Translating extra long sentences
Thread poster: Josephine Cassar

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:23
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
May 14, 2013

Hi all, I would like to ask you this please and welcome your feedback. Say you receive a text you had previously submitted a quote for and it is urgent, so no way of refusing it. The text contains paragraphs of about 15 lines -only 2 sentences, a paragraph of 28 lines which has 5 sentences only, paragraphs of 6/7/5 lines with only 1 sentence, do you take the initiative to translate and put text in sentence as you deem fit?
After submitting the work, the outsourcer said work had not been previously translated, but I was not convinced as it contained some errors and one was such a glaring error that I changed-wrote it as it should have been written as it had to be left in the source language.
I hope I have been clear enough and thank you for feedback.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:23
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Recast as appropriate May 14, 2013

I can only speak from an into-EN perspective, but this is what we call "recasting" the sentence. My source languages are generally much more tolerant of very long sentences than English, and many sentences if translated directly would end up as run-on sentences in English (independent clauses strung together without conjunctions). Therefore I often find myself recasting a sentence with a semicolon, or adding an appropriate conjunction (and/or/because/while, etc.) based on the context. In extreme cases, I will break up the sentence into shorter ones.

Unless the long sentence is some kind stream-of-consciousness passage or otherwise required for artistic reasons, I'd say do what you need to do to make it comprehensible.


Say you receive a text you had previously submitted a quote for and it is urgent, so no way of refusing it.


You can always refuse it, especially any significant time has passed between your quote and their confirmation, since availability is a fickle thing - one minute you might have nothing, and then get three confirmed orders within half an hour. Happens all the time. All availability has to be subject to revision based on the situation at the time of actual order confirmation. Did you actually the see the source when you quoted? If not, and it's far more involved than your were led to believe (perhaps the case here?), another perfectly good reason to refuse - or revise your quote.


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 18:23
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Tranlate into the target language May 14, 2013

Sometimes you need to split very long sentences or pull together very short ones. The question to ask is always: how would we say/write this in the target language, so that it is clear and understandable?

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:23
Spanish to English
+ ...
Chop chop May 14, 2013

My source language, Spanish, is notoriously periodophobic and long-winded. I usually have no qualms about slicing up the offending passages.

 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:23
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I go both ways May 14, 2013

I have a feeling that when translating from Norwegian I run short sentences together in English, but I certainly do it with Danish and Swedish as well. I don't have statistics on it.

On other occasions I definitely divide up long strings of clauses in a certain style of Danish. It comes across as rambling in English, which is not intended. On one recent occasion the client commented on it and said it sounded neater - and considered revisng the source.

If I have to leave quotes or anything like that in the source, I do check that it is actually a mistake and not 'old fashioned' spelling or anything like that.

I have lived in Denmark so long that I recognise many of them, so I am aware of the problem, but I am not 100% reliable. I ask the agency to check if anything looks odd in the source. It does of course depend whether the quote is from Shakespeare, Ibsen or Dante, or just a newspaper article from last week - I would correct the latter. icon_smile.gif


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:23
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You can always refuse it May 14, 2013

I couldn't Rudolph, not for such a reason only, as I had known it was urgent and it was soon sent. It would not have been fair as I had committed and text had been sent immediately. The language concerned should not have had such long sentences, as it is like what we write in English, not much different at all. The thing that there was no time to ask, as when I asked about another thing, answer came too late- I had already submitted the work, as deadline would have passed and I do not want to submit work after deadline.
Thank you all, I will know what to do next time, no matter what agency comments after.


 

Liviu-Lee Roth
United States
Local time: 20:23
Romanian to English
+ ...
Josephine, you call them "long sentences" ? :-) May 14, 2013

There is a Section in Title 18 of the United States Code ( Criminal Code), that has a sentence that starts on the left top corner of the page and ends on the second line of the next page. IT IS A SINGLE SENTENCE ! It took me two days to break it up in the translation in order to make it understandable in the target language .:-)

 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:23
English to Polish
+ ...
On dividing sentences May 14, 2013

There is usually a tendency to avoid breaking sentences but with the proviso that a translator can do that when necessary in his judgement. There is a whole new reason for not breaking sentences in legal documents or anything intended for analytical purposes: reference. Ordinal numbers of sentences are sometimes used just like articles or sections. This is why I usually reverse and splits or mergers made by translators when I proofread, sometimes affirming they right to do it but reversing them anyway.

Recasting sentences is probably a bit of a personal, preferential matter. Some translators just have to do it, they can't leave any existing sentence structure alone. Others won't change it unless it's impossible to preserve in the target language or reads really bad. Personally, I try to defer to the original author to the best of my ability unless the useful value of the text is its dominant function, but when proofreading I also try to defer to the translator.


 

Back to basics
Brazil
Local time: 21:23
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Depends... May 15, 2013

It depends on what kind of text we are talking about here.

I translate a lot of patents, and sentences up to two pages are not unheard of. In patents you DO NOT split up sentences if the sentence is not split up in the source to start with. Yes, it may become completely incomprehensible, but you do not touch the structure of the text. A definite no!


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:23
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Why should a translation be easier to understand? May 16, 2013

I certainly put in semi-colons or whatever to prevent rambling, no-break translations such as "John has a dog, it is called Fido, it barks, I like his dog." as a faithful reflection of the original, but ...

if you have two parties to a complicated contract written in the language of one of them, and it has been translated for the other, you have to bear in mind that it may have been written in sentences a kilometre long precisely to confuse, just to get a signature on the dotted line at the end despite lots of reasons not to sign up to that contract, all concealed in the text among the notwithstandings and/or neverthelesses and/or furthermores. Why should the party reading the translation have it any easier to understand and have a better chance of finding pitfalls?

With the exception of the first paragraph here, I advocate reflecting what the original text says in a grammatically correct fashion, but I baulk at explaining it any better. They have lawyers to do that.

Best,


Mervyn


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:23
English to Polish
+ ...
That's an important point May 26, 2013

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

I advocate reflecting what the original text says in a grammatically correct fashion, but I baulk at explaining it any better. They have lawyers to do that.

Best,


Mervyn


Yup. Translation is not free legal advice, and certainly not a Plain Language Service (cordial greetings are hereby extended to adherents of the Plain Language movement wheresoever abiding). Some people think a translation is bad when they can't understand it. Such ignorance is not excusable in fellow linguists. As a minimum, editing needs to be spelt out as editing in the job order (whether paid additionally or not).

Also, like I said, lawyers rely on sentence count. They need 'sentence 3' to be 'sentence 3', not 2 or 4. Semicolons are a good compromise. I use them a lot, even in Polish (where they're quite exotic).

[Edited at 2013-05-26 14:13 GMT]


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:23
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
here is a whole new reason for not breaking sentences in legal documents or anything intended for an May 26, 2013

Of course, if it is a legal text, I would not dream of changing the sentence as it might change the meaning or something. It was nothing of the sort; the language concerned does not usually have such long sentences as I am very fluent in it and love it; it is like English, Maltese. The sentences already had semi-colons but still came out awkward.
Best and thank you for your replies


 

Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 19:23
German to English
Intelligible text May 26, 2013

Stefan Blommaert wrote:

I translate a lot of patents, and sentences up to two pages are not unheard of. In patents you DO NOT split up sentences if the sentence is not split up in the source to start with. Yes, it may become completely incomprehensible, but you do not touch the structure of the text. A definite no!


Where on earth did you hear that? No matter what kind of text it is, if clarity can be achieved, you should try to achieve it.


 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:23
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
I agree with Kim here. May 26, 2013

I'm sure you could come up with a counterexample, but even in contracts or highly complex legal material, most of the time, cutting a sentence in two, or making one out of two is no problem at all. What matters is that you have copied the meaning (and if possible some of the style) of the original, not the original number of sentences, periods and commas.

Michael


 

Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 19:23
German to English
I stand corrected May 27, 2013

Sorry, Stefan. I shouldn't have made such a sweeping statement without knowing more about patent translation. I once had an interest in doing patent translation and ordered a book from the ATA entitled The Patent Translator's Handbook. Let me quote from two articles in this book:

Conclusion: Live and Learn - Lessons From a Veteran Patent Translation Team

"Finally, know your boundaries. When working on a literal or even a 'faithful' translation, patent translators have little freedom for expression. For example, Clayberg and Bexhoeft warn against breaking up long sentences for readability's sake ...."

From "Literal Translation of Patents"
"Respect Sentence Breaks and Carriage Returns. This is an easy one. As literal patent translators, decisions about where to break sentences and paragraphs have been made for us by the source author. Patents written in any language will include sentences that are much longer and more complex than those used in ordinary technical or legal documents, so there is no need to worry about what grammar teachers would call run-on sentences. No one who is used to reading patents will be shocked.
On the other hand, translators are generally given a free hand when it comes to punctuation other than periods, and, if a sentence becomes too long for easy reading, it is acceptable to use semicolons to chop it up into manageable chunks."


 


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