Sense for sense vs. word for word – St Jerome on translation

St JeromeThis Saturday, 30 September is International Translation Day, which is celebrated every year on St Jerome’s feast day. St Jerome might be one of the most famous historical translators, due to his influential Bible translations in the 4th century.

He was commissioned by Pope Damasus to translate the Bible into Latin; this version later became known as the Vulgate. It was declared the official Bible translation in the 16th century and was in use until the second half of the 20th century.

In addition to his Bible translation and religious notes, St Jerome is also well known for his commentaries on translation. One of the motifs that often comes up in his letters and treatises is the question of verbatim, word-for-word translations. As an answer to his critics who accused him of deviating from the source text, he stated that when translating, he “render[ed] sense for sense and not word for word”. He argues that if he translates “word for word, the result will sound uncouth, and if compelled by necessity [he alters] anything in the order or wording, [he] shall seem to have departed from the function of a translator”.

This is a dilemma that translators still face more than 1500 years later. It is a fine line translators must walk and their decisions are influenced by many factors such as the purpose of the translation, the subject matter or the client’s specific instructions.

There are certain cases when they have to opt for more creative solutions, for example when translating idioms or slang. Also, when working on advertising slogans or children’s books, translators might also need to put snappy solutions above accuracy. In these situations, however, any changes to the source text are discussed in detail with the client to avoid any misunderstandings.

Literal translations are often necessary, for example for medical or legal translations where even the slightest change to the source can have undesirable results.

If you have any questions about a translation project or how we and our translators work, please do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing enquiries@firstedit.co.uk or by calling 01223 356 733.

 

Source of St Jerome’s quotations: http://www.bible-researcher.com/jerome.pammachius.html

“Celebrating linguistic diversity, plurilingualism, lifelong language learning” – European Day of Languages

European Day of LanguagesOn 26 September the European Day of Languages is held for the seventeenth time: its origins go back to 2001 when the first ever European Day of Languages concluded a yearlong celebration of “linguistic diversity, plurilingualism and lifelong language learning”.

We couldn’t agree more with the event’s official statement, which says that “[e]verybody deserves the chance to benefit from the cultural and economic advantages language skills can bring. Learning languages also helps to develop tolerance and understanding between people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.”

No matter where you are based in Europe, there are several interesting programmes you can choose from if you’d like to join the celebrations. You can browse the events near you on the European Day of Languages website here.

Let’s celebrate ‘Women in Translation’ month!

August is ‘Women in Translation’ month. Join in and celebrate with us all the awesome female authors whose works are available to English readers through the means of translation.

Did you know that only one third of books translated into English come from female authors? Considering how many great books are out there in the world written by women writers, this is a rather sad figure. Started in 2014 by a blogger, Meytal Radzinski, the aim of ‘Women in Translation’ month is to ‘increase the dialogue and discussion about women writers in translation’, and, simply, to ‘read more books by women in translation’.

If you’d like to take part in ‘Women in Translation’ month, just grab a book and get started! If you need any inspiration, there are some recommendations by the First Edition Team below. Continue reading Let’s celebrate ‘Women in Translation’ month!

Safety first! – Translating MSDSs

GHS pictogram If you deal with hazardous substances at work, then the acronym MSDS is no stranger to you. An MSDS or a Material Safety Data Sheet is a document that includes various information about chemical substances in the occupational environment, such as safe handling, potential hazards, fire safety, first aid measures, storage, etc.

Most countries have their own regulations, and within the European Union, these documents must also comply with EU regulations and official language-specific wording. It’s not surprising that each substance must have its own data sheet in the language of any country where it is used or exported to. Continue reading Safety first! – Translating MSDSs

The musicians of language

Flute player“My cousin speaks this language, so he translated it for me. Could you just certify it?”

If I had a penny for every time I heard this or something similar, I would be rich. Alright, this might be an exaggeration, but I do hear this quite a lot.

People often underestimate translators and assume that everyone who speaks another language can also translate. Many don’t realise that being a translator requires hard work and dedication. Continue reading The musicians of language

Translation musings: Synthesized jam or why I am wary of machine translation

“Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.”

Quote from 1984 by George Orwell

translate with the click of a buttonMachine translation is awesome, right? With a click of a button you get work done that a human translator would possibly need weeks for. A few teething problems – such as completely ungrammatical sentences, wrong terminology and nonsensical target texts? Never mind! Thousands of engineers are working on ultra-intelligent AI systems that will untangle all those nasty little glitches. Machine translation is the future. Machine translation is our destiny.

Well… to be honest, I don’t actually believe this. Continue reading Translation musings: Synthesized jam or why I am wary of machine translation

Case study: Speak of the devil… – Angels and demons in art

Angels and demons 1One of the biggest projects we worked on recently was a book called Angelus & Diabolus. And when I say, big, I mean BIG. The book weighs about 12 kg, and its dimensions are 8 x 30 x 45 cm!

Although the size of it is awe-inspiring in itself, of course, this is not only why this project is so memorable for us. Continue reading Case study: Speak of the devil… – Angels and demons in art

Musings about the past year, paperwork and new challenges…

paperwork end of the yearThe end of the year usually finds us organising, alphabetising, categorising and filing our paperwork for the whole year.

I think most people would regard this as a rather dull task but I actually quite enjoy it: first of all, there is that same nice feeling you get after finishing your spring cleaning; when you create order and arrange things. It can be pretty meditative as you focus on sorting out the papers and put away the old in preparation for something new. Continue reading Musings about the past year, paperwork and new challenges…

A translation nightmare

(Halloween special)

A translation nightmare

It was a dark, bone-chilling night and there was not a soul in the streets. A sudden gust of strong wind hit the dry branches of a tree against the window of John’s office. A chill ran down John’s spine, then he shook himself: he had no time for childish scares. He had a deadline.

First thing the next morning he had to present the translations to their international partners. Jane, his boss, had asked him months ago to arrange the translation of all the documentation on their new product – but he kept putting it off. He didn’t know why, there just always seemed to be something more pressing, it could wait, he thought.

Now, he was panicking. What could he do a day before the deadline? Then, after desperately wracking his brain, as a last resort, he opened a website on his computer: Translatomatic. Translatomatic would be his saviour!

The next few weeks went by uneventfully, then one day Jane called him into her office. She seemed furious. John sat down and Jane started to talk.

“Our partners are extremely unhappy with us. Some of them got upset because they were addressed in a rude manner, others are contesting our numbers because of some misplaced decimal points. Some said the translated documents were utter gobbledygook. And our Arabic partners? They couldn’t even read our documentation because it was set in the wrong direction!”

John couldn’t look Jane in the eye. She continued.

“Your mistake cost us a fortune. But more than that, it ruined the carefully built relationship with our international partners. John, I have to fire you…”

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!

John woke drenched in sweat. Phew… It was just a dream. His eyes tried to adjust to the dim light as he searched for today’s date on the calendar. He sighed in relief. There were still weeks left before the REAL deadline.

He waited for his breathing to normalise and his pulse to calm down, then he set out to get ready for work.

He knew what to do to avoid his nightmare coming true. There was only one way he could make sure the translation disaster from his dream stayed just in his imagination.

As soon as he got into the office, he reached for the phone and dialled: 01223 356 733