Translating city/town/village... names
Thread poster: radruz

radruz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Dec 5, 2009

Hi there,

Does anybody know a official Web site to translate city names from different languages? I am translating a guide and the names I need to translate are from very small towns that do not have an official translation into other languages and I was wondering if you keep the name as it is in its source language or if you translate it.

As an example:

Steirisches Vulkanland - Tierra de volcanes de Estiria
La Ville D’Ath - La ciudad de Ath
Đurđevac - Durdevac

I would like to know if it is ok to leave the name in the original language if there is no oficial translation for that. I would also like to know what to do with name with special character such as Đurđevac.

I hope you can help me with guidelines or references.

Thanks a lot!


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 01:51
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
depends Dec 5, 2009

This is one of the most difficult tasks in translation. First you should study what is written in the target language about the area in question, Wikipedia is a good source. Exotic characters should be avoided, no German knows how to pronounce e.g. Polish characters, sorry.
And the problem goes further. In German we only use the actual names of rivers and lakes, and they have gender. In Finnish rivers are almost always referred to as -joki: vantaanjoki, iijoki, aurajoki. In English you could write "the aurajoki-river", but in German I would write "der Aura-Fluss" or "die Aura". Turku an der Aura, as every German will understand that Aura must be a river.
In Eastern Europe many places have still German names, even as far as Estonia. Dorpat = Tartu etc.

Regards
Heinrich


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radruz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Dec 5, 2009

Hio Henri,

thanks a lot for your answer, the problem is that I am translating into Spanish and we usually have a translation for almost every foreign name. We do also still use old names such as "Birmania" and many other like in English, but when it comes to exotic places it turns confusing. I have seen many guides translating into Spanish these exotic names and I do not know if that is really helpful, specially if it is the content of a guide (imagine going to Siberia and asking a local for a place with a Spanish name, that make no sense) .

I have heard that the UNO have a department of translation with a list including all these names in every official language, but it does not follow the spanish guideline (New York is Nueva York, but Amsterdam remains the same) . Any way to have that list would be really helpful but I could not find it.

I don't know how professional that is, but google maps uses the same translations that I have found, so I guess I am doing it right. I have used government Websites as a reference.

Once again thank you for your help!

Rafael


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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:51
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Keep the original names Dec 5, 2009

My idea would be to keep the original names. In Portuguese we tend to translate only large and traditional towns, such as London (Londres), Amsterdam (Amsterdã in Brazil, Amsterdão in Portugal), Moscow (Moscou), Warsaw (Varsóvia) etc. Other towns keep the same form: Ljubljana, Zagreb, Abidjan are some examples. It is very rare to translate smaller towns. I would write the accents as well.

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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:51
Italian to English
European cities Dec 5, 2009

This is quite a good resource for European cities - once you have fathomed out how it works!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_European_cities_in_different_languages


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:51
Member (2008)
French to English
Only translate if already an accepted name Dec 6, 2009

Paul Dixon wrote:

My idea would be to keep the original names. In Portuguese we tend to translate only large and traditional towns, such as London (Londres), Amsterdam (Amsterdã in Brazil, Amsterdão in Portugal), Moscow (Moscou), Warsaw (Varsóvia) etc. Other towns keep the same form: Ljubljana, Zagreb, Abidjan are some examples. It is very rare to translate smaller towns. I would write the accents as well.


Agree - generally if a city has an international presence and has a known name in the target language, its normal to use that (like Munich for München and other examples above) , otherwise the source name would normally be kept.


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Jasmina Djordjevic  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 00:51
Member (2009)
German to Serbian
+ ...
Transcription and transliteration Dec 6, 2009

Since I teach translation techniques and have written a book on it, I feel I should contribute.

First of all it depends on the language pair. If it is a language pair where the TL uses a different alphabet, transcription is of utter importance. For example, the name of the US state Massachusetts in Serbian will be Масачусетс where the name is written in Cyrillic as it is pronounced in that language. The same would apply to Russian or Bulgarian as the TL. Similarly, as far as Spanish, Polish, Finnish and other languages containing particular signs denoting certain pronunciation are concerned, the same rule should be applied. However, if there are some names (geographical, personal, etc.) that already have some established equivalents, those equivalents should be used as it is assumed that the readership (which along with context is supposed to be the key criterion leading us to proper translation) possesses some elementary culture specific knowledge also referred to as extra-linguistic knowledge. Finally, in order to be both consistent, economical and highly fair to both author and readership, I teach my students to do the following:

e.g.

The US president is standing on the stairs in front of the Capitol when giving his inauguration speech.

The Serbian translation for "the Capitol" will read in English:
the building of the US government known as "Kapitol" (Capitol)

As you can see, the preferred translation should include a nominator, the transcribed word and the original in brackets the first time the name is mentioned and then throughout the text, only the transcribed word shall be used.

I hope this has been of use.


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radruz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your help! Dec 6, 2009

Thanks a lot to all of you!

Actually I have been using the official spanish translation for some places and for other places with non-latin charates I have used a transcription (Đurđevac - Durdevac) and I think it is the better solution as Jasmina commented.
There are some names, such as La Ville D’Ath - La ciudad de Ath, where I opted to keep the source language name, as the translation is not widely spread.

I think it would be great to have a directory for these names. Google maps could be of great help too.

Once again thanks a lot for your help, it was really useful!

Rafael


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 17:51
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My style Dec 6, 2009

I only quote the original name in parentheses the first time and then I use the translated name into Spanish in your example.

Kind regards.


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