Handling citations in translation
Thread poster: Michele Minsuk

Michele Minsuk
Local time: 17:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mar 24, 2011

Hello,
I am translating a book from Spanish top English that contains many quotes from works, some originally in English, and others not. I have a couple of technical questions regarding how to handle this:

1. When the citation is just a footnote citing the author, publisher, title, etc. of a work first published in a language other thatn English, do I translate the footnote?, Or do I leave the Spanish title and name of publisher? In some cases I don't know if the weoks have been published in English or not, do I need to research that and cite that publisher?
Or are these issues I should direct to the author, who may have a preference?

2. When the work is actually quoted and was either originally written in Englisdh or has at some point been published in English, do I translate or re-translate from th SPanish quote I am looking at, or find and insert the English original, when possible (which my instinct says would be correct)?

Thanks in advance for your wise advice, as usual!


 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:35
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Strictly speaking... Mar 24, 2011

Hi

Michele Minsuk wrote:

1. When the citation is just a footnote citing the author, publisher, title, etc. of a work first published in a language other thatn English, do I translate the footnote?, Or do I leave the Spanish title and name of publisher? In some cases I don't know if the weoks have been published in English or not, do I need to research that and cite that publisher?
Or are these issues I should direct to the author, who may have a preference?


Basically, you translate the footnote giving the original bibliographic data (author, original title, name of the publisher) but translating, for ex., place of publication into English and using the equivalent English punctuation and conventions for footnotes - a style guide comes in handy here. If the quotation has been published in English, your first option should be to quote the published English version (which properly requires an additional entry into the bibliography, so notify the author or publisher about that). But if the published English version doesn't make the original author's point discussed in what you are translating, then consider your own version and tell the author or the publisher about it.

There are several workarounds in this case (such as referencing the English version in the footnote, transferring the original Spanish into the footnote, etc.), so it may be better to refer the matter to the author/publisher/editor.


2. When the work is actually quoted and was either originally written in Englisdh or has at some point been published in English, do I translate or re-translate from th SPanish quote I am looking at, or find and insert the English original, when possible (which my instinct says would be correct)?


NEVER back-translate. Bend over backwards to get the original - no insertions - because if an author gets misquoted, sometimes it's the devil to pay. I mean, litigations can arise from that.


 

Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:35
German to English
+ ...
Citations Mar 25, 2011

I have to deal with this issue quite a bit in legal texts (quotes from and citations to statutes and court decisions, but citations nonetheless); this is how I deal with it:

First, be clear about what a citation is for:

citation [saɪˈteɪʃən]
n
1. the quoting of a book or author in support of a fact
2. a passage or source cited for this purpose
3. a listing or recounting, as of facts
4. (Military) an official commendation or award, esp for bravery or outstanding service, work, etc., usually in the form of a formal statement made in public
5. (Law) Law
a. an official summons to appear in court
b. the document containing such a summons
6. (Law) Law the quoting of decided cases to serve as guidance to a court
citatory [ˈsaɪtətərɪ -trɪ] adj

See http://www.thefreedictionary.com/citation


So, with a citation, the author is showing the reader where the quote or information can be found and, sometimes, adding a bit of information. The translation of a citation (regardless of where it is, e.g., in the text itself or as a footnote) must do the the same, but in another language, i.e., the reader must be able to understand the information imparted and, above all, find the exact source of the information.

The translation of any added information is pretty straightforward. To enable the reader to find the exact source, the translation is just a bit more complicated.

I translate everything in all footnotes, even the titles of the article, periodical, book, etc., but not proper names of authors or publishers; and yes, a style guide really does come in handy. I do, however, include in brackets the titles in their originally cited form, i.e., in the foreign language, since that is the exact source that the author used (not some translation of which may or may not exist and which I may or may not find), and that is the source the reader must find, if the reader is inclined to do so.

As for quotes, if needed, I will translate the quote just as I am doing with the rest of the text. I see no need to go and search for anything, since the author has provided all I need, i.e., the source text as the author wrote it (quotes, footnotes, and all).

icon_smile.gif

Added note: Ok, if I were translating a German article about Shakespeare, in which the author had translated Shakespeare into German, I would also tend to just find the original and put that in. But, I also think that there is a limit to how much research can be expected of the translator. I'm not sure I would go to the trouble if it wasn't immediately apparent; in that case, I would definitely contact the principal and ask how they want it (if they wanted the originals, then I would probably ask them to supply the originals or negotiate being paid hourly for the research).

icon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2011-03-25 10:15 GMT]


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:35
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A very tricky situation Mar 25, 2011

I recently translated EN-PT a whole book that was literally crammed with hundreds of quotes from other books, phrases from famous people, etc. Of course, many of these had already been translated into PT and published. For the record, neither the end-client nor the agency understand any PT at all, so they have to blindly rely on third-party inputs.

Of course, I could translate all these quotes myself, it would be much faster, and result in a more consistent writing style overall. However that author was very specific regarding the source of each and every quote. If I chose to translate these myself, people who tried to find the complete text where they had been taken from might not find a match. People who had read those source texts translated might fail to associate my translation to them.

So I made a tough decision:
  • I'd use Google to find existing translations for all those quotes, and copy them exactly as they were published on the Internet;
  • If more than one were available, I'd compare them and select the best;
  • If the source book had been translated and published in PT, but that part were not available online, for time & budget constraints, I would not go to libraries or bookstores to copy them;
  • If the translation available online were clearly inadequate*, I'd translate that specific one myself.

* I had only ONE such case. The translation had been done by Machado de Assis (1839-1908), an icon in Brazilian literature. It was completely anachronic, and the prolific writer had taken that passage to what would seem a delusional detour from the context of the book I was translating. So I re-translated it myself.


In Brazil, book translators - unless the book is a prospective good or best-seller - are often the cheaper ones. The initial investment in publishing a book in the conventional way (I mean, not POD) is huge, and it may take quite a while before the first signs of ROI - i.e. after someone buys a copy from a bookstore - hits the publisher. There is translation, DTP, photoliths, printing plates, paper, binding, logistics... and one can cut costs in most of them only to a certain extent, in order to prevent the sheer look of that masterpiece lea it to the toilet side, just in case. So translation is one of the possible cost-cutting spots. The finished book may look great... until it's read. Sad, but often true.

The first feedback on my translation was... awful! An interpreter said it often looked like machine translation. A qualified third party, from whom an expert opinion was requested, said that in some parts (the author's own text, which I translated) it's really good, they flow very well; meanwhile in others it is just too bad. That expert guessed (and explicitly said so) that apparently many translators had worked on that book... and was absolutely correct! ... I translated the author's original text, and countless others had translated the hundreds of quotes included there.

Not to leave it unmentioned, in my first draft I included the URL from where I had taken each translated quote.

At the risk of hijacking the original poster's thread, I wonder whether I made a bad decision, in spite of the sensible reasons that led me to it.


 

Jean-Pierre Artigau
Canada
Local time: 20:35
English to French
+ ...
See "Canadian Style" Mar 25, 2011

The main thing is to remain consistent within the same work.

You may find a consistent set of conventions in the Canadian Style, the handbook published by the Translation Bureau of the Canadian government for its English translators and writers. Under "Search by index", "Index", see "quotations" and "footnotes and endnotes".

http://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/tcdnstyl/index-eng.html?lang=eng&lettr=indx_catlog&i=1&index=ent&srchtxt=

Jean-Pierre


 

Bilbo Baggins
Catalan to English
+ ...
Authors and citations and references Mar 25, 2011

Michele Minsuk wrote:

Hello,
I am translating a book from Spanish top English that contains many quotes from works, some originally in English, and others not. I have a couple of technical questions regarding how to handle this:

1. When the citation is just a footnote citing the author, publisher, title, etc. of a work first published in a language other thatn English, do I translate the footnote?, Or do I leave the Spanish title and name of publisher? In some cases I don't know if the weoks have been published in English or not, do I need to research that and cite that publisher?
Or are these issues I should direct to the author, who may have a preference?

2. When the work is actually quoted and was either originally written in Englisdh or has at some point been published in English, do I translate or re-translate from th SPanish quote I am looking at, or find and insert the English original, when possible (which my instinct says would be correct)?

Thanks in advance for your wise advice, as usual!


It's important not to lose sight of the fact that citations and their references indicate WHAT THE AUTHOR HAS READ, so to imply that an author has read a version in another language if this was not the case is not correct. If you keep that in mind, it helps decide how to deal with citations and references - and if necessary, consult the author.


 

Michele Minsuk
Local time: 17:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all of you. Mar 25, 2011

Your responses to my inquiry about citations awere all helpful, especially in that I see there is not so much a cut and dried method, but a bit of judement involved. Many of the citations in this particular book are quotes from well know works of philosophy, some originall in English, others from German or even Japanese.

I do have a style guide, and will likely consult the author about his wishes. I will ask for an hourly research rate if he wants me to find original materail he cannot provide.

Thanks again.
-Michele


 


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Handling citations in translation

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