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How do YOU translate names or titles? square brackets/parentheses/dble quotes/original language 1st?
Thread poster: Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer

Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:15
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Aug 24, 2011

I was wondering how you handle translated names or titles.

There seem to be various "standard" ways of doing this.

Do you first write the original name or title (in italics?), followed by its translation/transliteration in square brackets? Do you prefer to use parentheses?

Do you instead first write the translation, and follow that by the original in square brackets, or parentheses?

Do you put either of these two in double quotes?

Do you italicise anything?

Etc.

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

e.g.,

  • The "Keizersberg" ("Emperor's hill")
  • The Keizersberg (Emperor's hill)
  • The Keizersberg ["Emperor's hill"]
  • The Keizersberg [Emperor's hill]
  • The Emperor's hill ("Keizersberg")
  • The Emperor's hill ["Keizersberg"]

    (...)

    I am presently embarking on a very large project and would like to choose one method as standard and use it from now on. I would love to hear what you have chosen as your Standard Method for dealing with such things.

    Michael

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  • Tom in London
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 17:15
    Member (2008)
    Italian to English
    The Keizersberg Aug 24, 2011

    I don't know if there are hard and fast rules. I think you can only do this on an empirical basis, depending on the tone for which you're aiming in your translation with respect to the source text. In the instance you gave I would simply say "The Keizersberg" just as I would never translate "the Bois de Boulogne" or "La Scala" or "the Reichstag". Usually the surrounding context is enough to explain what you're talking about. It would just be silly to say "We went to see 'The Woman who Wandered off the Straight and Narrow' at the Staircase" (we went to see "La Traviata" at La Scala).

    Slightly off-topic: Sir Harold Acton, the art historian, lived in Florence and was well known there. Even well-educated Florentines were often known to refer to him as "Sir Acton" !

    [Edited at 2011-08-24 19:12 GMT]


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    Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 17:15
    Member (2009)
    Dutch to English
    + ...
    TOPIC STARTER
    places that are not very well known to my readers Aug 24, 2011

    Hi Tom,

    Yes, but my problem – at least at the moment – is more what to do with the names of Dutch and Belgian places that are not very well known to my readers.

    The "Oude Dokken" in Ghent, for example – an old industrial harbour area. I can't really get away with just leaving it as the Oude Dokken, without adding something to it. What that something is however, I can't quite decide on...


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    Tom in London
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 17:15
    Member (2008)
    Italian to English
    In such cases.... Aug 24, 2011

    Michael J.W. Beijer wrote:

    Hi Tom,

    Yes, but my problem – at least at the moment – is more what to do with the names of Dutch and Belgian places that are not very well known to my readers.

    The "Oude Dokken" in Ghent, for example – an old industrial harbour area. I can't really get away with just leaving it as the, without adding something to it. What that something is however, I can't quite decide on...


    Perhaps in such cases, but as seldom as possible, at the first instance one might say "the former Oude Dokken industrial harbour area" but only the first time, and thereafter "Oude Dokken". But I do think there cannot be hard and fast rules about this.

    [Edited at 2011-08-24 20:56 GMT]


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    MikeTrans
    Germany
    Local time: 18:15
    Italian to German
    + ...
    My handling... Aug 24, 2011

    Hi,

    Names, Titles:
    It's very important to find out if there is an official name in the target language corresponding to the source (which may even be totally different). This is of course crucial for abbreviations.

    Double quotes:

    A. The modern way

    Usually techical texts (which I deal with) are formated in a way to avoid double quotes.
    For example, in the sentence...
    Chose the Default settings and click OK.
    ...the words "OK" and "Default settings" would appear in bold or be otherwise formated differently.

    B. The old-fashion way and the compromise

    If it's not possible to ignore quotes (e.g. because the source text contains them), I will decide prior of translating the document for 2 possibilites (I'm speaking for English-German translations):

    a)
    I would follow the classical rule and maintain any quotes:

    Wählen Sie "Grundeinstellungen" und klicken dann auf "OK".
    Die Richtlinien im Dokument "EU SF-532 Arbeitsblatt" müssen geändert werden.

    b)
    As a compromise for a better readability, I would take away the quotes, except if it's a 2-word or more expression where one of the words is NOT capitalized, for example:

    Wählen Sie Grundeinstellungen und klicken dann auf OK.
    Wählen Sie "Grundeinstellungen ändern" und klicken dann auf OK.
    Die Richtlinien im Dokument EU SF-532 Arbeitsblatt müssen geändert werden.
    Wählen Sie "MS SQL Debug mode", um ...


    Greets,
    Mike

    [Edited at 2011-08-24 21:28 GMT]


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    Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 17:15
    Member (2005)
    German to English
    + ...
    Ask the client? Aug 24, 2011

    As well as taking into account what Miketrans wrote, I think you should consider asking the client if he has preferences in this matter. If he says "use the standard method", that's when you'll need to make a decision from the ideas offered in this thread and use that consistently in those cases where you need the original and a translation.

    Oliver


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    Richard Hill  Identity Verified
    Mexico
    Local time: 12:15
    Member (2011)
    Spanish to English
    there are some guidelines in place Aug 24, 2011

    Hi.

    I came across this post as I was looking for some guidelines on the topic as I was specifically looking for the standard way to translate (or not) the titles of laws and acts, and came across these.

    "Guidelines for the translation of standards of the Committee on Descriptive Standards":
    http://www.icacds.org.uk/eng/translation.htm

    This one is for New Zealand. I'm sure there are more for other countries.
    "FOR THE TRANSLATION OF OFFICIAL AND LEGAL DOCUMENTS"
    http://www.nzsti.org/assets/uploads/files/translationguidelines.pdf


    This one is a large pdf. Do a pdf search for brackets, there's more on the topic than you might imagine.
    European Commission. Directorate-General for Translation
    http://ec.europa.eu/translation/english/guidelines/documents/styleguide_english_dgt_en.pdf

    I only found these today so haven't had much time to read them, but I definitely will. Just like you Michael, I am looking for a standard way to stick with.


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    Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 17:15
    Member (2000)
    Russian to English
    + ...
    Official versions in English Aug 25, 2011

    Why is it that one rule applies to Europe and another to the rest of the world?
    Deutschland is Germany, Suomi is Finland, Moskva is Moscow, Venezia is Venice, etc. etc., and these continue unchanged for centuries.
    But as soon as Ceylon calls itself Sri Lanka, or Bombay becomes Mumbai, or Burma becomes Myanmar, or Peking becomes Beijing, we are expected to change the traditional names in English for these places. Why?


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    Marina Steinbach  Identity Verified
    United States
    Local time: 12:15
    Member
    English to German
    + ...
    Translation of Titles Aug 25, 2011

    I normally write the original title and add the translation in brackets.

    Sincerely,

    Marina


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    Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
    Netherlands
    Local time: 18:15
    Member (2006)
    English to Afrikaans
    + ...
    Don't translate names (but do give explanations) Aug 25, 2011

    Michael J.W. Beijer wrote:
  • The "Keizersberg" ("Emperor's hill")
  • The Keizersberg (Emperor's hill)
  • The Keizersberg ["Emperor's hill"]
  • The Keizersberg [Emperor's hill]
  • The Emperor's hill ("Keizersberg")
  • The Emperor's hill ["Keizersberg"]


  • Don't translate names unless you are quite certain that that translation is the official translation in your language. For example, unless Keizersberg is known in English as Emperor's Hill, keep it as Keizersberg. Then, if you believe that it is relevant for the reader to know what the name means in English, add the English in the form of an explanation.

    The Keizersberg (which means emperor's hill) is a big hill.
    The Keizersberg ("emperor's hill") is a big hill.
    The Keizersberg (in English often referred to as Emperor's Hill) is a big hill.
    The Keizersberg (named after the "keizer" or emperor) is a big hill.
    etc.

    Square brackets are not used in my language, so I won't use it myself.

    In fact, I would not have a serious problem with:

    The Keizersberg Hill is a big hill.
    OR (depending on your capitalisation rules): The Keizersberg hill is a big hill.

    The "Oude Dokken" in Ghent, for example – an old industrial harbour area. I can't really get away with just leaving it as the Oude Dokken, without adding something to it. What that something is however, I can't quite decide on...


    The Oude Dokken harbour area is filthy.
    The Oude Dokken (literally "old docks") is filthy.
    The Oude Dokken (which means old docks) is filthy.

    Or sometimes you can get away with not mentioning the name but rather a description in the main sentence, with the actual name as a secondary description in brackets:

    The old docks harbour area (aptly named Oude Dokken) is filthy.

    As you can see, it is difficult to *standardise*, but if you do wish to standardise using an easy system, my suggestion is to follow the principle "don't translate names (but do [sometimes] give explanations)".


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    David Wright  Identity Verified
    Austria
    Local time: 18:15
    German to English
    + ...
    Place names Aug 25, 2011

    I would never ever translate place names, but tend to add something to make it clear to the reader what it is - eg Lake Wörthersee, Schneeberg mountain (hmm, just noticed problem of what to capitalise, which would also have to be dealt with).

    As to Jack's question - I think the answer is that the governments responsible for these places have passed laws stating what the English name should be (and I'm pretty certain there is a law in the Czech Republic for instance giving it that name and in German Tschechien - and not Tschechei, which is an alternative that was preferred by the Nazis). Whether we need to follow them is a different question.

    Even more of a hot potato is whether, in German, to call locations that were once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire by their German name (Laibach, Pressburg etc) or their new one (Ljubljana, Bratislava), and by extension, how to deal, in English, with historical references to these places relating to times when they were widely known under these names - e.g. writing/translating about Mahler, would you write that he was born in Iglau (as it was known then) or Jihlava, as it is known now. And if you choose to use both the first time round to make it clear where it is, which form would you use for all further references?


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    Dave Bindon  Identity Verified
    Greece
    Local time: 19:15
    Member (2010)
    Greek to English
    Context (and a Greek view) Aug 25, 2011

    As the others have expressed or inferred, there isn't really a single answer and it's not always possible (or desirable) to be consistent throughout a single document. I'd certainly avoid 'inventing' a translation for a place-name unless there is a need for the reader to understand the meaning of the word. Otherwise, I take a flexible view of the most appropriate way to deal with the name on a text-by-text, or even sentence-by-sentence basis.

    Translating from Greek I have additional problems, mainly to do with transliteration. Officially I'm supposed to use either the 'ELOT' simplified standard for transliterating Greek or, if appropriate, use the 'classic' transliteration based on Byzantine or Ancient Greek. That would mean that I'd have to write either 'Mikonos' or 'Myconos', despite the fact that the vast majority of people know the island as 'Mykonos'.

    If using the ELOT system, I should transliterate the letter chi (Χ, χ in Greek) as 'kh'. Since the letter is normally pronounced like the 'ch' in the Scottish word 'loch' (which most British people can pronounce...after a fashion) and is pronounced like a hard 'h' before E and I vowel sounds, in what way does 'kh' help anyone understand how to pronounce a Greek word? I stick to my own rules (as do most Greeks).

    Another problem is a political-cultural one. What do I call this country? Officially, I live in the Hellenic Republic, and I know many 'Hellenes' who object to the use of 'Greece', 'Greek' etc. (and all the similar words used by most, if not all, other European countries). Many people find it derogatory. However, how well would my translations be understood if I insisted on writing about Hellenes talking Hellenic (or, as ELOT would demand, 'Elinika')?

    Even if I were to agree to stop using 'Greece' and 'Greek', would I really be a good translator if I started using 'Hellenic Republic' and 'Hellene' instead? After all, Hellenes (!) actually call this country 'Ellada' (normally) or 'Ellas' (more formally), and they call themselves 'Ellines'. Why do they want me to use an initial H which was dropped in Greek 2,000 years ago?

    Aaaargh! I'm going to drown my transliterated sorrows in a glass of ouzo. Or 'uzo' as ELOT would probably prefer.


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    Dave Bindon  Identity Verified
    Greece
    Local time: 19:15
    Member (2010)
    Greek to English
    Titles Aug 25, 2011

    The original question mentions titles too. Can the OP (original poster) explain what he means, please? Book titles? Personal titles? The names of institutions?

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    pkanji
    Spanish to English
    Additional Question Oct 25, 2011

    Hi all,

    I have a similar question!


    I am translating names of courts and some do not exist in the UK


    El Juzgado de instruccion numero 16 (Court of investigation number 16)
    I would retain the Spanish followed by an explanatory trans in English


    However, could somebody explain to me why it is important to retain the original, my text would be for a specialized reader for example a lawyer or some such, this is a thesis, is this to avoid ambiguity or perhaps to make the reader aware that the original has no equivalent can only be explained?


    I would then employ the TL on its own without further explanation or is it wiser to employ the sl term since, in reality, there is no equivalent


    Any advice is more than appreciated


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    Richard Hill  Identity Verified
    Mexico
    Local time: 12:15
    Member (2011)
    Spanish to English
    Retaining the original Oct 25, 2011

    Hi Pjanji,

    I think you have answered you question in that it is to “avoid ambiguity” and/or “make the reader aware that the original has no equivalent can only be explained”.

    I had a recent discussion regarding the names of official government ministries/departments http://tiny.cc/z6koo, and I think its preferable to understand at least the basic functions and hierarchies of the court/ministry/department etc. in question, and decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether or not the court/ministry/department has a good official translation or pretty close equivalent in the target audience country or whether trying to match an equivalent would result in an iffy translation.

    I’m guessing you’ve checked the European Commission. Directorate-General for Translation
    http://ec.europa.eu/translation/english/guidelines/documents/styleguide_english_dgt_en.pdf
    They clear some things up. e.g.
    1.16 Translations of names. Use initial capitals for official or literal translations but
    lower case for descriptive translations:
    the Federal Constitutional Court is the German supreme court

    and

    Make clear the distinctions between the Court of Justice of the European Union
    in Luxembourg, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the
    International Court of Justice in The Hague. Avoid formulations such as the
    Court if confusion of, say, the Court of Justice with the General Court or the
    Court of Auditors is possible.

    They go on to explain the basic functions of different European courts.

    So clarity and avoiding ambiguity seems to be key.

    Rich


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