View Full Version : Translation Question

10-13-2007, 04:49 AM
How do translators handle foreign passages? That is, if my MC says something in French, how is this passage handled in the French translation of the book? Depending on the intent of the writer, keeping the passage in French could be a problem...
What if the MC is saying something he doesn't want others to understand (and thus speaks a foreign language)?
What if the writer's intent is to write something that's 'romantic and European' as percieved by the English reading public?
What about idomatic passages: The meaning of 'Se la vie' may be obvious to both French and English readers, but the intent is clearly different than 'That's life!' when used in a American English novel.
I could go on and on...when I use foreign languages, my intent almost always goes beyond simply saying something in a differenct language...just curious.


10-13-2007, 08:17 AM
My translators contact me directly about any problems like that (they just email me) and we both decide what to do-- if it was anything REALLY complex I would have to talk to the publisher. So far nothing has been that big of a deal- worry about it when your book sells. It would only be an issue for one particular language anyway-
I think I had an interesting question from my swedish translator because the word aunt is different if it's a maternal aunt or paternal aunt...

10-13-2007, 07:28 PM
Sorry, I have to say this. It's C'est la vie.

Cathy C
10-13-2007, 09:50 PM
We tend to use a variety of languages in our books---from Hebrew to French and Russian, plus others yet to come up. We tend to ask around and find book reviewers in the country of the language and ask to be certain that the wording appears accurately. (Reviewers LOVE doing this, by the way. It makes them crazy when local stuff appears wrong, so they're often happy to help.) Then, when it comes time to do the translation, it might be that you need to reverse the process and have the wording appear in a different language than the primary one being transposed into. We've thought a lot about this as we've started to sell foreign rights.

Mostly, though, I think the foreign reader is going to KNOW instinctively that the novel is set in America, and that the target audience were English speakers. So, I don't worry too much about it. :)

10-13-2007, 10:05 PM
Cathy - you are right - most readers assume it takes place in America - I have been amazed at the complexities- especially in my book where there is much word play and focus on language.

10-15-2007, 07:34 PM
Imagegod, you asked for a reply to this thread in another translation related thread so here we go; We prefer to consult with the author so as to maintain the original intent and message of the text. These are common situations for literary translators which is why we take courses, network and belong to professional organizations- it is a skill that has to be maintained just like writers work to improve their skills.

Two authors that I worked with chose to handle passage language deviation differently. One maintained the same language and italicized the passage. The other changed the language to one that was spoken in the region of the setting of the book- a language of lesser diffusion. In non fiction publishers ask that language deviation be noted in the forward to maintain the integrity of the content.
Idiomatic expression are a common topic in our coursework. We keep lists of culturally correct comparatives and make sure they are in usage in the region. Children's Lit offers the most challenges but not adult fiction.
I recommend this book Literary Translation by Clifford Landers for insights and instruction on our work.http://books.google.com/books/multil...ifford+Landers
I hope this helps.