Translation of dictionary references
Thread poster: Anne Parent

Anne Parent  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:25
English to French
Oct 19, 2015

How do you translate references to dictionary definitions? Do you find a similar definition in a dictionary of the target language, or do you translate as is, with the reference to the original language dictionary? For example:
Optimization, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “an act, process, or methodology of making something as fully perfect, functional or effective as possible.”

This is particularly sensitive when the text refers to particular term(s) of the definition, which may not be in the corresponding definition in the target-language dictionary. For example, if the next paragraphs address "perfection", "functionality" and "effectiveness".

Are there any rules regarding this, or best practices?

Thank you!


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Could you give us an example? Oct 19, 2015

I'm not clear exactly what the context is. Are you translating an English text containing the Webster's reference into a foreign language? Could you give us some of the text from before and after it, please?

Also, does "optimization" need defining at all? Surely anyone knows what it means.


 

Anne Parent  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:25
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Context Oct 19, 2015

Yes, I'm translating from English into French, and the English contains a reference to the Webster dictionary.

I've had similar issues a few times in the past. I then went through a couple of French dictionaries and luckily found an good equivalent in French, with the same key words. This time, it's in a business memo, intended to the employees, to discuss "optimization" of processes or anything they might think can be optimized within their functions. The memo starts with this definition and uses it to describe what employees can do to achieve it.

I don't think translating as is, with the reference to another language dictionary, is really appropriate. So I was wondering if there are any "best practices" for it, or any rules. How do you, or would you, handle it?

Thank you!


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
In that case Oct 19, 2015

I would use a definition from a French dictionary. You can't really translate dictionary references, and I'm sure if you tried to translate the Webster's, it would sound odd.

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:25
Chinese to English
Best to query the client Oct 20, 2015

As I see it there are basically two ways to go with this. 1) as you've done before, find an equivalent in a French dictionary, which would be a kind of localisation. 2) leave the word in English, and keep the reference to Websters, but translate the definition. Which you choose would depend on the culture of the client company (this is corporate comms, right?). If it's a basically English-speaking company, the most likely option would be to leave it in English, and the French speakers will just have to suffer it. You could suggest that people who write comms documents should learn to adjust their writing a bit when it's going to be translated. (You could even suggest they learn to write, and never cite a dictionary, but they might not like thaticon_wink.gif. If it's a basically French company, localisation might be the better option. If necessary you could adapt it to something like: for our purposes, we will define optimisation as... But for this kind of adaptation, it would be best to get agreement from the client first.

So, ideally, I'd get some hint from the client about what they want before proceeding. But either way I'd sleep soundly at night knowing that whatever I wrote, I wouldn't be ruining a good piece of writing.


 

Anne Parent  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:25
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Good ideas, thank you! Oct 20, 2015

I particularly like the idea of writting "for our purposes..." or the second point you suggested: keeping it in English and translating or explaining the definition if no French functional equivalent can be found. This may be the best thing to do for this particular client. Of course, if I have to do that, I will mention it to the client. And one way or another, I will sleep sound!icon_smile.gif

Thank you!!!


 


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Translation of dictionary references

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