TSA in different Languages

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Madness

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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2014, 06:37:01 pm »
OK, so I have a bit of time to sit down to write about translations - and I'm afraid it might just turn tl;dr, so let me know if I get too boring. Short version - it's complicated. And it depends.

Thanks for sharing, thats pretty interesting. BTW don't worry about tl;dr. There are some big posts here... this isn't your normal gathering of internet peoples.

+1, Wilshire :).

First of all, languages are different, even European ones, which (mostly) stem from the same proto-language. For example in most European languages all nouns have gender, masculine, feminine or neutral, which means that even objects can be referred to as "he" or "she". In English, there are very few such nouns, which may already cause difficulties. Another example - there was this book, AFAIR by Jeanette Winterson, a first person narrative in which one could not really guess whether the narrator is a man or a woman. In English or German it's possible to do it easily. But in Slavic languages, like Russian or Polish, when a person is talking about his or her actions, verb forms change depending on their sex. If it's a very short sentence or paragraph, you can find a way to avoid it, but the whole novel? So a translator had to make an arbitrary decision and choose to translate the narrator as a man or a woman (or maybe ask the author?). Anyway, this certainly changed the book very much - but the language itself is to blame.

It's made more interesting because I've found that authors rarely seem intimately involved with translation deals.

Or another thing - Stephen King in his "On Writing" said that a respectful author should always introduce his dialogues with "he said/she said". That using verbs like "shouted, whispered, exclaimed" is bad style. Even if what he says is true, it's true only for English. There are languages in which repetition is considered very bad style, so a translator has to invent many different ways of translating "said" and often interpret, whether a character exclaimed, mentioned, interrupted, sobbed or murmured something. Which would make a translation richer in a way.

Straight out of The Elements of Style, basically ;).

However, I don't really think that German translation of TSA could be better than the original, because the second language would be inherently better in expressing some points of Bakker's philosophy. For one simple reason - a translator's work is always derivative and there is always a huge potential for misunderstanding, for missing a point, for misrepresentation. Only the author knows what he really wanted to write, a translator is left to guess.

OK, that's all for now, I think.

I'm not sure I understand the first sentence here. I think you mean that a second language would be inherently better in expressing only some points of Bakker's philosophy.

Gall. I want to affect change in my perceptions and expression by knowing all of the languages - Lol. It'd be a neat monument for Bakker to work on some faithful translation with noteworthy translators.

It kind of sounds like the reason a translation might be better is that the translator has the ability to change the text, which kind of sounds like cheating. Kind of like taking a book that was poorly written, and having a really good writer redo it.

It seems translation based on these arbitrary translator decisions are almost inevitably doomed to be a kind of nonfan-fic and, certainly, poor imitations at best :(.

Also, the sentence I quoted about confused me. Why would the German translation not be potentially better if it could "be inherently better in expressing some points of Bakker's philosophy."?

Same confusion, as I wrote.

Cheers, Alia. Thanks for bringing a different perspective. Have you checked out the Pronounciation thread?
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Alia

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« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2014, 07:25:41 pm »
Yeah, now that I read the sentence, it _is_ confusing. What I meant really is that "even if it was true that German was inherently a better language to express Bakker's philosophy, it still would not make a translation necessarily better". Now I hope it is easier to understand.

As for translator-writer collaboration, I've heard somewhere at a convention that Patrick Rothfuss has a special forum for his translators, where he answers their questions about next installments in his series, because otherwise they would not be able to translate some things properly, not knowing the meaning and significance of some elements. If so, that's certainly a rare thing.

Although I must say I don't really like the "nonfan-fic" and "cheating" part. Languages are different, what is acceptable in one, will not be acceptable in another. So a translator always has to make some changes, because otherwise readers in his native language would hate the book (and the translator, too). Things like jokes, puns, allusions to other literary works - they have to be made to work in another language, even if it means deviating from the original.

And now a personal anecdote. When I was a teenager, I really liked "Conan", I read all Howard's stories in my native language and thought they were great. Last year, since Howard's work is in public domain, I downloaded them from Project Gutenberg and read them in English. And this was different from what I read those years ago (remember, I have a great memory, so I remembered those Conans from my youth). It seems the translator (who is quite good, I've read some of his other works) smoothed Howard's language (which from time to time is simply awful) and also toned down his opinions, all this "great, primitive and yet inherently moral barbarian vs. degenerate civilized peoples" stuff. And I don't necessarily think it was wrong - I had a lot of fun reading the books, after all.
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« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2014, 05:05:44 pm »
Almost forgot to respond to this.

Yeah, now that I read the sentence, it _is_ confusing. What I meant really is that "even if it was true that German was inherently a better language to express Bakker's philosophy, it still would not make a translation necessarily better". Now I hope it is easier to understand.

Clear.

As for translator-writer collaboration, I've heard somewhere at a convention that Patrick Rothfuss has a special forum for his translators, where he answers their questions about next installments in his series, because otherwise they would not be able to translate some things properly, not knowing the meaning and significance of some elements. If so, that's certainly a rare thing.

That is awesome and effective. I wish we could facilitate that for Bakker somehow.

Although I must say I don't really like the "nonfan-fic" and "cheating" part. Languages are different, what is acceptable in one, will not be acceptable in another. So a translator always has to make some changes, because otherwise readers in his native language would hate the book (and the translator, too). Things like jokes, puns, allusions to other literary works - they have to be made to work in another language, even if it means deviating from the original.

But ultimately, it's not even remotely the same book. It's like a translation of a historical text - we might read these as "original texts" but because we usually trust that the translator has purposefully put this extra-work into it.

Obviously, we can't expect that rigour from the average translator of SFF.

And now a personal anecdote. When I was a teenager, I really liked "Conan", I read all Howard's stories in my native language and thought they were great. Last year, since Howard's work is in public domain, I downloaded them from Project Gutenberg and read them in English. And this was different from what I read those years ago (remember, I have a great memory, so I remembered those Conans from my youth). It seems the translator (who is quite good, I've read some of his other works) smoothed Howard's language (which from time to time is simply awful) and also toned down his opinions, all this "great, primitive and yet inherently moral barbarian vs. degenerate civilized peoples" stuff. And I don't necessarily think it was wrong - I had a lot of fun reading the books, after all.

Doesn't this highlight the inherent differences between your experiences (and thus the textual code as well)?

Very neat, by the way.
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« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2014, 02:36:02 pm »
But ultimately, it's not even remotely the same book. It's like a translation of a historical text - we might read these as "original texts" but because we usually trust that the translator has purposefully put this extra-work into it.

Obviously, we can't expect that rigour from the average translator of SFF.

But on the other hand, I suppose an average reader of SFF expects that the book will be first of all easy to read in his or her native language. And if it is not, they will blame the translator, rather than think that it was the translator's strategy to express as much of the original text as possible in the translation.
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« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2014, 03:03:39 pm »
But on the other hand, I suppose an average reader of SFF expects that the book will be first of all easy to read in his or her native language. And if it is not, they will blame the translator, rather than think that it was the translator's strategy to express as much of the original text as possible in the translation.

Of course. Possibly possible.

However, I can't honestly believe that book publishers employ the same standard of translator as institutions?
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Alia

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« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2014, 03:43:34 pm »
Not really - but then, the purpose is different. If you translate a legal document, such as an act of law or a contract, the translation must be precise and have the same meaning as the original, but it does not need to be pretty. And usually isn't, after all legalese is a language in its own rights.
And publishers care mostly about one thing - that the translation sells. It does not really matter whether it's faithful to the original, if it sells well, that's great.

And let's not forget this famous quote, attributed to Yevtushenko: "Translation is like a woman. If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful." Which is an extreme view of the topic, but there's certain truth in it.
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« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2014, 04:06:50 pm »
Thanks for the quote. That encapsulates the problem nicely.

Well - I return to my thought that I wish we could help facilitate some sort of translation community for Bakker's works (however, we could do that without stepping onto any legalese landmines).
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« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2014, 08:23:49 am »
Coming back to the topic because I've come upon a good example of problems that a translator has to face. Yesterday I read a review of the novel, the author is not important, could be even Bakker for all purposes. Anyway, the reviewer claimed that the translation is bad because the sentences are long and complicated, which makes the book difficult to read. Now I know that it's exactly the way the original book was written and that the original wasn't a light and easy read, either. So the translator decided to stick to the original sentence structure as much as possible - and got blamed for that. But on the other hand, cutting the sentences and making the book easier to read would go against the author's intent and someone would certainly point that out. Any way you look, you lose.
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« Reply #23 on: February 24, 2014, 01:33:23 pm »
Coming back to the topic because I've come upon a good example of problems that a translator has to face. Yesterday I read a review of the novel, the author is not important, could be even Bakker for all purposes. Anyway, the reviewer claimed that the translation is bad because the sentences are long and complicated, which makes the book difficult to read. Now I know that it's exactly the way the original book was written and that the original wasn't a light and easy read, either. So the translator decided to stick to the original sentence structure as much as possible - and got blamed for that. But on the other hand, cutting the sentences and making the book easier to read would go against the author's intent and someone would certainly point that out. Any way you look, you lose.

This almost sounds unrealistic on the part of the reviewer. Obviously, what we're talking about must be a portion of every translated book review but surely the reviewer should have some sense of the original text? The translater shouldn't be blamed for translating accurately, regardless of content...?

I mean, that does raise the historical issue about when translators were among the most influencial people, in my mind... but that isn't necessarily this conversation.
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« Reply #24 on: June 17, 2014, 05:23:20 pm »
I bought the Russian book. Figured I'd start somewhere, and for about $10 it was worth it. I might upload some pictures of the maps if I get the chance later. It shows little symbols for cities/fortresses that differ from the english prints.
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Wilshire

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« Reply #26 on: September 28, 2014, 01:22:57 am »
All of those are in the first post, except maybe the german paperback.
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Kellais

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« Reply #27 on: September 28, 2014, 12:51:03 pm »
I for one don't think that any translation can ever be better than the original. It is named Original for a reason! The author knows best what he wants to say and, hopefully, choses his words accordingly. A translator always has to interpret...so the only thing he can hope for is that he exactly matches what the author intended. Probability being what it is, there is a lot of margin for not matching it exactly. So a translation can only be less precise as a result.

That a reader of a translated book can be absolutely happy with the interpretation of said translator is possible, but is kind of beside the point. I for one want to read what the author intended, not what the translator thinks the author intended. Unfortunately, i am only fluent enough in english to really do that for a non-native language...fortunately for me, english is THE fantasy-language...so i guess i can't complain ;)

Edit: and i just now see that i totally missed the second page of this thread and that the discussion has moved on ;D Oh well...
« Last Edit: September 28, 2014, 12:59:09 pm by Kellais »
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« Reply #28 on: September 30, 2014, 08:13:03 am »
I for one don't think that any translation can ever be better than the original. It is named Original for a reason! The author knows best what he wants to say and, hopefully, choses his words accordingly. A translator always has to interpret...so the only thing he can hope for is that he exactly matches what the author intended. Probability being what it is, there is a lot of margin for not matching it exactly. So a translation can only be less precise as a result.

That a reader of a translated book can be absolutely happy with the interpretation of said translator is possible, but is kind of beside the point. I for one want to read what the author intended, not what the translator thinks the author intended. Unfortunately, i am only fluent enough in english to really do that for a non-native language...fortunately for me, english is THE fantasy-language...so i guess i can't complain ;)

Edit: and i just now see that i totally missed the second page of this thread and that the discussion has moved on ;D Oh well...
Ahh,  "original".

you should read art in the age of mechanical reproduction.   It's very enlightening.

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