(Up against deadline!) Restructuring to make a sentence comprehensible
Thread poster: adrienneiii

adrienneiii
United States
Local time: 18:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 22, 2014

Hello there, this is a question about acceptable translation practices. I'm currently translating an enormous, meandering sentence in Spanish, structured as follows:

"Other such approaches are being used in Region X [4 lines of detail about the approach, with several subphrases] and Region Y [6 lines of detail, also with numerous subphrases]."

I had tackled in the translation process by completely restructuring it:

"Other such approaches are being used in Regions X and Y. In the former, [.......]. In the latter [.....]."

Obviously my version is a lot more readable, but I'm concerned that it departs too far from the source text. I don't know if this is permissible in translation, and I'd appreciate your advice!

Thank you.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:03
Russian to English
+ ...
Everything is permissible, if the meaning is retained Jul 22, 2014

You have to stick closer to the structure only when translating documents. It happens, however, that many people who have insufficient knowledge in the area of various translation theories and approaches, like some of the administrative personnel, may consider translations with too many structural differences inaccurate. This is a real problem that not too many people can assess the quality of translation.

[Edited at 2014-07-22 20:16 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

adrienneiii
United States
Local time: 18:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
But "you have to stick closer to the structure only when translating"? Jul 22, 2014

Lilian, tremendously appreciate your rapid response!

In this case, I am translating from Spanish into English, so my question relates to how much I am allowed to edit the text in the process. My version certainly retains the meaning in full, and is a lot easier to read. But you indicate that I have to stick closer to the original structure if translating. So what should I do in this case?

The reviewers for this translation will certainly be well qualified, and therefore unlikely to object to my substantial restructuring if indeed it is permissible practice. My query reflects MY lack of familiarity with the relevant theories and approaches, so I really appreciate your clarifications!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
in brief Jul 22, 2014

It all depends on the nature of the document. If it is a meeting document or a set of minutes, try not to stray too far: some people work with more than one language version and need to be able to find their way around.
Also for discussion papers, you have to stick pretty faithfully to the structure in case amendments are proposed, in which case a beautiful literary version, far from the original, will leave everybody confused (as an interpreter, I learned the hard way that turning sentences round could paint you into a corner...).
However, if this document is to have a life if its own and nobody is likely to compare it and the original line for line, for whatever reason, then you're doing them a favour by making it into something easier to understand and more pleasant to read.

With experience, you won't need to ask. You'll just know what's right.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

adrienneiii
United States
Local time: 18:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great advice from you both Jul 22, 2014

Thank you so much.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:03
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Definitely make it clear and readable Jul 22, 2014

I have just delivered a really AWFUL proof.

Gems like

The distance between the cable connections is recommended to not be in excess of 5 metres.

The trouble with English is that we don't have as many fixed syntax rules as German, for instance, and to some extent Danish, my source language. I don't know about Spanish, but your question tells me there are equivalent problems.

Often the source language sentence structure is not strictly wrong in English, but it may be very un-idiomatic and difficult to read, simply because it sounds so unnatural.
The reader has to struggle to work out what is meant, and is then left wondering whether there was some hidden meaning between the lines - why make such an issue of a plain sentence?

That is half the problem with Google Translate - it often cannot alter the sentence structure, and that is why it is so unreadable, even if it gets the right meanings for the context!

So definitely, break up a long sentence, reorganise it or whatever is necessary, and tell clients that is actually what they are paying you for!

There was a legal section to this text which sounds a bit like your Spanish... and the lecturers who trained us to do legal translation pointed out some of the pitfalls of translating too literally.

If you are translating on paper, slightly different rules apply from interpreting - you CAN go back and read the sentence an extra time if you need to.
But ideally it should be clear first time...

So if you keep the thread of the logic AND write in decent English, you are really doing everyone a favour.

Best of luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Pitwood
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:03
French to English
Keep sentences short Jul 22, 2014

The French like longer sentences than us. I very often break French sentences into two or more English ones because it makes it easier to read in English and if I didn't it'd look too wordy, formal and inaccessible in English.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:03
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Patent claims are an exception Jul 22, 2014

Though not relevant to this particular case, it is perhaps worth mentioing that patent claims are always written in a single sentence, for legal reasons, and have to be translated as such. They can occasionally be as much as a page long. This can be a very difficult job if you are translating from German, which puts the verbs mostly at the end of clauses, to English, which puts them much earlier. I imagine there are similar problems in other languages. The same may apply to some other legally binding documents.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:03
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
A few other options Jul 23, 2014

adrienneiii wrote:

Hello there, this is a question about acceptable translation practices. I'm currently translating an enormous, meandering sentence in Spanish, structured as follows:

"Other such approaches are being used in Region X [4 lines of detail about the approach, with several subphrases] and Region Y [6 lines of detail, also with numerous subphrases]."

I had tackled in the translation process by completely restructuring it:

"Other such approaches are being used in Regions X and Y. In the former,
]. In the latter [.....]."

Obviously my version is a lot more readable, but I'm concerned that it departs too far from the source text. I don't know if this is permissible in translation, and I'd appreciate your advice!

Thank you. [/quote]

Our job as translators is usually to produce a document with the same meaning that reads as though it had been written in the target language. In most cases, this should involve changing a lot of sentences around and restructuring things.

Other strategies I sometimes use to clarify an unruly text is adding em dashes or parentheses to set off asides or detail under a main point. Parentheses seem like they could be an option in cases like yours, but from what little I can tell it seems like your choice of splitting into two sentences is even better.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

adrienneiii
United States
Local time: 18:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Many thanks again to everyone! Jul 23, 2014

I have really appreciated the fast responses - tight deadline for a new client, so of course it is important to get it right.

Tim, I also use em dashes and parentheses a LOT, but for the first time they (plus dividing into sentences) were not working in this particular instance. Because I am not a trained translator (having come to it after a technical career), I'm often uncertain about how far I can go with the editing function (I started off as an editor and so my impulses in that area are very strong!).

The message I am getting from all of you, though, is that radical restructuring (even involving the addition of a subphrase or two) is perfectly acceptable where necessary. Apart from those instances mentioned by a few of you in which a verbatim reproduction is more advisable. I sometimes have these instances (official memoranda, for example), but so far they haven't been too awfully written...

Appreciated!


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

(Up against deadline!) Restructuring to make a sentence comprehensible

Advanced search







memoQ translator pro
Kilgray's memoQ is the world's fastest developing integrated localization & translation environment rendering you more productive and efficient.

With our advanced file filters, unlimited language and advanced file support, memoQ translator pro has been designed for translators and reviewers who work on their own, with other translators or in team-based translation projects.

More info »
SDL Trados Studio 2017 for €415/$495 with free eLearning
Get the cheapest prices for SDL Trados Studio 2017 on ProZ.com

Join this translator’s group buy brought to you by ProZ.com and buy SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance for only €415 / $495 / £325 / ¥60,000 For this month only – receive SDL Trados Studio 2017 - Getting Started eLearning for FREE.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search