1. srp 2014.

Bookish Problems #7: Why translations are never good enough?


Hi guys. Yet another thing that you may have heard me or some people saying, but let's discuss it a bit. It's not a strange thing to hear from people who know English that they don't read translated books. I'm one of them and I actually don't remember when was the last time I read a translated book. Here is why.

1. Translating for the sake of being translated

You all foreign speaking people know how translation turns out when you put it in Google Translate. Then I might tell you that sometimes our translations aren't any better. The main problem is that whoever translates books doesn't pay attention to syntax. Our language has a very different syntax than English but usually translations seems like words in our, but syntax in English language. It's not natural for any native speaker.

2. You win something, but you lose a lot 

This is something I really cannot always blame translators for. Simply the author is the one who created the world and put all emotions in it, so if you don't feel them you cannot translate them. I strongly believe that people who translate things need to have a gift for writing as those two things are intertwined.

3. It's always about the business 

Sadly as most of the things today, translating is all about money. To hire a translator is really expensive and it should be that way, but publishers always want to save some money, so people who are hired for this job aren't skilled for it. After almost four years of doing translation at my classes it's a job I'd never do. I don't have patience and gift for that, so you better acknowledge that before you ruin books for others.

I don't want this to be only talk here is a title that has been translated and which makes me wanna pull my hair off.

It is for a story I really liked - Me Before You by Jojo Mojes. Well the problem is with the title here, as someone has translated it with "Tu sam pred tobom" which would be I'm here in front of you, while anyone who has read the story knows that the title actually refers to the time before she met him. It's not nearly the same thing.

Have you ever read a bad translation? Care to share your thoughts about it?

Happy reading,

Broj komentara: 28:

  1. Your example of the title really does show how translation doesn't always work well. I've read a couple books translated from French, and I enjoyed them, but I can see how some books wouldn't work well.

    -Lauren

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    1. I noticed that books translated in English are much better than ones translated from English. I'm glad you enjoyed those :)

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  2. I have only read a couple of books that have been translated and one was exceptional and the other while good, I always felt like there was something left out or just something I was missing.

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  3. I've read the Ruby Red series which was translated from German but it takes place in England. I think either the author made an effort to make it sound English (in German) or she had a really good translator and editor that made sure to make it sound right. I didn't notice anything in those. But I know I've seen some others that didn't go as well. I can't seem to think of any of them though, for some reason.

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    1. I've read the Ruby Red series as well and it wasn't until I looked up the books did I realize that I was reading a book that was originally in German. I assumed it was a UK writer!

      I've been pretty lucky with translations. However, there is one author I adore. He writes in French and since he is not a best seller, it is very difficult to find his books.

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    2. @Candace I have read one translated from German to English too and it was really good. I'm really glad you enjoyed that translation. :)

      @Terri It seems like whoever translated that one did a great job :) Thanks :)

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  4. Oh that translation is really bad! I can totally understand why this could be a frustrating aspect for you. I haven't read anything which has been translated and I think your post makes me even more grateful for that!

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    1. I'm grateful to know English well enough to read books in English. I cherish that every day :)

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  5. The only books I've read that have been translated (that I know of) are the Ruby Red trilogy. I think those were originally in German. Given I don't know German and didn't read the originals, I have no idea if they were translated well or not! I thoroughly enjoyed them though:)

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    1. Yeah I heard that those are really good :) I'm glad you enjoyed them, Jenny :)

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  6. This is such a fascinating topic! I agree that translation is a real skill -- even an art. There is the literal translation of the words, but things like subtext, slang, and idioms get lost sometimes.

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    1. That is so true! I didn't want to mention that as it's another thing altogether. I know when we try to translate idioms from English and it's hard as ours are usually totally different :)

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  7. I haven't read any translated books, but I can imagine there would be troubling/annoying issues. We really take publishing for granted in the US. Thanks for this informative post!

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    1. Yeah and with all that they usually try to publish translations when the hype is at highest. So yeah not much time to do the job :)

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  8. Translators can make a HUGE difference! I'm so glad you wrote about this. It's always interesting to open something like Les Miserables, for example, and compare 4 different editions from different publishers to see how much they vary.

    I admire you guys who are able to read in different languages. Sadly, I'm still learning to master English. :P


    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. Yes that too! I know when I compared P&P translation and original. I really admired how the translator tried to keep the vibe of the story. But it was years ago when that profession was more respected. LOL, I think you're doing a great job ;)

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  9. You know I never thought of the title's being translated differently in other countries but it makes sense. Either there isn't a word for the title or it doesn't come put wrong. I think I've read a translated book... yes, one from France. I thought it was good but that might not be the case with every translated book. I agree that the translator should also be a good writer to facilitate the writing of an author in the correct way.

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    1. In this case it was just a mistake as it can be translated to make sense. So yeah I'm glad you agree :)

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  10. I can't say that I have read a badly translated book because it is hard to know unless you can read the original, but like with everything stuff gets lost in translation and you can't ever quite capture the same emotions as in the original language. Great topic, Tanja!

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    1. Yes it does get lost. Thanks, Heidi :)

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  11. Although, I have read only one book translated from English to other language, I can tell you that I've read a book translated from Swedish to English and that was a quite a good job. I couldn't find a flaw with English. At the same time, I tried to read my native language book which was translated from English, and as you mentioned true essence of the book was lacking. I can't agree enough with translations. This was a great post, Tanja!!

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    1. That is great to hear :) I though only books translated from English in my post. I need to read a book that's been translated from Serbian into English. That would be interesting to compare :) Thanks, Ini :)

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  12. I've only read one translated book before -- Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (translated from Japanese into English) -- and I agree! Once translated, the book's writing becomes all weird and awkward-sounding. So even though the book had a fantastic plot, I found it really hard to read it because everything just sounded so strange and yeah, a lot of emotions were lacking as well.

    But huh, I didn't realize that publishers did such slip-shot work with translations! It makes me so angry when they put money instead of quality first -- kind of like using the same stock photos for book covers instead of doing an actual photoshoot, which they'd be able to afford. Sheesh.

    Overall, my experience hasn't been good with translated books, but that might change in the future, since I've only read one! I'm really thankful English is my first language, though. Saves me a lot of frustration. :P

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    1. Yeah I know how it is. I have heard a lot about that book and I'm sure that it's much better in original. LOL You should be, but even if it wasn't I'm sure you'd learn it ;)

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  13. Yes! My home language is Afrikaans but I stopped reading books translated to Afrikaans long ago. For example, I read the first four Harry Potter books in Afrikaans and then the last three in English. Currently I'm listening to HP and the Philosopher's Stone in Audio (English) and it's SO DIFFERENT from the Afrikaans book I remember reading. I mean, the story in general is the same, but... the ambiance is very different. My language has a way of sounding too stiff sometimes.

    Similarly, I've sampled a few books I've read in Afrikaans in English, and the translations are just as inefficient.

    I don't think translations are all bad, though. I mean, I can't learn to read ALL the languages, and there are some books I really want to read. But I've noticed that books translated from Japanese, for example, just don't sound that great, and I kind of wish I could read them in Japanese.

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    1. Exactly! It's there, words and meaning, but not the feelings. It simply gets lost in translation. Thanks for you comment :)

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  14. I haven't read many translated books at all! I don't really like them much. Mostly I just stick to the original English books. And the Dutch ones because I speak Dutch myself. Recently I experimented by reading a book translated into English from Norwegian and I totally hated it. Not because of the plot, just the way it was written and I felt like something was lost in there. I like it best reading in the languages I can. That's why I am learning Spanish ^^ Apparently those books are good too. Which other languages can you read?

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