TechWR and Translation

Subject: TechWR and Translation
From: Newton Vasconcellos <mendv -at- AX -dot- APC -dot- ORG>
Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 14:36:28 -0300

At 15:22 14/05/96 -0400, John wrote:


>1) When you do a document, and it gets translated, how do you verify that the
>translated output is done in such a way that your information stays accurate
>both literally and as intended.

Well, generally you don't. But the larger companies producing manuals
usually have departments devoted to the translation process. There are
rules, specifications and what not. So, for the most part, there is
technology in place to ensure that the translated product reflects the original.

>2) This is more for those that handle proposals, but when you deal with a
>document that has been translated, and you come across wording or phrasing that
>you believe has "lost something in the translation", what do you do; have it
>retranslated, answer it based on what you think they meant or answer it based
>on the translation that you received?

This is a tough one. I do translations of official government tenders. The
Portuguese original utilizes language that is highly formalized and somewhat
stilted. No matter how hard you try, you produce an either/or situation. You
either maintain yourself faithful to the words you are looking at, in which
case the people who will read it in English will often fail to understand
what was meant, so stilted was the original; or, on the other hand, you try
to make the meaning clear, and wind up producing a document that is
different from the original (a sin in translation (:-)). This, in a tender
that disqualifies proponents for the least slip, and which are worth
millions of dollars occasionally, is a capital sin (just came out. No pun

>3) Should you create a document, and it gets translated, where does the legal
>obligation apply. To the English version of the document regardless of what
>the translated document says or based on the document in the receivers native

This is easier. It is the practice in legalland to include a clause to the
effect that, in case there is any doubt, the terms of the original English

>4) When you submit a document to an entity in another country, how closely do
>you follow their conventions. Example: I did a proposal for a German company
>that contained a cover letter. The person being addressed in the body of the
>letter was a doctor. The correct German form is "Herr Doktor XXX". Do I say
>that even though the cover letter was in English? That's kinda like us white
>boys saying something is "Def" It may apply, but it just doesn't work.

See the answer to (2) above. Translations do not only deal with words. The
concepts, the values, the culture behind those words must equally be taken
into consideration. And they often do not translate if you maintain the
equivalent words. This is one reason why experience in translation is so
important. You get to know what other translators have done with a problem
and adopt it when it suits.

But this question is at the core of the translation thread. And there are no
firewalls to prevent the translator from making mistakes. This is something
we, as translators, have to contend and to live with. We struggle, we work
hard, but shit happens.

>These are just the questions off the top of my head. I do, however, think it's
>an appropriate thread.

So do I. I just posted a reply to a different thread on the use of the
period. This is an area where translators can contribute. We often have
different perspectives on various topics. Which can occasionally be useful.

>John Posada
>Technical Writer
>Bell Communications Research, Piscataway, NJ
>(908) 699-5839 (W)
>jposada -at- notes -dot- cc -dot- bellcore -dot- com (W)

Newton D. Vasconcellos
mendv -at- ax -dot- apc -dot- org
Rio de Janeiro

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