This article deals with problems with padez in Serbian and the difficulties in localization related to it. I have also tried to provide a good view-point on translating advertisement texts from English to Serbian, how the new trends are affecting the Serbian language and how translators are sometimes caught in the trap of terminology.


Beside the usual debates that revolve around the differences and similarities in some of the Balkan languages (Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Bosnian) and the questions whether to use Latin or Cyrillic script, there are a few more delicate obstacles in the way.

One for example may be the existence of padež. You see, Serbian grammar is a very difficult one. Unlike the Japanese for example, which has not so difficult grammar (comparing to European languages) and only a few irregular verbs and rule omissions, Serbian language is quite the contrast. In Serbian, writing the letters is easy (30 easy letters against 3000+ ideograms), but getting the adequate grammar form can be quite challenging even for (educated) native speakers. We have many rules, even more omissions and many things are still under the category "not standardized".

Let's review some real-time examples, shall we. My favorites are localizations. One of the most important things (almost unique to localization) is a very strict number of characters. Beside the usual difficulties (in my opinion, English words and phrases are much shorter so localizing to Serbian is always a fight to fit everything nicely into a string) padež can sometimes give you a headache.

Example: 2 songs, 10 songs.

Not very difficult, one might say, "I will simply translate is as "dve pesme" and "deset pesama" and I'm good". Because of the padež thing, you can already see the word (songs) in English is the same, but in Serbian it differs ( pesme, pesama) depending on the number. On the side note, it is not uncommon (to my knowledge) or, more importantly, incorrect to write numbers in English...using numbers. But in Serbian, in elementary school we learn to write numbers from one to ten with letters, rather than numerical. So" 7 songs" (7 spaces) becomes "sedam pesama" (12 spaces, almost double). But that's not the end. The real trouble is, what to do when the number is a variable, like "n songs"? In English, it's always "songs", but in Serbian, "pesma" varies, depending on the number. What to do now, which form to use? To be honest, every Serbian user of the software will know about this difficulty and won't mind, nobody will say that it's a bad translation. It's simply untranslatable. However, the translator can tipp the odds in this case. One of the solutions is to make a small adjustment along the lines "Br. pesama: n" or something like that, depending on the context. The word in question suddenly became uniform. Now, regardless of the number, the word "pesma" doesn't change it's form. This trick gives a little odd sound to it, maybe slightly formal, but is still better than guessing.

Advertising texts are also sometimes interesting in linguistic sense. Although, strangely, many texts that are essentially advertising brochures are labeled differently, telecommunications for instance. When an agency or a client asks me to do a document translation in telecommunications, I expect to see a text explaining how TCP/IP packets are routed between two WLAN controlers in roaming. I do not expect to see a marketing brochure about a new product that will save me money (without any technical specifications). I do not consider this good or bad, I just find it interesting. Anyway,English texts about a certain product or service often contain a lot of repetiotions, usual advertising phrases and what I call "short terms", to achieve some kind of dynamics I guess. Now, this has became a standard in English, but in Serbian, unlike in modern English, it is not consider good style to repeat same words often. This is easily solved by using synonims but what about phrases then. Many translators (or wanna-be-translators) feel that the (grammaticaly correct) Serbian translation is longer and doesn't have the "punch" or the "dynamics" of the original. For this kind of translations, it is far more important to have a great command in Serbian than in English (because there are virtually no complex terms or sentences). In my opinion, this is something that translators should be very aware of because we are "closer" to English and do not always feel that writing style as unusual but many traps lurk under the surface and many such translations end up being poor in style and fertilizing the ground for corruption of Serbian, like literal translations for English words that have adequate translation in Serbian words, event - ivent, etc. and bad style.

Thank you for reading this, I hope it will help somebody or at least give some interesting ideas.

Best regards and good luck with translating,

Ivan Vatovic


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ProZ.com - https://www.proz.com/translation-articles
Finesse in Serbian localizations and advertisement texts
https://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/3118/1/Finesse-in-Serbian-localizations-and-advertisement-texts
Author: Ivan Vatovic
Serbia
English to Serbian translator
Platinum since Dec 18, 2018
http://proz.com/pro/1138085 
By Ivan Vatovic
Published on 11/2/2010
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