just HOW literal should one translate
Thread poster: germansarah

germansarah
Local time: 16:27
German to English
+ ...
Feb 24, 2005

hi!
Translating, one always has to choose between literal word for word translation, or a paraphrasing translation which seeks to convey the meaning and 'feel' most accurately. Of course, often the best option is somewhere between the two extremes. But just how do you decide?

Of course, the translation should sound natural and native in the target language. What other criteria do people apply? Do you translate word-for-word (think school language classes!) whenever this is possible without hampering the flow?

Thanks!


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Syeda Tanbira Zaman
Local time: 20:57
English to Assamese
+ ...
It depends on experience Feb 24, 2005

There is a golden path between the two, but there is no golden rule. The system that I follow for legal and technical documents is like this. I try to remain as literal as I can. When I feel that the natural flow is lost, I allow yourself some space and go for para phrasing. For works of literature however I make an exception and try to sound as native as I can.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
Quite Variable Feb 24, 2005

The first thing you have to take into account is the type of text you are translating. For example if it is something related to technical and engineering you would try to be quite literal. On the other hand, if it is advertising you would want to do just the opposite. You would need to do a "cultural" translation of the material which may involve much more than a simple translation.

You can probably think of many other fields in which these extremes may be appropriate, or perhaps a middle ground. It definitely is something that depends very much on the material, the purposes intended and the audience. Perhaps other colleagues can add some good pointers to the discussion.


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Graciela Guzman  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree with Henry Feb 24, 2005

It largely depends on the field. If it's marketing and you keep it literal, you'll probably get the translation rejected. What they seek is that you make it appealing to the audience. If it's legal I don't think it would be good to be "creative".

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James Calder  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:27
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Try not to be literal Feb 24, 2005

I think you should always try to produce translations that native speakers of the language in question can understand. Literal translations obstruct meaning and can lead to misleading conclusions being drawn. In many cases the target reader gives up because the text is difficult to follow, and quite apart from anything else a literal translation is often unintentionally hilarious. Furthermore, if our job as translators merely involves producing literal translations then we might as well let the machines take over now.

As Henry and Graciela say, however, there are some cases in which a literal translation is justified - patents in particular.

Other than that, my stance is don't be literal.

Regards

James


[Edited at 2005-02-24 07:21]


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John Jory  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:27
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
German sentence syntax Feb 24, 2005

As your language pairs are GE/EN/GE, it might be helpful to remember the following, as Mark Twain put it nicely in 'Innocents abroad':

"Whenever a literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him until he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with his verb in his mouth."

In my experience, simply turning the sentence back to front gives you a useful starter to solve a seemingly huge problem.
This applies equally to technical and non-technical texts.

Apart from that, I agree with my colleagues who tend toward the "not literal" approach.

[Edited at 2005-02-24 17:08]


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Gabriela Garrido
English to Spanish
No topic bounderies Feb 24, 2005

My stance is: beyond words, always meaningful translation.

I dont think topics should set the limits of our criteria. When translating legal documents we should be very aware of the meaning of technical terms, above all.
One example: I had to translate the term "mask work" into Spanish yesterday, within the domain of intellectual property law. After a thorough research, I decided to make it "topografia de semiconductores". A second good choice was "esquemas de circuitos integrados".
What would have happened if I had resorted to literal translation considering that as it was a legal text I was allowed to do so ?
Regards to all
GG


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:27
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
translation approaches Feb 25, 2005

look at section 3.4 in the following post where I describe several types of translation approaches.
http://www.proz.com/post/190023#190023

the short article referenced in that section gives a summary of each of these approaches to help localization and translation software development teams better understand the different types and levels of translation from a translator's point of view.

I did not really explain much about using linguistic glosses as a pure literal translation form. These are quite commonly used in theses and dissertations in the field of linguistics.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


[Edited at 2005-03-03 22:48]


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Graciela Guzman  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
Technical terms Feb 25, 2005

Gabriela,
I wans't referring to the technical terms that we find in most contracts. Just to legal vocabulary.
Regards,


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Emma Loghin
Local time: 18:27
German to English
+ ...
German sentence structure: what about the verbs that don't come back? Feb 25, 2005

[quote]John Jory wrote:


"Whenever a literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him until he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with his verb in his mouth."


John, I think I have followed several verbs over the Atlantic and back today, and I am sure that some of them got stranded on a desert island somewhere.

Germansarah, on the question of literal vs. free translation (or whatever you want to call it), I suppose that while you don’t want to get too bogged down translating word for word a website that somebody wanted ‘funky’ and full of catchphrases, you equally don’t want to get too creative when translating the function of the ditching pushbutton switch in a cockpit.

And the rest of the time you hover somewhere in the middle, juggling the purpose of the text, the (occasionally terrible) taste or style of the person who commissioned the translation, the target audience, and your own conscience all in one hand.

I think what James says is important – I find it extremely frustrating when I am presented with a text that is claimed to be an accurate translation, but simply doesn’t make any sense, or sounds totally inappropriate or idiotic. One problem is that this often happens because the original text didn’t make too much sense either...

Emma


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Gabriela Garrido
English to Spanish
I agree with Graciela... Feb 25, 2005

Graciela,
Between lines, we are saying exactly the same. Legal vocabulary is in fact technical vocabulary, as it is legal wording/jargon. Generally speaking, if we produce literal translations out of legal documents we´ll never be faithful to the original meaning, no matter how hard we try. As you once said, we should make our work appealing to the audience... that implies that we have to speak their same language, go native, not literal.
Saludos
GG

Graciela Guzman wrote:

Gabriela,
I wans't referring to the technical terms that we find in most contracts. Just to legal vocabulary.
Regards,


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aldazabal
English to Spanish
Literalness on legal translations Feb 26, 2005

In general terms, I consider that we should try to sound as native as we can, as long as we please our target audience doing so. When I see a movie or read I book, the last thing I want is to be constantly remembered that the book or the movie was originaly written in another language.
However, when I translate an agreement or an act, I aim to help the reader to read an English agreement. I want him to read my Spanish text as if he were reading the original in English. Of course, when we translate an agreement, we all could write a text that sounded more or less "Spanish", but I think that we would miss the mark if we did so. This is not saying that we should translate "Companies Act" as "Acta de Compañias" instead of "Ley de Sociedades" (at least in Spain). Terminologically we should try to use the terms as used in our respective language, but otherwise I think that we should not try to tease our readers into believing that they are reading a "Spanish" agrement or act, but into believing that they have suddenly learned English and that they are reading the English text as the could do if they understood the language.
This is just an opinion, but generally my customers (lawyers and bankers) are happier with translations made this way than if I tried to "Spainize" the English text.


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