proximity to source language
Thread poster: xxxdenny
xxxdenny  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:42
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Sep 17, 2005

Someone expressed a general preference for a translation solution that is closest to the source language over alternatives. In the particular case, the Hungarian text contained the word 'caution' that, I think, was used to mean 'security deposit' (US English) but perhaps could be left as 'caution'. Apart from the merits of this example (the particular case is not really the issue), what do you think about the merits of such a principle?

Thank you all who replied - your thoughts were both interesting and educational for me.

Someone pointed out privately that in the example I gave I presented the issue somewhat distorted. I gave the impression that the word caution exists in Hungarian. That is not so. The Hungarian word is "kaució", closely derived from the latin "cautio". That said, the original argument may have been more to express preference for a translation using a word of the same origin. I apologize for stating the example as I did. I think that all arguments that you have put forward remain valid, although you may have stated them somewhat differently if I had been more precise.

[Edited at 2005-09-18 15:44]

[Edited at 2005-09-18 15:45]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:42
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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I don't like it as a general guiding principle Sep 17, 2005

In technical texts, it may be a good idea to stick to related terms where possible, but even here, it can lead you into errors, at least in style and sometimes in meaning. For example, for the Russian term which translates into English literally as "piston pin", piston pin is not wrong, but a far more common term (in UK English anyway) is "gudgeon pin".

In the example you give, the following definition from the Web suggests to me that it would probably be wrong to translate the Hungarian word as "caution".

CAUTION:
a notification on the title register forbidding the transfer of the property without the consent of the cautioner. A caution is not be confused with a lien which is a monetary security against the property. (eg Temagami land caution)
www.mndm.gov.on.ca/mndm/mines/lands/policies/glossary_e.asp

For literary translations, you require a lot more latitude to make the translation look as if it were written in the target language, which in my view is a better principle for this field of translation.


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:42
Dutch to English
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I can't see the point Sep 17, 2005

I can never see the point of doing this. I always translate on the premise that the person reading the document will have no knowledge at all of the original language so what is the point of giving a translation solution that is closest to the source language over alternatives? Just adds to the confusion of the reader and may lead to dicey situations (especially in technical translations).

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Alfredo Tutino  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:42
English to Italian
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non a principle; sometimes a minor criterium, maybe - Sep 17, 2005

but not totally valueless, IMHO

Generally speaking, we should be aware that we shall often miss a part of the meaning and sense of the original, and probably add some of our own - as any other reader is bound to do.

Sometimes "sticking to the original text" (I like it better than "to the original language", BTW - it better suits my point, that is) can give the translator a better chance of not messing with those association or overtones that he himself has missed thus keeping them somewhat available for a more attentive, or clever or cultured (or just lucky) reader.

This is a slight chance, and should not take precedence over suche matters as exactness, readability, and so forth. But in some case it can be a criterion for choice.

It may be more important in (some) literary texts than in techincal ones, BTW.


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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:42
English to Chinese
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Stick to the meaning in commercial translation Sep 17, 2005

For literary translations, you require a lot more latitude to make the translation look as if it were written in the target language, which in my view is a better principle for this field of translation.


Well said. I found it is a tendency for literary translators who have no commercial translation experience to change the original content, for the sake of beauty of words or even their own pleasure. This is maybe OK with literature; some theorists believe literature translation is not pure translation, but a kind of literary re-creation.

But commercial translation can not afford that luxury. It requires us to stick as much as possible to the original meaning. Never change the original meaning at least.

Of course that doesn't mean you translate word for word. We translators convey meanings - equivalent meanings - but not words and sentences.

I put faithfulness to the original meaning in the first place, then naturalness in the target language and finally elegance of words, and try to balance the three in the translating process

Another thing translators should bear in mind is the readership. We translate for this readership. We should use their language so everything is clear while nothing is misunderstood. If it is a technical document full of jargons for a readership of professionals, we certainly should use jargons of the target language and keep the register of the original.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:42
Spanish to English
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who's the reader/audience? Sep 17, 2005

This is a very interesting topic, Denny!

Marijke said: "I can never see the point of doing this. I always translate on the premise that the person reading the document will have no knowledge at all of the original language so what is the point of giving a translation solution that is closest to the source language over alternatives? Just adds to the confusion of the reader and may lead to dicey situations (especially in technical translations)".

This point never occurred to me, I always assume someone will be going over and comparing the translation with teh original, whether the reviser (agency), or author (direct client), so in a way I may write for them, BUT .... only to a point (in other words, I DO always assume someone is going to make a comparison)...if I translate a website, for example, I'm really conscious of how wooden it can sound if I'm too literal...so I try to make it sound 'English', and am willing to defend that position.

That said, I get the impression that I am less literal than the 'average' for the profession, when referring to the ES-EN-ES combinations, becuase I get the impression here in Spain, in general, that 'they' tend to be more literal than me...I don't know exactly why or where I get this impression, but that's the feeling I have. Maybe from editing translations by native EN speaker, discussions with ES speakers, answers provided in ProZ, exposure to poor translation (evidence of which is rife in Spanish websites). So I try to avoid producing texts that sound like translations.

But reading a poor translations to English (the most maligned language on the planet probably) really makes me feel heart sick ...fundamentally, I tend to value readable text over literal text. That is not to say that I will sacrifice information, quite the contrary. I have edited a lot of translation ES-EN that have been translated so literally that information is lost in incomprehensible syntax. So I reseach context and try to use what seems to me on the evidence available to be the 'right word' AND the 'right language', and this refers not just to terminology, but also to what they call the 'language of the domain'.

Obviously there is a risk in this, being literal is the safe option, but noone has complained about me to date, and at least I can feel somewhat assured that I have made the effort to produce what approaches natural English, and not translationese.

Fundamentally, the reader and the purpose have to be taken into account, not necessarily broad type of text. If you are translating a presentation (into EN, for example) for some important international conference, you wouldn't want your client to be prejudiced becuase his/her presentation was not up to the standards of those by native English speakers, whether becuase the terminological choices were less preferred ones, or becuase the style was wooden. You would want it to be -in all aspects - comparable to an EN-speaker's presentation.





[Edited at 2005-09-17 23:39]

[Edited at 2005-09-17 23:41]


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:42
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
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Yes, in legal translation Sep 19, 2005

I would (only) defend "staying as close to the original texts as possible" in legal translations. If you are translating a contract, to which the legal system of the source language (expressly) applies, it is no use to 'localise' e.g. the names of the courts (what would be the comparable court in the UK? in the USA? etc.) but it's best to stay as close to the original as possible. After all - if any court is going to be involved, it's the court in the source country. For technical translations this if of course not true - it must be understandable for the engineer or user in the target country/countries.

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