol, no offense intended : Mr Murray is one of the most visible South Africans on the forum, his name was the first to come to my mind when I wrote the first post.
If I had known many more I wouldn't have needed to write in this forum


Linguistically speaking - this is a forum for translators - you're making this subject more interesting all the time. You would have preferred the opinion of source language speakers over the opinion of speakers of the target language (whatever it is).

Cheers,
Gerard


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Michael Mestre
France
Local time: 09:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Cultural question Aug 30, 2010

.. well it was more of a cultural question I guess

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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:25
Member (2008)
English to French
Maybe just explain it once Aug 31, 2010

Who is your audience? It might be best to simply write "Township (anciennement ghettos urbains réservés aux Africains noirs et indiens pendant l'apartheid)" the first time and then just keep using "Township".

Equivalencies will just confuse, as in French Canada, a Township is an administrative region and the French equivalent is "Canton" but this has nothing to do with the S.A. Township :-S


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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:25
English to German
+ ...
With Arianne. Aug 31, 2010

Township in German is a well known term . But maybe you want to explain it once (put into brackets).

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:25
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Townships Aug 31, 2010

Michael Mestre wrote:
I am translating the CV of a South African national that will be read by an European company.
The CV mentions works on new township projects in the late 90's.
My question is: would you translate "township", or would you leave the original term ?


and

This term is actually well-known in my target language (associated exclusively with South Africa) but has (in my opinion) a very negative connotation. I understand that in South-Africa it is also a neutral, administrative term that can be exempt from such a connotation.


Yes, "township" can mean one of two things.

What you call the negative meaning isn't particularly negative in South Africa, althougth it does imply lower-income, lesser infrastructure, higher violent crime and... above all... non-white residents.

The administrative meaning is neutral, but you'd find that mostly in legal notices only. Is your client is a civil engineer or a town clerk? Then this may well be the meaning he's after.

Other types of development (including social development) would lead me to suspect that the "black neighbourhood" meaning of the word is intended.

In apartheid-era South Africa, the "black neighbourhood" meaning of the word "township" was strictly neutral, since all black people were forced to live in certain towns, usually built on the other side of a hill so that the white people can't see it. These black towns weren't necessarily bad places to live, but they did have less infrastructure, less electricity, less water, poorer sewage, etc.

Now that black people can live anywhere (including formerly white neighbourhoods), it is the poorer people who are forced to live in the old "townships". The government does a lot of infrastructure development in these neighbourhoods, but some things just stay the same (e.g. township residents still prefer to do their shopping in the formerly white parts of town, and shopping centres built in townships tend to fall into disuse quickly). So, in modern-day South Africa, "township" has attracted a meaning of "poorer black neighbourhood somewhat to the rural outskirts of the city".

I am tempted to replace this term by a more "neutral" translation that would not change much in terms of meaning in order not to convey the wrong impression to the reader. But I am wondering if this is the right approach.


Well, unless you know what the person means, you should judge by the context whether the slums meaning or the administrative meaning is intended. In Afrikaans, we'd use "dorpsgebied" for the administrative meaning but we'd use township" directly for the slums meaning (Afrikaans borrows very few words).



[Edited at 2010-08-31 10:12 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:25
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Gerard Aug 31, 2010

Gerard de Noord wrote:
I know from his contributions to another forum that Samuael has visited Europe recently but what makes him an expert on the current use of the word 'township' in Europe?


I visited the northern hemisphere recently, and therefore I feel qualified to comment on cultural issues related to the nothern hemisphere. (joke, sorry)


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Michael Mestre
France
Local time: 09:25
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all your answers Sep 4, 2010

Thanks to all of you for your helpful (and very detailed) answers !
Including Mr Murray of course, who was the subject of a significant part of the discussion and who provided a long and detailed answer of his own - which was more than I had hoped for !

Michael

[Edited at 2010-09-04 19:05 GMT]


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