Translation of book titles in a non-fiction book
Thread poster: Leonard (Lenny) Pearl
Leonard (Lenny) Pearl
Finland
Local time: 03:58
Finnish to English
Mar 19, 2014

Hi!

I am working on a non-fiction book on Mikael Agricola and the birth of literary Finnish. I have a question about translating book titles in the text, that have no English equivalent. Some books are liturgical and some are novels, plays, etc. With the exception of e.g. Se Wsi Testamenti (‘New Testament’), should I capitalise books that have no English equivalent or leave it in lowercase letters? For example, what should follow Käsikiria Castesta ia muista Christikunnan Menoista, this (‘agenda on baptism and other Christian ceremonies’) or this (‘Agenda on Baptism and Other Christian Ceremonies’)? Then there are fiction books such as Kuningas Suomessa: (‘a king in Finland’) or (‘A King in Finland’)? The play Agricola ja kettu: (‘Agricola and the fox’) or (‘Agricola and the Fox’)? None of these works have ever been translated.

Basically what I’ve done in my book is give an English translation and then use the Finnish later. For example for this title Vanha kirkkoraamattu, I gave the translation (‘old church Bible’), and then in a later sentence, I have “…people in the circles of these revival movements were used to hearing the word of God and deeming it correct specifically in the form of what was in Vanha kirkkoraamattu”. So I’m not using these titles in any “official” capacity.

I ask this because when I did a book in 2012 on Finnish onomastics, we never translated names with capital letters as they were not “official” English equivalents (e.g. Pitkämäki/Långbacka ‘long hill’, not ‘Long Hill’). So now I’m wondering if it is the same for books that have no “official” English.

I suppose if I do capitalise them, I could give information in the preface that these titles were translated by me and not available as that title? Unfortunately, the publisher does not allow footnotes or endnotes.

But what would the correct standard be? I can’t seem to find an online source on this. I appreciate any help!


[Edited at 2014-03-19 20:21 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-03-20 09:00 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-03-20 09:22 GMT]


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B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:58
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Lower case Mar 19, 2014

I think that you should use lower case except for the first word. Also put the translated title in square brackets to indicate that it is inserted as information, rather than in round brackets that would indicate that it was part of the author's text.

I would also omit the inverted commas, but am less sure about the convention on this. One would use inverted commas around a title if not using italics, so they do seem to make it look official, which is what you want to avoid.


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Leonard (Lenny) Pearl
Finland
Local time: 03:58
Finnish to English
TOPIC STARTER
titles in the text :-) Mar 19, 2014

Thank you for your reply! Yes, in the bibliography, I would use square brackets and capitalise the first letter, no semi quotes. That is definitely the referencing convention. I should have specified that these titles would be in the text.

For example, this is from chapter 6 in my book:

Some novels have addressed the Reformation, such as Kyösti Wilkuna’s 1912 Viimeiset luostariasukkaat (‘the last abbey residents’). It depicts the last stages of the Brigitine Abbey in Naantali, whereupon Agricola went to carry out the last episcopal visitation.


There is no book entitled The Last Abbey Residents but I think it would look nicer in my text to have the translation as (‘The Last Abbey Residents’).

In other parts of my book where I give a translation of a word, I put it in parenthesis with the semi quotes. That's the convention here - well, I use parenthesis to make it less confusing from the rest of the text


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:58
German to English
New Hart's Rules Mar 20, 2014

Here is the system presented in New Hart's Rules (2005 ed., p. 150, section 8.8: 'Non-English work titles'):

'The title in the original language may be accompanied by an English translation, especially if its sense is not implied by the surrounding text. Place such translations in quotation marks within parentheses (square brackets are sometimes used), in roman type with an initial capital on the first word. The true titles of published translations are set in italics, like thsoe of other publications.'

I actually usually use MHRA style (minus Oxford spelling and Oxford comma) for British English and the Chicago Manual of Style for American English. Basically you or your client just need to define a style guide and do what it says. You can get a free PDF version of MHRA online at their website. You have to pay for Chicago, but I think it is also available for purchase in an online or PDF version (not sure, I only have it on paper).


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:58
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi. I don't really understand the problem. Mar 20, 2014

If the title is translated into English, you have to use the English rules for capitalization in titles (fiction or non-fiction)--not all the letters that the individual words start with should be capitalized--you can read more about it in various manuals of stye. If the title is quoted in Finnish, you should go by the Finnish rules.

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:58
German to English
the difference Mar 20, 2014

Hi Lilian,

The difference is between real titles (of English translations of Finnish books) and translations of Finnish titles (provided for the reader's information).


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Leonard (Lenny) Pearl
Finland
Local time: 03:58
Finnish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Maybe a compromise? :-) Mar 20, 2014

Michael Wetzel wrote:

Here is the system presented in New Hart's Rules (2005 ed., p. 150, section 8.8: 'Non-English work titles'):

'The title in the original language may be accompanied by an English translation, especially if its sense is not implied by the surrounding text. Place such translations in quotation marks within parentheses (square brackets are sometimes used), in roman type with an initial capital on the first word. The true titles of published translations are set in italics, like thsoe of other publications.'

I actually usually use MHRA style (minus Oxford spelling and Oxford comma) for British English and the Chicago Manual of Style for American English. Basically you or your client just need to define a style guide and do what it says. You can get a free PDF version of MHRA online at their website. You have to pay for Chicago, but I think it is also available for purchase in an online or PDF version (not sure, I only have it on paper).


Thank you Michael!

Luckily I found all of section 8.8 on Amazon.com through its LOOK INSIDE! feature

So according to Hart, I could do this:

Some novels have addressed the Reformation, such as Kyösti Wilkuna’s 1912 Viimeiset luostariasukkaat (‘The last abbey residents’).


I know that the publisher wants BE, so it seems Hart would be fine, and it doesn't look as strange as a "title" as it would in all lowercase letters. I must admit, I'm not quite sure what the MHRA standard in this situation would be (but it did help me with a non-translation question I had, so it was a helpful hint!). Unless I find another standard, I could at least go with this to start - it seems to be a compromise

And if I misinterpreted B D Finch's advise on as referencing rather than an in-text translation, thanks for your input too








[Edited at 2014-03-20 10:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-03-20 11:03 GMT]


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:58
German to English
Compromising usually good. Mar 21, 2014

I've always understood style guides as a means to avoid inconsistency and long, inconclusive discussion about incredibly uninteresting details. The main thing is to just stick to a well-defined system.

I've actually had precisely the issue you're describing while working with a client (with the Chicago Manual of Style): I had written all titles as titles (italic and headline-style capitalization) and all translations as translations (roman with no capitalization other than proper nouns) and the client thought it looked inconsistent and stupid. I tended to agree and, in the end, I think we ended up with roman and no italics and no quotation marks for translations.

The problem was that we agreed on this after the fact, so real inconsistencies repeatedly showed up and had to be corrected at the proof stage (and there were probably even a few that made it into the book).

Butcher's Copy-editing (Cambridge) is another well-known (and probably the best-known) British style guide. It is more comparable to the Chicago Manual and it is great in a lot of ways, but it has an annoying habit of proposing alternative answers to this kind of question without definitively establishing one of them as authorative.


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