Same meaning, different text
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:34
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Sep 15, 2010

I had this in mind for a long time.
When translating technical documents it happens quite often that there are sentences that have exactly the same meaning but, because humans are creative animals, the wording is quite different.
As a translator, do you generally try to write down the version that seems to express the meaning or do you try to follow the style and humour of the author?

I made a small experiment with Babelfisch (Google translate doesn't seem to work these days?).

Here are the German sentences:

Rauchen verboten!
Nicht rauchen!
Rauchen bitte unterlassen!
Bitte nicht rauchen!
Rauchen nicht gestattet!
Rauchen untersagt!
Niemals rauchen!
Kein Rauchen!

And here the machine translation into English:

Smoke forbidden!
Do not smoke!
Smoke please omitted!
Please do not smoke!
Do not smoke permitted!
Smoke forbidden!
Never smoke!
No smoking!

So do you think when translating or works your mind more like a machine?

Please mind we are talking about technical documents, not conversations or fiction.



Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
3 out of 8 Sep 15, 2010

Not a very good score for Babelfis(c)h... and I am being generous!

But, back to your point Heinrich. There are indeed technical documents which reflect at least a style (more formal, less formal) although I wouldn't go so far as to talk about the mood of the author perhaps. But I would never sacrifice meaning in favour of style: I am obliged to find something which expresses the meaning accurately, and if I have alternatives, then I will be able to reflect the style.


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Same meaning, different text

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