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Text, context, contest and target!

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Today, I leave the floor to my colleague Anna, who has many things to tell you about the tricky art of translation and the JT texts of this year.

Tremeur

One big relief among others when the Juvenes Translatores contest has taken place is that the source texts are no longer top secret. The texts as you may know, are composed by translators in DG Translation specifically for the contest. There is one text in each and everyone of the 23 official EU languages. The source texts are therefore different from each other, but of the same length and with a common theme. Normally the theme will be the same as the theme of the European Year, this time “Solidarity between generations“.

It will be very exciting to see how the contestants have solved some of the tricky bits invented by our colleagues. Here are some examples:

The French text features a misspelling, that should be translated by an equally misspelt expression in the target language:

Jeanne est vraiment une mamie exceptionelle. (J. : Attention, «exceptionnelle» prend 2 «n» et 2 «l», Lucas.) L. : Ah, pardon, une «mamie exceptionnelle».

When having a peak at some of the translations we were filing, I could see that most pupils had spotted the problem, and many had dealt with it in nifty ways. Any suggestions from you in the comments or on Facebook?

In the Spanish text you find something which could lead on to a more philosophical discussion about translation, an email address: abuela28740@tucorreo.net. If we translate it word by word it means grandmother@yourmail.net – or why not granny@urmail.net which sounds much more internetty and trendy :-). But should an email address be translated? Now we are going into the murkier parts of this translation contest I am afraid…

As we say on our website, translation is about getting your message across to your target audience. However, in order to do this you must know who your target audience is. In Juvenes Translatores, the sender is in a way the translator him- or herself and the target audience is the markers. And the message is of course “See how well I can translate!”. On the other hand, the texts are written in a specific format – a blog, an article or a letter, and the translator must take that into account as well, and use the same style, e.g. a grandmother writing an email to her grandson as in the Spanish text.

If we see the markers as the target audience, it would well make sense to translate the email address, in order to send the message “I am thorough and spotted even the Spanish word in the email address”. But if we see the text as a literary text about a Spanish grandmother, it would also make sense to keep the address as it is, because email addresses are like names, you don’t translate them. But then again, in some books for children, names ARE translated, so it is all about the context what decision you take here…

As you have guessed by now, I’m not sure what I would have done, and I don’t know how the markers will judge a translated or a not translated ”abuela” in the email address. For some languages, like my  native Swedish there is also the added difficulty that you have to choose between paternal grandmother and maternal grandmother. I’d go for paternal grandmother here, as Carlitos dad is mentioned already in the first paragraph.

Tricky, isn’t it? Translation is also about making choices and living with them!

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