Translating Aotearoa


June 2014

Professional development

The suggestion of setting up a training programme prompted a lot of interest from many of you. As setting up such a programme is a long-term endeavour, it will be progressively implemented as contentLogo of a thumb up is developed.

It is unclear yet which platform will be used, but we are very likely to make use of social media and online tools. We might also run workshops in Wellington, film them and put them online.

If you have any ideas, feel free to leave a comment.

Happy Samoan Language Week!

Image of the Samoan coat of armsTalofa Lava and welcome to Samoan Language Week and our third edition of Translator Update! We are lucky enough to welcome Alfonso Mannella onto our team here as our chief Administration Officer in charge of email communication. His role is to liaise between clients, translators and revisers so you will no doubt get to know him well over the coming months.

This edition features some further tips and trick on selective and full translations as well as the trials Mox faces. We would also like to discuss what it means to be a translator for government and the heightened value placed on the integrity, transparency and ethics in our translations. The purpose and function of a translation determines the best approach to translating and, of course, the purpose and function of an “official” translation differ significantly from published translation such as a website or brochure.

Ethnic Affairs held the EthnicA conference last month and our Stefan will report on this successful event. June is also a busy month with the Epic NZ conference coming up in Wellington and the NZSTI annual conference in Tauranga.

Happy reading and happy translating!

Found in translation 2

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest howlers found in translation, taken from the American Translators Association’s website. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

1. Naughty bed

A few years ago a famous Swedish furniture manufacturer launched a new product across Europe. The children’s bunk bed was named ‘Gutvik’ after a small town in Sweden. Unfortunately for the company’s marketing team, to German ears the name sounded just like slang for ‘good sexual intercourse’. Posters and advertisements were quickly withdrawn.

2. Hygienic dish

Dishes that are not dishwasher proof usually bear a statement like ‘Hand wash only’ or ‘Handwashing recommended’. The latter option is slightly awkward and may be understood two ways. Unfortunately the translator did not think it through (or wasn’t aware of the context) and advised users to wash their hands: ‘Il est conseillé de se laver les mains’.

3. Know your sources!

One of Germany’s most prestigious scientific institutions, the Max Planck Institute, published a special issue of its magazine on research in China. The cover showed what the editing team thought was a classical poem, which certainly looked Chinese to the non-Chinese speaker. They didn’t realise that the text was in fact a handbill for a Macau strip club that read ‘Hot housewives in action! / Enchanting and coquettish performance’. It always pays to double-check your sources.

How to deal with poorly written source texts

In a translator’s ideal world all texts are well written. They are not necessarily classic literature material, but their authors expressed their ideas clearly and logically, their sentences are well structured and make sense, punctuation and typography follow standard practice, and spelling is no issue.

But as you know, this is not an ideal world.

Original texts are often very difficult to decipher. This may be due to a variety of factors: a lack of linguistic knowledge (have any of you ever read the Euro English reports produced by EU institutions?), creative spelling (the contamination of mainstream English by text-messaging slang for example), a lack of logical structure in the text etc.

Unfortunately, as translators, we have to make do with what we have.
So how should we go about it?

To a certain extent, answering this question touches on translation theory and the Translation Service’s expectations. You probably have often heard that a good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the original text while sounding natural in the target language. Although this statement may generally be true, the opposite might be true too.

Imagine for instance that you are translating a novel about immigration. The author may have chosen to have one of the characters speak in broken English. To keep with the author’s intention you need to reproduce a text that creates the same effect on the readership. In other words you will need to insert elements of foreignness in that character’s speech because it is part of the character’s composition.

Would the same be true of a letter written by an immigrant to NZ immigration authorities? Does the English need to reproduce the problematic structure of the original, the awkward word choices etc.? The Translation Service translates many such letters, from African refugees for example. At times these are written in broken French and may be difficult to understand. Does Immigration NZ need to receive an English translation that reproduces these issues?

To be able to decide, we need to think about why those errors were made in the first place. Contrary to the novel that I mentioned earlier, the poor style is not intentional and does not convey any meaning. The purpose of the immigrant’s text, and thus that of the translation, is to communicate with Immigration NZ. Because what matters in this letter is that the reader understands the author, improving on its quality is adding value, both for the immigrant and Immigration NZ. That does not mean however that the translator may add elements of meaning to the text.

Another example that comes to mind is from my experience as a professional translator for a private company. We often received user manuals to translate for a variety of devices. These manuals, often written carelessly, were very repetitive and rarely free of errors. French audiences are much more sensitive to repetitions, so we had to reduce the number of repetitions to make the translation linguistically acceptable to the target readership. Furthermore, as the intent of the source text was to explain to the user how to operate a device, we corrected all the errors that were contained in the original, while drawing the client’s attention to these issues.

These three examples of ‘badly written’ texts give us insight into one of the key elements of translating. The first step to any translation should be what we called ‘lecture active’, or active reading, at ESIT. This involves analysing the context of the source text, the author, the target audience, the text’s main ideas, elements of meaning and structure, and the purpose of the text. The translation will need to recreate the same in the target language and meet the same purpose.

Finally, if you are unclear about any assignment or what you should do, please check with the person who assigned you the job. You won’t be able to meet our expectations if you don’t know them.

Prince William’s birth certificate

Continuing our series of selective translations, today we tackle the immigration application of a very famous family. Although we all know the members of the Royal Family, we cannot fill in the gaps using our personal knowledge. A selective translation should only reflect what is in the original. Any added comments such as place names should be inserted between square brackets to draw the attention of the reader to the fact that it is added information.

We now have updated our guidelines which will be sent to you soon. The sample selective translations of this series are here to help you understand our guidelines and improve your selective translations. We hope you enjoy these mock translations as much as we enjoy doing them. Please click the link below to find out more.

Disclaimer: Members of the royal family do not need to lodge an immigration application to come to New Zealand.

Birth details – Prince William

Intellectually challenged customers

Mox is a young but well educated translator. Two PHDs, six languages… and he hardly earns the minimum wage.

Find out more about Mox’s adventures on his blog.

Comic strip illustrating dumb customers

How to name files

All of TTS would be very grateful if you could name your files according to the following system:

0001 French T .doc
[job number] [language other than English] [stage of the translation]

Image of a postit note reading 'Helpful tips'If you revised the translation then please save the file as ‘0001 French R.doc’; if you are returning the final version please save it as ‘0001 French PF.doc’.

It won’t take you a lot of time, and it will make us very happy.

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