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Thread poster: Richard Huddleson

Richard Huddleson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 29, 2014

Dia dhaoibh - Hi everyone:

I've been scribbling down and blogging away about my ideas and musings on Feminist translation. So far, I've had plenty of hits - but with regards to feedback I've only had attacks over my stance.

I would really appreciate it if people could tell me if they themselves see and take Feminist Translation as something serious? Or do people just tend to see it as a joke?

http://sheelanagigtranslations.blogspot.co.uk/

Go raibh maith agaibh - Thank you all


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Marianne Prip Olsen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:56
English to Danish
language and sexism Aug 31, 2014

In my opinion you are targeting an extremely important topic in your blog – language and sexism are tightly connected, and the more we talk about it, the more general awareness there’ll be of the subject. Keep up the good work and thanks for directing my attention to your blog.

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 21:56
Chinese to English
Interesting writing Aug 31, 2014

I think you will find the same reactions to feminist translation as you find to feminist anything: there are always men who will come and shout at you. In the translation world, I suspect the shouting will be rather genteel, and you'll simply be told that you're unprofessional/incorrect/not doing what clients want/some other thing. Mostly there aren't any good arguments attached, and you can safely ignore them.

I slightly disagree with some of the stuff you've written: I think you can be a feminist translator without being unfaithful. But that's a whole debate, and I'd be glad to see you argue the other side. There are certainly people out here interested in reading about these topics.


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MurielG
France
Local time: 14:56
English to French
Interesting Aug 31, 2014

In your last entry you deal with an ehtical issue that seems quite interesting. In general, language is linked with moral values: I remember a class at the university when we had to decide how to translate "negro" in a text from the 1950s, and there wasn't any easy answer. Those ethical issues are part of our job, and it is essential to think it through.
However, if you talk to someone about "feminist translation", this someone may think it's a joke, because it seems so particular, when translation has to deal with so many moral and political issues, so many cultures and aspects of social life... As if there was a "pro-Black translation theory", you see?
In any case, thank you for sharing your intesting views


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Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:56
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Thanks R-Hudd Aug 31, 2014

I'm deeply interested in all that relates to equality between women and men (and in other domains too). Language is one of the most distorted things when we want to marginalise people. So thank you for posting your blog: men and women will take profit of it.

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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
What does gender have to do with it? Aug 31, 2014

Every sex and race suffer the consequences of the difficult legal language used, and not only women find it difficult to deal with the legal world. I think it would be a far more constructive approach to deal with these difficulties for everybody instead of making it a man-woman fight, which it isn't.

You can come up with examples like yours where it can be argued that women are unfairly treated by the legal system, and you can come up with other examples where it can be argued that men are unfairly treated; in the UK, there is a lot of debate about men's access to the children after divorce, and men's financial treatment at divorce. We could fill up thousands of pages discussing these issues, but a translator forum is hardly the right place for that.

The point is that not only women have gripes with the legal systems, so why only deal with women and risk hostile reactions from men when they also have their gripes? It seems a counterproductive way of dealing with it. The way to achieve equality is not to focus exclusively on women but to end the focus on gender.

A translator's role is to assure that the meaning of the translated text is as close to the original text as possible. That's the service the translator is paid for. A translator is not a party to the legal proceedings or the legislative process. Any deviation from these principles should be approved by the client. Since a translator often gets intimate knowledge of proceedings, it can be tempting to intervene and try to bias things one way or another, but it is dangerous territory, as the translator does not have access to all the facts and documents in such proceedings and thus risks making conclusions on an incomplete basis. Both a man and a woman can be a victim, and if a female translator somehow decides to assist the woman because of her sex, or a male translator assists a man because of his sex (both cases would be discrimination), there is a risk of a miscarriage of justice.

If a translator has a moral problem with the text to translate, the correct way to deal with it is to decline. A policy of declining can also have the effect of making it difficult for the legal system to obtain translations of morally outrageous texts, but the translator is doing nothing wrong. This would be a far 'cleaner' way to make a stand.


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:56
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Being faithful to the source text is essential Aug 31, 2014

I've read through your blog and while I agree with the moral reasoning behind your arguments I can't support them from a professional translation point of view.

We as translators are charged with rendering the source text into the target language as faithfully as possible, that gives us liberty in choosing our words because a good translation is not a word by word translation of the source text but we do have to translate all the meaning, not just what we find acceptable or what we agree with.

For example in your text on Art. 86 of Defending the HumanRight to Life in Latin America series, I can agree that the source text is offensive and should not have been used but unfortunately it was and this is the translation of a law and laws are specific things that apply to specific instances, in this instance the exception in the law applies to "idiotic or insane women" so this is an essential part of the law if you do not include it in the translation then you are translating a different law.

Of course you can look for synonyms and even make it more "politically correct" but at some point and somehow you have to mention this only applies in the cases of "idiotic or insane women", because that's what the law says, unfortunate though it may be.

I would be interested to know how you would propose this should be translated.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:56
German to English
Small point about idiota Aug 31, 2014

Alex Lago wrote:

"...but we do have to translate all the meaning, not just what we find acceptable or what we agree with."

"Of course you can look for synonyms and even make it more "politically correct" but at some point and somehow you have to mention this only applies in the cases of "idiotic or insane women", because that's what the law says, unfortunate though it may be."


I do have to agree with Alex here, but is "idiotic" really how we would normally translate "idiota" in the first place? In the US I think we would use "mentally retarded" or maybe "mentally handicapped" or even a more politically correct term, but not "idiotic."

[Edited at 2014-08-31 14:38 GMT]


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:56
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Is it really a question of feminism? Aug 31, 2014

Your blog is interesting and you make some valid points. But in the example you give I don't think it is a question of feminist translation. The question is: how do we stay close to the source text but in words that are used, and understood by everyone, in the target language. Staying close to the source text does not always mean a literal translation using the exact same terms in a different language and a different culture.

I agree with Kim - and it is not a small point but THE point in my opinion - that we would never say' idotic' or 'insane' in English and certainly not in contemporary legal language. We would use 'mentally handicapped' and 'mentally ill' or similar terms, not because we apply feminist criteria but because we apply basic principles of good translation.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 21:56
Chinese to English
What we would say? Aug 31, 2014

Doubts about whether "idiotic" should have been used are surely justified, but R/Sheela seems to have a point when we look at this:

We can be quite sure that nowhere else in the Penal Code will we find a man being referred to as “idiotic or insane”...I've searched through the online penal code, the only occurrence is in Clause 86 in relation to abortion...


And then think about what Kim and Tina were suggesting:
I think we would use...We would use...


Thinking about the term "we would use" normalises the word. But in fact it's not a normal word, Sheela has found that it's a highly unusual word. But that fact - the uniqueness of this insult - would be lost in normal translation.

That is to say that when Alex says:
we do have to translate all the meaning

he's asking the impossible. I don't think we can ever translate *all* the meaning. In fact, translation is always an act of reading, interpretation and selection. It seems to me that the choice is to let your interpretation and selection be guided by unconscious forces, or to try to steer the interpretation in a direction you want to go.


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 14:56
English to Hungarian
+ ...
No Aug 31, 2014

sheelanagigtranslations wrote:

When translators are taught their craft, faithfulness to the text is held as sacred and essential to the process. In legal translation, that drive to be ‘faithful’ is even more intense. We, as translators, need to challenge that as this way of thinking reduces us to mere machines with little or no moral backbone. It destroys our capacity for independent thought and robs us of our agency. Feminist translation theorists understand this emergency. Sherry Simon strongly advocates the need for a “renewed sense of agency in translation”.


I feel that this is a completely misguided and unprofessional position. On what basis would a translator alter the source text to reflect their moral stance? What if another translator has a different moral stance? Would it be OK for them to translate the same text differently?
If you are vehemently opposed to something that a text says or the way in which it says it, you can always turn down the job. If you feel that something is immoral or illegal, you can raise the issue with your client or the authorities. Those are your only options as I see it. You can certainly translate a bigoted or offensive text faithfully while personally disagreeing with it. In many cases a faithful translation can serve to call attention to the offensiveness of the original text, and that can be more constructive than hiding the issue. As translators, we should certainly have no "agency" over what a text says, and we should most definitely not inject our independent thoughts into the context. That is not our job.
Of course some minor "softening" is acceptable and almost unavoidable, as translators are usually more conflict-averse than authors, but no "agency" please.


[Edited at 2014-08-31 21:15 GMT]


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:56
German to English
idiota Sep 1, 2014

Phil Hand wrote:

Doubts about whether "idiotic" should have been used are surely justified, but R/Sheela seems to have a point when we look at this:

And then think about what Kim and Tina were suggesting:
I think we would use...We would use...


Thinking about the term "we would use" normalises the word. But in fact it's not a normal word, Sheela has found that it's a highly unusual word. But that fact - the uniqueness of this insult - would be lost in normal translation.


Are you sure about that, Phil?

"La idiotez, idiotismo o idiocia es, en términos médicos, equivalente al retraso mental profundo, una enfermedad mental que consiste en la ausencia casi total en una persona de facultades psíquicas o intelectuales.
La idiotez es el retardo mental más agudo. Su detección es muy temprana, los individuos poseen una edad mental inferior a los tres años y su cociente intelectual de 0 a 24 (adulto con 2 años mentales)."
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiotez


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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Mentally challenged Sep 1, 2014

Just one thing, I would never even say "mentally handicapped". I like the term "mentally challenged".
I am a great fan of PC language, my favourite is of course "chronologically advantaged" for the elderly.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 21:56
Chinese to English
Not sure at all! Sep 1, 2014

Kim Metzger wrote:

Are you sure about that, Phil?

I speak no Spanish, so I'm going purely off what I can glean from context and machine translation.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
Too serious Sep 1, 2014

I got as far as "we, as translators, can indeed feminise or queer the terms used in the text" before giving up with a sigh of exasperation.
I'm not sure of the best way to translate "tergiversar" into English but here's Linguee's effort:
http://www.linguee.es/

I don't see this as the translator's remit.


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