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Is 'Government' no longer translatable?
Thread poster: Mikhail Kropotov

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 18:44
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
May 29, 2015

I was asked to revise a translation of some social factsheets for a country we'll call Englishstan for the sake of confidentiality. The translation was from English to Russian.

In the source text, the names of some social support organizations like the Translating and Interpreting Service and the Attorney-General’s Department are highlighted green, with the instruction to keep these names in English, in brackets. That's all fine and dandy, except there's this sentence:

The Englishstan Government does not tolerate domestic and family violence under any circumstances.

And get this: the words Englishstan Government are highlighted green. I.e. they are to be translated into Russian, but also kept in English in brackets.

I consult the PM saying say, "Surely 'Englishstan Government" is not the name of any one organization in the national government of Englishstan, so why should it be kept in English?".

They answer, "The Englishstan Government is an organization (or brand) based in Englishstan."

I decided to comply with their instructions, but I'm left wondering if this is normal.

Would you ever treat Englishstan Government as a brand name, to be left in English?

Would you raise this question with the PM if you were in my shoes?

[Edited at 2015-05-29 01:35 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
"Customer is always right" May 29, 2015

I don't see the problem. I'd just follow the client's instructions. If they want me to translate wearing nothing but a bowler hat and a red nose I'm up for that too, if they pay me enough.

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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:44
Member (2002)
English to German
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Not at all, Neil May 29, 2015

The customer is not always right - and this is an excellent case in point. 'Government' cannot be a 'brand' by definition, and must thus be translated.

Similarly, if I were to translate, say, an academic paper from English into German in which reference is made to a university in a non-English-speaking country, the German version should include a German equivalent of its name, even though the source text (legitimately) contains an English designation.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 17:44
English to Polish
+ ...
... May 29, 2015

Some clients need to exercise their brains more.

I would refuse the project altogether, for professional reasons.

[Edited at 2015-05-29 08:25 GMT]


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:44
German to English
the translator is not always right May 29, 2015

I would raise the question and then defer to the client's wishes. This example seems very clearly black and white, but there are a lot of examples where X seems clearly correct (and Y clearly stupid) from the translator's limited perspective, but where Y is right when seen from the client's larger perspective.

So there is a good chance that the client is simply making a mistake here, but the best practice in general is to assume that your clients know more about what they are talking about than you do.

I would normally never write the "American Government" with a capital "G" and consider it a proper name. But what if they want the English term for automatic indexing or for electronic searches or what if there are 200 other fact sheets where "X Government" is treated as a proper noun and they want everything consistent, but don't want to change all the others?

If a curator wants to talk about the "beholder" of a painting instead of the "viewer", that is his or her decision. If I am one of the translators working on an exhibition catalogue and they say they want American English but English dashes and their commas and periods after the quotation marks, that's their decision - consistency is more important than purity.

Of course the customer is not always right, but translators should still operate on the assumption that their customers are right once they have informed them of any misgivings.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Punctuation roolz May 29, 2015

Steffen Walter wrote:

The customer is not always right - and this is an excellent case in point. 'Government' cannot be a 'brand' by definition, and must thus be translated.

Similarly, if I were to translate, say, an academic paper from English into German in which reference is made to a university in a non-English-speaking country, the German version should include a German equivalent of its name, even though the source text (legitimately) contains an English designation.


Steffen Walter wrote:

The customer is not always right - and this is an excellent case in point. 'Government' cannot be a 'brand' by definition, and must thus be translated.



Unfortunately irony doesn't quite seem to register in these written forum posts - I suppose we really need an icon to denote when one's tongue is formly inserted in one's cheek. I did try my best by using the quotation marks "-" around the statement.
However, my real intention was to express that clients often can't tell their, ahem, posterior from their elbow.
I'm not sure if I agree about the translation of institution names though - for example the UPV now insists its name is left in Valenciano and not translated in its official materials.
And I know some clients who would argue that anything - yes, even a government - can be touted as a "brand" nowadays. But I'm not about to take up cudgels on their behalf, so you just have to trust me on that. it's time for lunch...

[Edited at 2015-05-29 11:37 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:44
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Just a possibility May 29, 2015

I tried to post this last night 4 times, and for some reason it did not appear in the thread, so here we go again. I am just throwing out an idea here:
Since "they are to be translated into Russian, but also kept in English in brackets", is it possible that the text will be processed further, for example by inserting links to websites or other references to those organizations? Or perhaps to use them for indexing, search engine optimization, metatext or similar purposes?
If the person doing those changes does not speak the target language, the English names in the brackets could perhaps serve as a pointer to where they need to insert those links, and maybe the bracketed text would be removed after that step.
Again, just a possibility.

[Edited at 2015-05-29 15:09 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 18:44
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your input May 29, 2015

I feel a little better now, knowing others would also find this weird.

Katalin, your guess makes sense, but the source text does provide actual URLs separately from those organization names.

[Edited at 2015-05-29 15:15 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:44
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Indexing is a real possibility May 29, 2015

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

I feel a little better now, knowing others would also find this weird.

Katalin, your guess makes sense, but the source text does provide actual URLs separately from those organization names.


Yeah, but if you think about it, keyword indexing actually makes sense.
There are databases where you can search for articles and other information by keywords, and specify multiple languages. The keyword could still be in English, but the article could be in Russian.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 18:44
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sure, but why make keywords visible to the reader? May 29, 2015

To facilitate indexing like that, keywords should ideally be present on the page but hidden from plain view.

[Edited at 2015-05-29 16:39 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:44
Member (2008)
French to English
"Government" may indeed be untranslatable May 30, 2015

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

I consult the PM saying say, "Surely 'Englishstan Government" is not the name of any one organization in the national government of Englishstan, so why should it be kept in English?".

They answer, "The Englishstan Government is an organization (or brand) based in Englishstan."

I decided to comply with their instructions, but I'm left wondering if this is normal.

Would you ever treat Englishstan Government as a brand name, to be left in English?

Would you raise this question with the PM if you were in my shoes?


In Québec, the Official Languages Act reads:

The Government, the government departments, the other agencies of the civil administration and the services thereof shall be designated by their French names alone.

There are many official documents that are translated from French into English, but the Québec government's name is always left as Gouvernement du Québec in French, never translated into English.

[Edited at 2015-05-30 02:21 GMT]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 18:44
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good to know, John May 30, 2015

Thanks for educating us! (me, at least)

The country in question was not Canada, if anyone is wondering.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:44
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
That's why I said there may be an extra step Jun 1, 2015

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:

To facilitate indexing like that, keywords should ideally be present on the page but hidden from plain view.


Yes, that's why I said in my original note that there may be an extra step, where they use those words for indexing, and then remove them.

I think my point is that sometimes the client has other things/processes in mind that they may choose not to share with us or the intermediary agent/PM. We could (and should) ask, when something seems odd, to make sure we understand the instructions and what we will deliver based on those instructions is indeed the same thing that is expected from us. However, the client is not obligated to explain in detail why they created those instructions, or offer justification as to why they make sense.
Just because something does not seem to make sense at first (or even second) sight, it does not mean the client doesn't know what they are doing.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 18:44
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sure Jun 1, 2015

I agree with you. And that is exactly what I did -- I politely inquired with the PM. Their explanation about Government being a brand is posted above. Hence my post here.

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 23:44
Chinese to English
+1 for the customer is always right - IF... Jun 1, 2015

...I am told in advance what the customer wants. I quite agree with Mikhail that not translating "government" is a bit weird, but I don't care about the weirdness. I'm more than happy to entertain any wish of the customer's just so long as they tell me before I start. It's when they complain after the event that I'm not happy.

And I can kinda see the thing about not translating the word government. Certainly the UK government is very keen on "branding" itself and spends quite a lot of money making sure it can get its message out to people.


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