Is it necessary to transcribe any text in a third language that you find in your translation?
Thread poster: Carlosa
Spanish to English
Nov 28, 2016

Hello guys,

A general question for translating. To make it more understandable, I will use an example.

Lets say I'm an English to Spanish (and vice versa).

If I'm translating from an original document in English to Spanish, what should I do when the original document also contains a few sentences in German language?

What I'm currently doing is transcribing the German text but in Italic text.

In advance, thank you.


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Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:09
French to Spanish
+ ...
Mention in brackets Nov 28, 2016

Hi, Carlos.

As you can't read the alphabet of every language in the world, the best way to do this is mentioning that there are some words in other language: [text in German] or [text in other language].

I hope this helps!

[Edited at 2016-11-28 17:18 GMT]

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Aleksandra Muraviova  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 02:09
Member (Jan 2017)
Japanese to Russian
+ ...
It depends, but generally no. Nov 28, 2016

You should transcribe it only if the exact pronunciation of the words in your text matters. If it doesn't, transcription will be excessive. What you should do is provide any translation/summary of the text in the third language, if it is not already given in a text (for example, if it isn't an original wording of a quote from some German source). Add a footnote or include this translation in brackets. Of course, if you don't know the third language, you'd better outsource this or ask your client about it.
I'd also ask the client about this part anyway, maybe you don't have to touch this part at all. Ask, whether you should mark this text somehow.
So, once again: if it is crucial that readers of your translation can easily pronounce the German part, then transcribe. If not, find a way to translate. But keep the German words, or you may lose an important part of an impact the text has.

(Made a small edit to specify a little and get rid of a misspelling)

[Edited at 2016-11-28 17:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-11-28 17:26 GMT]

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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:09
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Same here Nov 28, 2016

I agree with Susana, that's what I do. Even if it's another language I know but am not certified to translate.

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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:09
English to Spanish
+ ...
Medical reports Nov 28, 2016

In some European Spanish medical reports, it is common to find some Valencian or Catalan phrases, especially if there is a form involved. If I don't know Valencian or Catalan, these expressions should be transcribed exactly as they appear and the client must be alerted of their presence and linguistic identity.

In most texts, unless it's a literary piece where the third foreign language has a particular and deliberate function invested by the author (like those silly French expressions by Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie's novels), then the translator should:

a) Alert the client of the existence of text in a language the translator is not qualified to translate
b) Transcribe the foreign language text exactly as it appears, in italics or highlighted in a clear way, identifying it as [Italian], [Finnish] or [unknown language] as appropriate
c) If we're dealing with blocks of third-language text we're not qualified to translate, we can do an image capture and insert it in an appropriate place in our translation, with clarifying notes as appropriate (see b above)

I don't think it's the translator's responsibility or right to summarize or describe the third language text as some have suggested. If you're not qualified to translate, say, Sardinian, you are in no position to summarize it.

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