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Types of bad translations
Thread poster: sopterean_oana

sopterean_oana
Italy
Local time: 01:33
English to Romanian
+ ...
Aug 27, 2011

Hello,I am a student of Romanian-English in Romania and I am now entering my final year at University.I have a paper project to do for my final exam,but the first chapter is due to next Thursday.I was wondering if you,considering the fact that you are experienced translators,can give me some examples of what can influence a bad translation.Types of bad translations and their main problem.I would very much like to learn more from you and I am glad I've joined this forum.Thank you!

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B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:33
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Not knowing what it is that one doesn't know Aug 27, 2011

Welcome!

This is a deliberately broad answer as not knowing what it is that one doesn't know can apply to knowledge of source and target languages, translation theory, the particular field of knowledge, the linguistic community the text is aimed at, how to research terminology and judge what is the best solution etc.

Then there is the question of who judges quality. I recently did a good translation (though I say so myself) on an arts subject, only to have it completely ruined by changes made by the agency's proofreader, who apparently lacked any sort of art education or familiarity with the field and should have stuck to accountancy translation. I know my translation was good, he thought it wasn't and that he knew better. Of course, one way of settling that would be to ask for the two versions to be run past an English language publisher of art books.

Having reviewed the work of quite a lot of translators, the worst are those who pretend that they are native speakers of the target language when they are not, closely followed by those who are native speakers but have a poor grasp of their own language and those who don't have an adequate understanding of the subtleties of the source language.

Another sort of bad translation is that which fails to relate to the purpose of the text and the linguistic community it is aimed at. The proofreader in my example above did not know about the language used by artists and photographers and so was incapable of understanding not just technical terminology and philosophical concepts, but also the way that professional photographers work and talk about their work, what is considered to be praise and what is considered insulting. Similarly, I wouldn't dare to translate a text about music or clubbing that was aimed at 18 - 25 year olds as I would not be capable of producing a good translation of such a text.

Somebody who knows what they don't know is capable of learning and improving and knows when they need to research something or ask for clarification. If they have a good knowledge of their mother tongue, they will be aware of the complexities of language and able to apply that awareness to their reading of source texts and to the job of translating from source to target language.


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Eileen Cartoon  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:33
Italian to English
translating vs. copywriting Aug 27, 2011

All too often a poorly written text is expected to be perfect in the translation.

I recently redid a translation that had been rejected as unpublishable only to have mine also rejected for the same reasons. However, the real problem in both cases was the source text. Both translations were good (I really could not fault the first translation and rewrote it only because asked by a very good friend) but fundamentally reflected what was in the original (as a translation should). However, that original said one thing in the first paragraph, contradicted itself in the next paragraph, jumped to a new topic, back to the first. It was awful. So it was rejected by the publisher again, and again.

Of course the author blames the translator but I have so often found that one of the bigest problems with translation is the source text itself. the writers don't put any thought into it because they think "hey, it doesn't matter how I write it. It's not going down in my language anyway". This can often be a problem


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sopterean_oana
Italy
Local time: 01:33
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
some examples of types of errors in translation Aug 27, 2011

According to my research I found out that some errors are also made because of the translator's information deficit regarding the source text,especially when dealing with poems,mismatches when trying to find the best substitute of a word/phrase from the source language into the target language,lack of comprehension,under and over translation,discursive inadequacies,and semantic inadequacies.This is the information I've gathered so far.What do you think about it?I'm sure there are a lot of other types of errors.Have you encountered such errors? I'm sorry if my English is not so good!

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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Bad translations Aug 27, 2011

Bad translations are often produced by

- translators who think that they have native or near-native proficiency in the target language when they do not, or who think that such proficiency is not necessary

- translators who do not have an excellent understanding of the source language

- translators who are not knowledgeable in the subject matter of the source text


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:33
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Error types - perhaps this helps? Aug 27, 2011

In case you are looking for types of errors, there are various industry standards categorizing translation errors, so you may want to start checking out those.
I found a link with a brief description of two such standards, SAE J2450 and the LISA QA categories:
http://producthelp.sdl.com/SDL_TMS_2011/en/Translating,_Reviewing_and_Approving/Reviewer_Grading_Window.htm

You can do some further search on these, if you want more detail.
Katalin


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:33
Hebrew to English
Linguistic causes of bad translations Aug 27, 2011

In addition to the examples stated by the other translators posting here, "bad" translations can be caused by problems of equivalence at any level of analysis, so:

*Lexical equivalence
*Semantic equivalence
*Grammatical equivalence
*Textual equivalence
*Pragmatic equivalence

If you haven't done so already, I suggest looking at the literature; Mona Baker's "In other words" describes all of the above phenomena, and gives examples, of good translations, and also "bad" ones.

Also, I would critique your own question. What is meant by a "bad" translation?
Is it one which is completely incorrect, or perhaps inappropriate? Is it one which is utterly incomprehesible?
After all, as you can read from the other posts, sometimes a "bad" translation is simply a point-of-view - a matter of stylistics or personal preference.

Good luck with your studies!


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:33
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
The translation of poems has little in common with the translation of a commercial web page Aug 27, 2011

As a matter of fact, you can translate e.g. a commercial web page without completely understanding the subject matter, because the page is meant to be clear and univocal. Selling stuff is not a big deal. A translator can make translation mistakes anayway, but I'd say (s)he'd be highly accountable for them (translating with automobile when everybody says cars, or with umbrella when you should have used parasol). I'm not talking about writing mistakes in the target language.

When translating literature or even a newspaper article, translators can make a different kind of mistakes. Personally, I could make that type of mistake when translating from Romance languages, rather than from Germanic languages. What happens is that you just don't see that the writer is trying to be funny, ambiguous, mysterious, ironic or just awkward. You're missing some essential information the informed native reader will not miss and you'll normalise the peculiarity (iron out the true meaning) in your translation.

Please use spaces after commas and periods.

Cheers,
Gerard


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:33
Chinese to English
My homespun analysis Aug 28, 2011

I think errors can arise in three phases of the translation process.

1) Reading.
This is where I see the most errors, and the errors produced this way cannot be fixed by proofreading; only by retranslation. So this is the most important/dangerous category in my view. Reading errors include
a) Not reading. This is very common. A translator does not read the text, (s)he just reads the words, resulting in a failure of comprehension.
b) Failure to understand terminology.
c) Failure to understand necessary background information.
d) Imposition of one's own beliefs on the text.

2) Transfer from source to target language.
This is a relatively small category of errors. Skillful transfer includes quite a lot of little knacks and techniques that a translator picks up in the course of their work. These make the process fast and easy. An inexperienced translator will often miss them, and that makes for stylistic problems in the translation.

3) Writing.
This is another major category.
a) Writing by a non-native speaker. Not always a problem, but it can be when the writing is not clear.
b) Writing in the wrong register. (Too slangy, too formal, etc.)
c) Writing in the wrong genre (technical terms not used correctly).
d) Bad organisation. Some translators seem to think this is not their job, that if the organisation of the target reflects the source, then they've done a good translation. I completely disagree. An example: Chinese uses a lot of "Although" sentences; English does not. If you reproduce all the "Although" sentences in English, you get an awkward English text, with an odd flow of logic. To produce a good English text, you must go through and do monolingual editing to remove these problems.

That's how I think about it. I'm afraid I haven't got any literature to back me up on this, so it might not be much use for your university essay.

Good luck!


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
English to German
+ ...
Bad translations: My personal pet peeve Aug 28, 2011

When a translator doesn't dare to WRITE, and a press release written by grown-ups at a multinational company for grown-ups at other multinational companies sounds like an essay written by an 11-year-old.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 01:33
English to Croatian
+ ...
Many categories Aug 28, 2011

Literal unadapted translation, poor writing style (no flow, no coherence), bad command of comparative idiomacity and phrasality etc. Briefly, typical amateur errors.

I can tell a lot about translator's background looking closely at the kind and specifications of the error made.


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sopterean_oana
Italy
Local time: 01:33
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you,maybe I should change the title of my paper Aug 28, 2011

Thank you, you've all been very helpful! After reading your posts I've realized that maybe I should change the title for my paper. I think that Types Of Bad Translations is not the most appropriate one. Maybe Errors in Translating would be better. I actually wanted to get Mona Baker's book but the library was closed for the summer.
Initially, when I thought about this title: "Types of Bad Translations" I was thinking about mistakes that can appear in translations that can lead to it being not so good, or maybe not good at all, this leading to several consequences. I saw on the internet something about a translation error saying that the Vatican has changed it's views on contraception:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/8447901/Thousands-of-Catholic-books-pulped-over-contraception-error.html

Also, this will be another chapter in my paper: Consequences of errors in translation.


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Mari-salva
Spanish to French
+ ...
when you are offering a good service Aug 28, 2011

Even when the service you provide reached a good level, many dangers to fall in "bad translation" are close.

For example when you are in a big rush and can not perform a spell check or simply check your work for consistency, because the first sketch is not always perfect (never in my case).

With the conditions you have (meaning here time) the outcome might significantly differ, even if the more experience the more easy it becomes to avoid those "dangers".

Best regards,
Marie


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
English to German
+ ...
Or - maybe you should start to think like a real translator Aug 28, 2011

sopterean_oana wrote:

Thank you, you've all been very helpful! After reading your posts I've realized that maybe I should change the title for my paper. I think that Types Of Bad Translations is not the most appropriate one. Maybe Errors in Translating would be better. I actually wanted to get Mona Baker's book but the library was closed for the summer.
Initially, when I thought about this title: "Types of Bad Translations" I was thinking about mistakes that can appear in translations that can lead to it being not so good, or maybe not good at all, this leading to several consequences. I saw on the internet something about a translation error saying that the Vatican has changed it's views on contraception:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/8447901/Thousands-of-Catholic-books-pulped-over-contraception-error.html

Also, this will be another chapter in my paper: Consequences of errors in translation.



The translation / the choice of the title is the very last and final step.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:33
Hebrew to English
Continuum of translation errors Aug 28, 2011

The conequences of translation errors can vary greatly. It ranges from comical: when I was in China I saw a surprisingly common T-Shirt with "No Paint. No Gains" printed across it.
On the other end of the spectrum consequences can be as severe as this:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/2700177/Bad-French-prolongs-Russia-Georgia-conflict.html
A case of mistranslation prolonging conflict.

A mistranslation in any field can have dire consequences, errors in legal, medical and technical translations can even have life-threatening consequences.

And as professional and skilled as any translator is, they are still human. And errors occur.

This is why Professional Indemnity Insurance is so important for translators.


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