Translating/altering punctuation
Thread poster: adrienneiii
adrienneiii
United States
Local time: 20:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 2, 2016

Hello there, while I am a Spanish>English translator, I don't think this query is specific to Spanish, so I hope it is appropriate to post it here.

I'm currently translating the following sentences:

"La inequidad de género en el mundo del trabajo es persistente y se manifiesta en distintas dimensiones. Globalmente, la participación de la mujer en la fuerza laboral ha decrecido del 57 por ciento en 1990 al 55 por ciento en el 2013; existen grandes diferencias entre hombres y mujeres en el tipo de trabajo que desempeñan y en los ingresos que perciben; las divergencias también son significativas en materia de emprendedurismo y en el campo agrícola, así como en acceso al financiamiento y a la tecnología."

Current translation:

"There is persistent gender inequality in the workplace, and this is manifest in a number of ways.
Worldwide, women's participation in the workforce fell from 57% in 1990 to 55% in 2013; there are major differences between men and women in terms of the type of work and the income received; differences are also significant in the areas of entrepreneurship and agriculture, as well as in access to finance and technology."

Now, I think the punctuation looks awful in English. If I had written it from scratch myself, I would have replaced the first semi-colon with a full stop, and merged the latter two clauses into a single sentence:

"There is persistent gender inequality in the workplace, and this is manifest in a number of ways.
Worldwide, women's participation in the workforce fell from 57% in 1990 to 55% in 2013. There are major differences between men and women in terms of the type of work and the income received, while differences are also significant in the areas of entrepreneurship and agriculture, as well as in access to finance and technology."

What I'm not sure about, though, is whether alteration of this type of punctuation is an accepted practice in (the art of) translation. Would you stick to the original semi-colons, or opt for something more "native"?

Many thanks!


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Jean-Pierre Artigau
Canada
Local time: 23:10
English to French
+ ...
Don't hesitate to change things Mar 3, 2016

Hello adrienneiii

Of course you should feel free to add punctuation as you like in your target language, there are no rules restricting your freedom in that respect. It's your instinctive knowledge of your language that should prevail, no rules will replace it.

The only rule is that you should convey the meaning expressed in the source text, in the proper tone, as elegantly as possible! All the rest is just about finding ways to reach that goal. I personally translate from English to French, I never felt I had to follow either the punctuation of the source language or even the order of the "units of meaning" appearing in the source text. I sometimes turn a long English sentence into two or three shorter French sentences for clarity, or the other way around. I sometimes also turn a sentence «upside down» if it feels more logical.

Moreover a vast number of source texts are poorly written anyway.

Jean-Pierre


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Francisco Vare
Poland
Local time: 05:10
Polish to Spanish
+ ...
Punctuation is very important Mar 3, 2016

Punctuation is very important, but each language has its own rules. We do not translate commas or periods, but texts. You should follow the rules for your target language, otherwise it can result in a very weird, too-literal translation.

If you don't feel that the text reads naturally, either because of punctuation or because it does not sound "native", then it is time to reword and change the translation until you are happy with the result.

I translate from Polish into Spanish. There is a rule in Polish that says that you should use a comma in front of the word że ("that"). This comma does not mean you need to make a short pause, it is just the convention, and you need it if you want to write proper Polish. If I were to insert that comma in Spanish, not only would I make people pause for all the wrong reasons, but the sentence would be senseless and people would definitely lose track. The same happens in other languages. Each of them has a different set of rules we need to follow, so that the words you translate make sense, the musicality and rhythm of the sentence keeps being natural, and your readers think a native speaker has written the text, rather than a translator translated it.


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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:10
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Of course you must alter punctuation! Mar 3, 2016

Every language has its own rules, the original punctuation can seldom be followed. I translate Slavic languages, and I even have to reshuffle the sentence completely.

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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 08:40
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
It is routine to fix punctuation as per the target language norms Mar 3, 2016

For example, in Hindi, my target langauge, we have a character visarg which looks exactly like the colon (:). For this reason, the colon is often replaced by either just a dash (-) or a colon and a dash (:-), to avoid confusion with this character.

And, in Hindi, the semi-colon is rarely used. So it is the done thing to either close a sentence at the semi colon in Hindi, or merge the clause before the semi colon into a larger sentence using a coma or other possible punctuations.

Furthermore, in Hindi, the exclamation mark is not used as much as in English, which can use even double or even triple exclamation marks for added emphasis!!! Such practices make little sense in Hindi and I replace this overkill of exclamations by a single exclamation mark or even none at all as situation demands, in my Hindi translations.

And in Hindi we have a special punctuation mark, the double khadipai (।।) which marks the end of a verse. The single khadi pai (।) is used to mark the end of the first part of certain metres, and the double khadi pai is used at the end of the full verse. This punctuation does not exist in English. So while translating poetry from Eglish into Hindi, it is perfectly legitimate to use this special Hindi punctuation where it is called for, even when it does not exist in the English source.

So these types of changes are necessary to get a good, readable and visually correct looking translation (which last part is also quite important).

[Edited at 2016-03-03 07:52 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
... Mar 3, 2016

As a Spanish translator, you will be aware of the errant comma after the subject endemic in vast numbers of Spanish speakers. These mistakes look even worse in English! Punctuation and other things differ between langages, so don't be afraid to change them.

PS: I agree, the semi-colons look naff and I'd probably change them, whether they are "correctly" used or not.

[Edited at 2016-03-03 08:12 GMT]

PPS: I just opened my first working document of the day and what's the first thing I see, in the very first sentence? You guessed it, that furshlugginer comma! Aaaaaaargh!


[Edited at 2016-03-03 08:51 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:10
Member (2008)
Italian to English
As for Italian...... Mar 3, 2016

neilmac wrote:

As a Spanish translator, you will be aware of the errant comma after the subject endemic in vast numbers of Spanish speakers. These mistakes look even worse in English! Punctuation and other things differ between langages, so don't be afraid to change them.

PS: I agree, the semi-colons look naff and I'd probably change them, whether they are "correctly" used or not.

[Edited at 2016-03-03 08:12 GMT]


As for Italian, semicolons are used where a colon would be more appropriate, and a comma is often used instead of a full stop (or as the Americans strangely call it, a "period") - causing two sentences to run together as though they were a single statement.

So OF COURSE changing the punctuation is an inherent part of translating. I find it odd that the question even needs to be asked.

[Edited at 2016-03-03 08:53 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:10
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Danish commas are often plain wrong in English Mar 3, 2016

Some Danes have been waging a comma war with each other for at least a hundred years, and probably ever since anyone formulated rules at all.

Others try, with varying success, to follow one system or another. Reproducing Danish comma rules may actually change the meaning in English, and it is important to look out for them. Then some writers have a feeling that a heading or title looks wrong without a colon. In English it usually looks decidedly odd with a colon.

There is no absolute guarantee that the punctuation is correct in the source text. Capitals are another issue.

Would anyone have asked this question at all in the days before QA and X-bench and whatever they are called started questioning EVERYTHING?

I have had texts where the QA check found more 'errors' than there were sentences. All false, I hasten to add.

Just the date at the top of a letter causes Trados to find three 'errors' ...

den 3. marts 2016
3 March 2016

Number missing or not correctly localized
Initial capitalization error
Global capitalization error

It also flags an error if I write 3rd March.

I know these systems can be adjusted, but I ignore them, except in work for one client who insists. Human eyes and logic are still far better.


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Texte Style
Local time: 05:10
French to English
Same goes for French into English Mar 3, 2016

Same goes for French into English: I hack up sentences that run on for more than a line or two, I turn them upside down and chop them up a bit more. The information is still all there, just repackaged to look more palatable to the native English reader. The French like to start with the reason then explain the policy, where the English would be more likely to start with the action then give the explanation.

And I actually joined up two short sentences the other day, then ended up merging them to form a single coherent whole.

Oh and the "endemic comma" crops up all over the place in French too now, almost any time the subject consists of more than one word. Drives me mad.


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