Thursday, March 22, 2007

New Translation of "The Second Sex"

Remember last year three years ago* when the story went around about how bad the 1953 English translation, The Second Sex, of Beauvoir's Le Deuxième Sexe was?

To summarize, the translation is said to be full of hundreds of major and minor errors, some of which do not merely miss or distort the meaning, but make the text state the opposite of the original. The original translator was a retired professor of zoology selected because the American publisher judged the book by its the title and thought it was a sex manual. The translator had no specialized knowledge of philosophy and knew French only from his student days. In addition, at the publisher's request, hefty chunks of the book were cut in the translated edition.

Even when the story about the bad translation made the rounds, inspired by the 50th anniversary of the publication, the publisher refused to authorize a new edition.

But now it turns out that a new translation was commissioned by the British rights holder in early 2006, and is about half finished! This article by Sarah Glazer in Bookforum tells how translators Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier got to translate Le Deuxième Sexe into English anew. Both are Paris-based Americans who have taught English at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques for many years.

Apparently Beauvoir scholars have expressed concerns that non-philosophers were selected to carry out the translation. However, Glazer writes:

Both women expressed surprise at the concerns about their lack of philosophical background and assistance. They said they are consulting with philosophers, including Margaret A. Simons, author of a groundbreaking article pointing out Parshley's [the original translator's] errors. They've sought out a biologist to critique the chapter on the biology of sex, a friend with analytic training to go over the psychoanalysis chapter, and a medievalist to decipher the Old French quotations. They've commissioned translations by specialists of the extensive poetry citations from Paul Claudel, André Breton, and Michel Leiris. The job is so overwhelming, they said, that they've asked for grant money to fund additional assistance.

Further, they will restore the material cut from the first translation, and are considering the original in their choice of language:

To retain the formality of Beauvoir's voice, who used vous with Sartre and other intimates throughout her life, they reversed their original decision to introduce contractions. To give it a period flavor, they are steering away from words that came into common usage after 1949. That's the basis for their decision to avoid the word gender, which today is more commonly used in the places Beauvoir uses sex.

*sign of advancing age

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A different reason to choose human translation

Last December, Blogherald, a blogger's blog, installed a plugin to translate their content to eight languages, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Today, they announced that they've decided to remove it... because of technical problems. They're exploring human translation as an alternative.

It's interesting that technical—not quality—criteria motivated the change. It's not that they're unaware of the quality of machine translation, for they note:
At any rate, most foreign language speakers observe machine translated articles as crude and barely readable as genuine translation anyway. They are too literal, and devoid of usable context.
Nevertheless, if machine translation in its current state does have any use, it's precisely this; to give readers of a different language a general idea of what an article says. But with their pilot project in human translation to Japanese, they've invited their Japanese readers to share the Blogherald experience, not just to peer in at the windows.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Como convertirte en cliente consentido

  1. Encargarme traducciones de textos interesantes, de temas interesantes, sean ésas:

    • de textos bien escritos, o bien
    • de textos mal escritos de manera que mejorarlos constituye un reto interesante y divertido.

  2. Tener sexto sentido para mandarme trabajos voluminosos cuando me falta trabajo, y pequeños (o ninguno) cuando me encuentro ya muy atareada.
  3. Felicitarme por la calidad de mis traducciones (sin dejar de llamarme la atención en caso de un posible error). ¡Gracias! Ya sabes quien eres, no hace falta especificar el nombre (ya que ésta es una bitácora anónima).
  4. Remitir el pago en un plazo que se cuenta en ¡minutos! (Sí, no es una exageración. El acontecimiento que me motivó a redactar esta nota fue un pago que acabo de recibir en un plazo de 64 minutos después de la entrega del texto.) Si se trata de horas, eso no me cae mal tampoco. Acepto días, también. Semanas, si es que son pocas. Cuando ya se trata de meses, el trabajo afuerzas tiene que contar con otras cualidades muy favorables para compensar.
  5. Recomendarme con otros amigos y conocidos como tú.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Would you trust a barefoot shoemaker?

This discussion at ProZ is about how to regard an agency whose own website isn't, shall we say, a good advertisement for their own language services. It's not hard to find examples. As Dave Barry would say, "I am not making this up."

One agency is a little shaky in punctuation, prepositions and tenses:

Why we are the best?

In XXXX, we specialized in the following languages:
[It may not be clear from this isolated sentence, but the context shows that this was meant to express, "At XXXX, we specialize in the following languages:"]

Another agency has basically correct, though workmanlike English, but an unfortunately chosen preposition leaps out at the reader:

We will pay special attention on the following:

A third agency has correct, fairly native-sounding English throughout their website, except for the first paragraph on the introduction page. Ouch!

Established in 19--, XXX Traductores in time becomes one of the largest full service translation companies in the Americas; in 19--, it establishes in [city in USA], XXX Translation Center, today

This agency's blurb is a lovely example of "third language" or "translationese." It's correct, or almost correct English, but the manner of expression, the sentence structure, vocabulary choice, and even the overall decision of what to say to the reader are entirely Spanish:

What identifies this corporation is its seriousness and professionalism, as well as its complete confidentiality, personalized treatment and the excellent service that we offer, which have allowed us to achieve an outstanding performance.

For the fulfillment of our main objective, which consists of providing a quality and specialized service, the translators, interpreters and the staff that collaborate with this corporation is integrated by highly qualified professionals, mainly experts certified by the Superior Court of Justice and acknowledged by different Embassies both in [our country] and abroad.

But this one wins my "Barefoot Shoemaker" prize:

The background of our Company starts in the year 19--, as XXX. This company turns into YYY a couple of years alter and finally in 19--, it consolidated into the Company we are today: ZZZ, which Board of Directors is chaired by Lic. ABC.

Some of the attributes that make us different are: excellent quality in translation and interpretation, selection of the ideal interpreters for each topic, equipment in perfect operating conditions, trained and responsible technical personnel, excellent customer service, timeliness in delivering our services and we are willing and able to make your event a success regardless of its magnitude or where it is held in the world.

Our history includes, amongst a large number of clients, internationally renown universities such as: [list of "renown" universities], and also world renown international companies and organizations such as: [list of "renown" companies and organizations] amongst other.

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