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Translating Addresses in source documents

English translation: My rule of thumb

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05:33 Feb 22, 2006
English to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary - Linguistics / Style/usage/convention
English term or phrase: Translating Addresses in source documents
I seek your advice on this problem which I repeatedly face.

Suppose you have a document to be translated, say from English to Japanese. It is a set of instructions to be followed, and there is an address in it with street name, Locality, city zip code etc., where one can write for further info. The question is which of these should be done:

1. Translate translatable portions of the address into Japanese (for example, if it contains a term like Post Office Box No xx, give the equivalent of Post Office Box in Japanese in your translation;

2. Keep the address as it is (that is, no translation), only transliterate it, that is, write the address in Japanese script;

3. Leave the address in English itself, as an English postman (who is the ultimate target group of this information) will not be able to make head or tail of an address written in Japanese; (The problem in this approach is, the person who is supposed to write the address may not know English at all, and would not be able to write the address in English!).

4. Do as in 1 above; and give the address in English below it in brackets;

5. Do as in 2 above; and give the address in English below it in brackets.
Balasubramaniam L.
India
Local time: 19:48
English translation:My rule of thumb
Explanation:
I would say your option 5 is best, except I presume you meant give the adresss in JAPANESE in brackets.

It all depends what the intended use is; as you say, if it is a mailing address, one really ought to keep it in the form that will be understandable to the delivery postperson; the only exception I make to this rule is to adapt the COUNTRY into the language of the sending country (if feasible), just to make sure it gets on the right plane! However, in practice most international mail sorting offices will have lists of country names, so there's no real excuse for confusion, at least when using Western alphabets.

If, however, the address is for information rather than mailing, then I usually adapt it into a form most easily recognizable to the reader in the target language; for example (going into EN), I invert the order of the address so that it starts with the street, then the district, then the town, then country (as would be the usual order in a UK address), and I often bring the street number to the front too. I also translate town names, where a specific EN version exists --- for example, Bruxelles > Brussels, Wien > Vienna, Londres > London.
Selected response from:

Tony M
France
Local time: 16:18
Grading comment
Thank you very much, Dust, for your patient explanation.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +5My rule of thumb
Tony M
5 +1Keep it in English
Can Altinbay
3 +3Write both source and target
Dina Abdo


Discussion entries: 2





  

Answers


1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
translating addresses in source documents
My rule of thumb


Explanation:
I would say your option 5 is best, except I presume you meant give the adresss in JAPANESE in brackets.

It all depends what the intended use is; as you say, if it is a mailing address, one really ought to keep it in the form that will be understandable to the delivery postperson; the only exception I make to this rule is to adapt the COUNTRY into the language of the sending country (if feasible), just to make sure it gets on the right plane! However, in practice most international mail sorting offices will have lists of country names, so there's no real excuse for confusion, at least when using Western alphabets.

If, however, the address is for information rather than mailing, then I usually adapt it into a form most easily recognizable to the reader in the target language; for example (going into EN), I invert the order of the address so that it starts with the street, then the district, then the town, then country (as would be the usual order in a UK address), and I often bring the street number to the front too. I also translate town names, where a specific EN version exists --- for example, Bruxelles > Brussels, Wien > Vienna, Londres > London.

Tony M
France
Local time: 16:18
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 156
Grading comment
Thank you very much, Dust, for your patient explanation.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Dina Abdo: I agree ... but if we're talking about a standard form, then I guess there's no need to invert the address :) Hope you're doing much better today Dusty :)
12 mins
  -> Thanks a lot, Dina! And yes, thanks, everything's pretty much fine now :-)

agree  Jack Doughty
1 hr
  -> Thanks, Jack!

agree  William [Bill] Gray
8 hrs
  -> Thanks, Bill!

agree  Alexander Demyanov
10 hrs
  -> Spasibo, Alexander!

agree  conejo: I think it also depends on what country and language pair you are talking about. In some countries with non-Roman alphabets/writing systems, pretty much everyone is familiar with the Roman alphabet (as in Can Altinbay's example), so it's not a problem.
10 hrs
  -> Thanks, Conejo! Yes, you're right, it all depends...
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
translating addresses in source documents
Write both source and target


Explanation:
Well ... If the postman doesn't speak Jap. then he'll never get the information filled by the sender no matter the language the printed form is written in. And it's as same as to the sender, whether you wrote the form in Jap/ Eng ... it should make the same if he/ she doesn't speak English in the first place.

Accordingly, I'd suggest you translate all the terms possible into English and then write the Japanese words right next to it or below it within brackets (We do so sometimes in Arabic translations when the target aud. is an English speaker) AND as long as you're sure that the target aud. in this case will more likely be unable to read the Japanese text, then I'd recommend you write down a note informing the sender that it's "highly recommended" to fill the address form in English.

I think that someone sending mail from Japan to England should be able to fill in the adress spaces in English no matter how good or bad his/ her English language is. And so, a similar note should make sense in my opinion.

The thing about writing both source and target terms in here, is helping the sender knowing WHAT is he/she is supposed to be writing in those spaces, and also assisting the English postman (in this case) finding out what is that poor English he may not be able to understand is talking about (at least).

Writing the form in Japanese only (in my opinion) would be .... well! and writing it into English should be of help but only to some senders. Writing them in both languages, on the other hand, should apply the form to a wider range of people both in Japan and England.

Regarding your last two suggestions,

Dina Abdo
Palestine
Local time: 17:18
Native speaker of: Native in ArabicArabic

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Morad Safe: With you on the point
37 mins
  -> Thanks Morad :)

agree  Iren Rad: Hi,...
4 hrs
  -> Hi Iren :) Thank you :)

agree  conejo: This is a good point for countries where people may not be familiar with the Roman alphabet. When sending mail to Japan, I typically write the address in Japanese and write the country name only in English, so that the postman will know where to send it.
10 hrs
  -> That's my point conejo :) Thank you :)
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9 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
translating addresses in source documents
Keep it in English


Explanation:
You might look at how it's done on Japanese Web sites. Try those of, say, US or UK companies with Japanese presense.

The Japanese get English education in elementary school. The Roman alphabet is used everywhere. So Japanese people will be able to write the original version of the address with no problems.

Going the other way is another issue. In this case, look at Web sites of Japanese companies. Kirin, Seiko Instruments, etc. You do have to turn it around, of course.

Can Altinbay
Local time: 10:18
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in JapaneseJapanese
PRO pts in category: 12

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  conejo: I agree with you for the specific example between English and Japanese, but in other countries where people may not be familiar with the Roman alphabet, it could be different.
3 hrs
  -> Thank you. Of course, but even there, they will have to somehow enter the English address, and the transliteration isn't really of any help to them.
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