Punctuation mistakes in the original text
Thread poster: Ani Vardanyan

Ani Vardanyan
Armenia
Local time: 16:52
English to Armenian
+ ...
Feb 23, 2015

Hello, everyone!

As a young lawyer-linguist, who is primarily the lawyer, not the linguist, I would like to know how you, the professionals in the translation business, deal with the punctuation mistakes in the original text (e.g. when it is obvious that there should be a full stop instead of a comma). Do you ever correct them in the target text or do you leave it as it is or do you mention somehow that there is a mistake? Well, especially when the document you are translating requires a strict form?

Thank you for answers, and sorry if a similar topic already exists. I didn't find it!icon_smile.gif


 

Joseph Tein  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:52
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
NEVER correct Feb 23, 2015

As a court interpreter who is sometimes asked to translate written material (Spanish --> English) I would never "correct" what somebody (witnesses, for example) has written. That would be changing the document, adding something that isn't there ... where would you stop? What if you don't like the person's writing style? What if you disagree with what they say?

Almost all the material I translate is written, unfortunately, by very uneducated people ... mostly there is NO punctuation. There are also lots of misspellings ... these I have to spell correctly in English; I don't see a way around that because you can't duplicate misspellings in the target language.

I think the best thing to do if you're concerned about the mistakes is to add a note saying something like "Note: punctuation mistakes reflect punctuation in the source."

I'm not sure about the "strict form" ... maybe you could explain what that's about.


 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:52
Member (2012)
French to English
Hello Ani Feb 23, 2015

Generally, I would not replicate source text grammatical errors when translating. I follow the conventions of standard English grammar.

The only situation in which I could imagine deviating from this would be in the case of literary translation, where a non-grammatical style might be used to create certain effects.

[Edited at 2015-02-23 08:12 GMT]


 

Ani Vardanyan
Armenia
Local time: 16:52
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
agreements and document forms Feb 23, 2015

I'm not sure about the "strict form" ... maybe you could explain what that's about.


To be specific, now I am working on a draft of an agreement, and since it is still the draft, I guess they didn't bother to proofread it very meticulously, so there is a full sentence ending with a comma. I wonder what I should do with that.

Or, for another example, once I had document forms (templates) to be translated for the purpose of actually using them in practice. There was a phrase in parentheses (you know, under the lines, directing what to fill in), and the right one was obviously missing (a typo).

[Խմբագրված է ժամը 2015-02-23 08:24 GMT-ին]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Languages Feb 23, 2015

Ani Vardanyan wrote:

Hello, everyone!

As a young lawyer-linguist, who is primarily the lawyer, not the linguist, I would like to know how you, the professionals in the translation business, deal with the punctuation mistakes in the original text (e.g. when it is obvious that there should be a full stop instead of a comma). Do you ever correct them in the target text or do you leave it as it is or do you mention somehow that there is a mistake? Well, especially when the document you are translating requires a strict form?

Thank you for answers, and sorry if a similar topic already exists. I didn't find it!icon_smile.gif


I don't know about other language pairs, but in my language pair (Italian to English) the differences between the two languages are not confined to words but to punctuation as well; a colon is used where I would have expected a semicolon, commas are used in place of full stops, so the text seems to run on and on, etc.

Were I simply to transfer the same punctuation across into my English translation, the translation would not be correct. Therefore in answer to your question, I believe the punctuation of a language, like everything else about it, requires translation and interpretation.

Numbers, of course, are a world unto themselves. In Italian (as in other languages) a number like 320,000.65 is written 320.000,65. When I'm translating a document that contains a lot of numbers, I often have to spend a lot of time converting these numbers into something that would be comprehensible in English.

All the above applies as much to legal documents as much as to any other type of document. I recently translated a large body of official legislative documents that were full of the characteristics I have described.

[Edited at 2015-02-23 08:27 GMT]


 

Ani Vardanyan
Armenia
Local time: 16:52
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Tom in London, Feb 23, 2015

I fully agree with you when the punctuation is correct in the context of the original language. But what if it is incorrect? What if you see a punctuation mark in an English text which contradicts to all possible and impossible rules of the English grammar?

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
correct Feb 23, 2015

Ani Vardanyan wrote:

I fully agree with you when the punctuation is correct in the context of the original language. But what if it is incorrect? What if you see a punctuation mark in an English text which contradicts to all possible and impossible rules of the English grammar?


I always ensure it is correct in the translation


 

B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:52
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Depends upon the meaning and purpose Feb 23, 2015

I disagree with Joseph for the following reasons: a) you are translating a draft agreement and he is writing about translating witness statements; b) this is not about enabling a reader to judge the ability to punctuate of the author of the source text (ST), but translating the meaning of the ST.

In the case of his witness statements, Joseph needs to retain as many nuances of expression from the original as possible and that might include inability to punctuate properly. For instance, if he tidied everything up so that a lack of education apparent in the ST was not apparent in the translation, that might lead a reader to make fewer allowances for the writer having perhaps failed to adequately express and fully state their case or what they saw. That could either disadvantage or give an unfair advantage to the person relying upon that statement.

The above would not apply to an agreement, where you need to translate the meaning of the ST as it would be expressed had the document been drafted in the target language (TL). You need to translate the meaning with complete accuracy, but not the style and quality of writing beyond using a style appropriate to that sort of document in the TL. You should provide a translator's note for any error in the ST (including any punctuation error) that obscures the meaning or creates ambiguity. If you are feeling generous and think the client won't take offence, you could also provide a note for errors that do not affect the clarity of the meaning. If the translated document is better written than the ST, that is fine.


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:52
Italian to English
Absolutely Feb 23, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

I don't know about other language pairs, but in my language pair (Italian to English) the differences between the two languages are not confined to words but to punctuation as well; a colon is used where I would have expected a semicolon, commas are used in place of full stops, so the text seems to run on and on, etc.

Were I simply to transfer the same punctuation across into my English translation, the translation would not be correct. Therefore in answer to your question, I believe the punctuation of a language, like everything else about it, requires translation and interpretation.



Quite.

Italian often strings into one sentence information that English would prefer to read as a paragraph.



Numbers, of course, are a world unto themselves. In Italian (as in other languages) a number like 320,000.65 is written 320.000,65. When I'm translating a document that contains a lot of numbers, I often have to spend a lot of time converting these numbers into something that would be comprehensible in English.

All the above applies as much to legal documents as much as to any other type of document. I recently translated a large body of official legislative documents that were full of the characteristics I have described.[Edited at 2015-02-23 08:27 GMT]



One of the joys of CAT tools is that if you ask them nicely, they will localise numbers, dates and the like automatically, as well as helping you whizz through legal boilerplate.


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 05:52
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Leave it alone Feb 23, 2015

Definitely not make changes in the source text - that is not your job. If the comma seems to be there accidentally and does not change the meaning of the two sentences, I would leave it alone and simply use a period in your translation. When you hand it in you could mention that the source text needs proofreading.

 

Ani Vardanyan
Armenia
Local time: 16:52
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Feb 24, 2015

Well, seems the final conclusion is: it depends. So, thank you all very much for sharing your experience. It will help me better decide what to do in which situation.icon_smile.gif

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Missing Feb 24, 2015

Giles Watson wrote:


One of the joys of CAT tools is that if you ask them nicely, they will localise numbers, dates and the like automatically, as well as helping you whizz through legal boilerplate.



.. except the things it misses - because there are always inconsistencies in Italian documents.


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:52
Italian to English
If there's one thing that CATs do well... Feb 24, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Giles Watson wrote:


One of the joys of CAT tools is that if you ask them nicely, they will localise numbers, dates and the like automatically, as well as helping you whizz through legal boilerplate.



.. except the things it misses - because there are always inconsistencies in Italian documents.


... it's pinpointing inconsistencies.

A changed term in boilerplate will be highlighted automatically, allowing you to deal with it as you judge fit.

FWIW


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Never correct source text Feb 24, 2015

Even though you can actually do it (in your TM, in Studio), it is not our business.

If it is a sworn/certified translation, you are legally prevented from doing so (at least in Spain).

If it is a ppt file pieced together for commercial purposes, it would not be very nice if you "reproduce" the error in the target text. What I usually do is that I produce the correct (according to my own judgment) target segment, note down the segment number and send a remark to my customer, informing them of:

- the segment number
- the "wrong" source text
- the "right" source text (according to my opinion)
- the actual target version I am proposing

The customer is then free to accept my target version, debate it with the end client, reject my target version and ask me to reproduce the error in the target text or take any other appropriate action of their choice.

Not pointing out the error to the customer and producing a doggy target text can, and will, backfire, at some point in time.


 

Ani Vardanyan
Armenia
Local time: 16:52
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Pointing out the errors Feb 24, 2015

Well, luckily I don't do first-hand translations but mostly revise them, so all the corrections and comments I make can always be seen by, at least, the agent. I always point out any inaccuracies I find in the source text as well, but I would just like to know the common practice. So as if they ever ask MY opinion (like, 'Okay, the source text is incorrect, so what should we do with the translation?'), I will be able to answer with a bit of self-confidence!icon_smile.gif

 


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