Alphabetical order in a list
Thread poster: Augusta Habas

Augusta Habas
France
Local time: 09:33
Italian to French
+ ...
Apr 10, 2015

It is not the first time I come across this problem, but I never received a proper answer from my client, so I wondered if some fellow translator had a clear position about it...

I am translating a document for a multinational company, and Italian version will remain the reference.
Inside the document, we have a list of items: A. , B. , C. , etc. until I. then, following Italian alphabetical order, we get directly to L., M., N., etc.
I wonder if I should come back to French alphabetical order J., K., L. etc. because if the user needs to refer to the Italian version, he will get lost. On the other hand, the alphabet is similar, if it was not the case (like Cyrillic one), I would definitely have to change it.
What do you think? What would you do?

[Edited at 2015-04-10 13:20 GMT]


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Use the order in the language you translate to Apr 10, 2015

It seems pretty obvious to me that unless otherwise directed by your client, you should use the alphabetical order of the language you translate to. If a French or English user expects the list to be alphabetical, he or she would never dream of looking for J and K after Z, unless a clear note informed the user how the list is sorted.

 

Victoria Britten  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:33
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
Compromise? Apr 10, 2015

Would it be possible to show both, for example:
...

H
I
J (L)
K (M)
...

It would of course need to be explained somewhere in the document.

A suggestion!


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 01:33
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with Thomas Apr 11, 2015

Use the order the reader of your translation into French would expect to see.

 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 13:03
English to Hindi
+ ...
With Thomas Apr 11, 2015

Clearly, it should be in the alphabetical order of the target language. Once the document has been translated into the target language, it stands on its own as an independent document, and people referring to it won't be referring to the source document, in fact, they can't for they won't be knowing the source language, which why it has been translated in the first place.

With Hindi, my main target language, the issue is unambiguous because the script of Hindi (Devnagari) bears no resemblance to the source language script (usually English) and an alphabetical list in English is completely out of the question in a Hindi document.


 

Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 03:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
@Balasubramaniam Apr 11, 2015

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

Clearly, it should be in the alphabetical order of the target language. Once the document has been translated into the target language, it stands on its own as an independent document, and people referring to it won't be referring to the source document, in fact, they can't for they won't be knowing the source language, which why it has been translated in the first place.

...


Do you really mean what you wrote there? Have you thought, for example, about how laws are drafted - and referenced - in multi-lingual countries? The first draft might perhaps be in any of the national languages, but the other language version(s) will follow very soon afterwards (and, in any case, before the legislation reaches the voting stage). And those versions will never be 'independent' from one another - they will remain utterly and irrevocably inter-related and inter-dependent until they are repealed (and beyond...). They are, after all, just different embodiments of the exact same substance.


 

Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 03:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
It’s a problem of alphabets, not sort order Apr 11, 2015

As I understand Augusta’s original enquiry, the problem is not that Italian alphabetical order is different to that used in French. The problem is that the Italian alphabet doesn’t have the letters J and K, so Italian alphabetical order skips from I to L.

There is a similar – but inverse – problem with Spanish, which, depending on whether you use the language’s ‘modern’ or ‘traditional’ sort, has one extra letter Ñ (between N and O), or two extras, Ñ and Ll (between L and M).

The only valid solution is to use the alphabet of the source language also in the target language. If you apply the target language alphabet, and you’re translating from Spanish to English, how are you going to reference section Ñ of the document? You cannot skip forward to O, because O will be needed further down the list... (in fact, for the very next item).

If you reproduce the source language alphabet:

- Users of different language versions of the same document can refer unequivocally to specific content just by quoting the reference letters, even if they don’t understand the other user’s language.

- If the target document is updated, for example, by adding a sub-section Ñ.a, there will be no doubt about which section is being updated because it will be referenced Ñ in the target text, too. If the translated section Ñ was changed to O by one translator because there’s no Ñ in English, a (different) translator dealing logically with the added sub-section will presumably be expected to add section Ñ.a, but will (hopefully) realise the extra text has to be labelled O.a instead. It’ll just end up confusing everyone!

- People referring to parts of the document in situations where they may understand neither the document content, nor the source language - and, indeed, may never even have seen the document - can also be sure that their references will be valid for all those language versions.

- Consider the example of an English translator working on a document drafted by a French lawyer citing a section in an Italian contract. I very much doubt that the French lawyer would deliberately mis-quote the source document; so why should the English translator mis-quote it, by arbitrarily re-numbering everything after section I?

I don’t deal with languages that don’t use (a variant of) the Latin alphabet. But if I did, I would expect there to be a transliterated Latin-based alphabet that could be used to determine equivalence between the languages, and I would be tempted to adopt Victoria’s solution to facilitate consistent cross-referencing between the language versions.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:33
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Each document has to stand alone, nevertheless Apr 12, 2015

Robin Levey wrote:

...

Have you thought, for example, about how laws are drafted - and referenced - in multi-lingual countries? The first draft might perhaps be in any of the national languages, but the other language version(s) will follow very soon afterwards (and, in any case, before the legislation reaches the voting stage). And those versions will never be 'independent' from one another - they will remain utterly and irrevocably inter-related and inter-dependent until they are repealed (and beyond...). They are, after all, just different embodiments of the exact same substance.


True, but for instance you only need one version of the law to enforce it.

In Denmark you normally read the Danish version, without reference to any of the others, and the same goes for any of the other countries, unless there seems to be an error.

There have been discussions about over-enforcement, for instance, with extra restrictions on Danish agriculture compared to neighbouring countries. It has been necessary to examine the original draft to see whether the translation was incorrect or, as is sometimes the case, whether Danish politicians are over-zealous or try to simplify the legislation, as they sometimes apply it more stringently than neighbouring countries, when practices in Sweden or Germany are clearly different.

In that sense the texts are interlinked, but normally you would not refer to other versions once the translation had been approved.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 13:03
English to Hindi
+ ...
I wonder if you know anything about the Hindi alphabet, or Chinese for that matter Apr 12, 2015

Robin Levey wrote:

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

Clearly, it should be in the alphabetical order of the target language. Once the document has been translated into the target language, it stands on its own as an independent document, and people referring to it won't be referring to the source document, in fact, they can't for they won't be knowing the source language, which why it has been translated in the first place.

...


Do you really mean what you wrote there? Have you thought, for example, about how laws are drafted - and referenced - in multi-lingual countries? The first draft might perhaps be in any of the national languages, but the other language version(s) will follow very soon afterwards (and, in any case, before the legislation reaches the voting stage). And those versions will never be 'independent' from one another - they will remain utterly and irrevocably inter-related and inter-dependent until they are repealed (and beyond...). They are, after all, just different embodiments of the exact same substance.


The Hind alphabet looks something like this:

Vowels: अ आ इ ई उ ऊ....

Consonents: क ख ग घ ङ च छ....

Clearly you can see that it is very different from the English alphabet. A Hindi document which includes any text in English alphabet, runs the risk of that portion of the text being just so much ink splayed on the paper, conveying no meaning whatsoever, for the Hindi reader.

A common error that translators translating into related languages, using more or less similar scripts fall into, is that they assume that in the case of languages using totally unrelated scripts too, the readers of source and target languages share some level of mutual comprehensibility of the scripts. As you can see from the portion of the Hindi alphabet I have posted above, this is completely untrue.

This is why any translated document, whether legal or otherwise, has to stand on its own, once it has been translated, without reference to the source document, as the purpose of translating it is to convey the document to an audience that does not know the source language.

This is why things like alphabetical ordering, list numbering, currencies, even name and locations in some cases, need to be localized into the target language and culture.


 

Augusta Habas
France
Local time: 09:33
Italian to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Apr 12, 2015

Thank you all for your interest and your replies.
I think I will insist to apply the French alphabet, even though the previous translated version had kept the Italian alphabet.
I see the question is not so simple and straightforward and gives you a nice argument to discuss!


 


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