Monday, 30 June 2014

Logical Divergence in Translation

We here refer to a phenomenon which we have recently identified in language: A word may translate perfectly well into another but not have the same meaning in every context and it can actually have a conflicting meaning when the source language is considered.

We focus on a particular example regarding the word dating, which we gave on Previous Post.

Namorando is frequently translated into dating in the conversion from Brazilian Portuguese into English.

The sense of namorar however is more that of the courtship than that of the informal face-to-face encounter.

It would be better translating it into to make courtship, but it is perhaps odd that we say that a woman is making courtship to a man. Yet, in Portuguese, we would say ela está namorando com ele and we would see no problems with that.

We seem to have the habit, when we are professional translators or interpreters, of matching amount of words in the conversion.

We could call this size preservation principle.

When we go from ela está namorando com ele to she is making courtship to him, we increase the size by a small amount. When we go from ela está namorando com ele to she is dating him, we decrease the size by a huge amount. It actually looks like the size preservation principle is being disrespected when we choose the usual, which would be the last alternative presented in this paragraph.

Notice however that the action words increase if we go from namorando to making courtship and the size preservation principle is observed in what regards namorando and dating.

We do study hierarchy of terms of sentences at school, so that we would know that action words are more important than other words. We could then use this piece of knowledge as an argument to support the claim that this choice is based on the size preservation principle.

We can now include this principle under the title biases of translation and interpreting, since it seems to be on the way to a perfect translation.

We must notice that we add an extraordinary amount of understanding and insight to the mind of our clients when we say Você recebe algum dinheirinho do governo australiano? instead of Você recebe algum dinheiro do Centrelink? Yet, in this case, we have once more disrespected the size principle.

The original question would have been Do you receive any Centrelink benefit?

In Portuguese, we may need to select the options that fit inside of the concept Centrelink before converting the client’s answer into the English language, having then always more work to the highest levels of the Bloom’s Taxonomy than we would otherwise, but, this way, we are making communication possible when our work is oral, that is, when it is interpreting. If we do things in the traditional way instead, we run the risk of having to answer several intermediary questions to get our answer, that is, we will be obstructing communication.

It is trivially the case that the communication principle should be well above the size principle in any interpretive session.

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