Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Be Grateful for News Translated Into English - And Be Aware

Translations can be tricky. It's challenging to take a sequence of ideas, expressed in prose, from one language and culture, and translate it into a sequence that someone using another language, from another culture, will understand. (Poetry, in my opinion as a recovering English teacher, cannot be translated. At best, a similar poem can be written in the second language.)

The Tale of a Frog, Translated from English to French, to English

Even prose presents problems. Mark Twain, (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), wrote "The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County" in the 1860s. It was a hit. These days, in America, he might have been hounded by animal-rights enthusiasts, but that's another matter.

What is important to recall is that "The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County" was written in English, American English, and a very popular story. So popular that a translation into the French was attempted.

This translation, I am told, was not the commercial success that had been hoped. Mr. Clemens, obtaining a copy of the translation, had it - - - I think it is best if I use the American writer's own words, as used in a title of a monograph which discussed the matter: "The Jumping Frog: in English, then in French, and then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil" - Mr. Clemens had a marked preference for English, particularly American English, and took no pains to conceal it.

A facsimile of Twain's "The Jumping Frog: in English, then in French, and then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil" is available online.

Mr. Twain's re-translation intentionally retained the French synatx - which looks, to be polite, weird in English of any variety.

Before jumping into what prompted this post, Twain's story, online is available several places, including:

Thank You Very Much, Editors and Staff of 毎日新聞の

I don't know more that a few words of Japanese, so I rely on people who know both English and Japanese, or machine translations (usually one of Google's translation tools. The results are, well, less than ideal. For example, here's the first three paragraphs in 毎日新聞の article on Mr. Yamaguchi :




Google translation:
Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings directly, Yamaguti Tsuyoshi was not mentioned in the health card only survivors of the Nagasaki bombing (as conductor), (93) = = The city of Nagasaki, Nagasaki on August 23, directly in Hiroshima Add to that described in the handbook at Yamaguchi City bombing and the bombing. Hiroshima, about the existence of a double-bomb survivors in Nagasaki, the ministry has not confirmed, Nagasaki and Hiroshima Prefecture, "as long as you know, are described in the handbook is the first dual-bomb" that.

According to the certification of the contents of Nagasaki, Yamaguchi 1945 August 6, during a trip to Hiroshima Mitsubishi engineer長崎造船所from ground zero to three miles directly bombed, burned a large left upper half suffered. The next day, about a train ride from ground zero to escape the bombing, entered through the two said. August 8 to return to Nagasaki, from ground zero in the next 9 days directly bombed again at around 3 km. Looking for relatives in the 13 days, bombed the city to enter into and around ground zero.裏付KETA a double bombing by the testimony of survivors.

According to Yamaguchi, the former atomic bomb Medical Law (Law survivors now support) hibakusha health card system began implementation in August 1957, to apply to the city of Nagasaki, was issued a handbook. At the time, was described by both direct bombing, a new notebook with the new City bombing did not just turn on and directly in the bombing of Nagasaki. Said 60-year update.

The Manichi Daily News English version, first three paragraphs:
NAGASAKI -- A 93-year-old man who experienced atomic bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki has won official recognition as a dual hibakusha.

The Nagasaki Municipal Government acknowledged on Monday that Tsutomu Yamaguchi, 93, from Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture, was not only exposed to the atomic bomb in Nagasaki but also in Hiroshima, and updated his A-bomb survivor's ID. So far, only his experience in Nagasaki had been recognized.

"As far as we know, it is the first time that a dual exposure to atomic bombings has been entered into an A-bomb survivor's ID," said officials of the prefectural and municipal governments of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has not confirmed the existence of a dual hibakusha.

It's (Not Quite) the Same Article

The most obvious difference is the lead paragraph. The Manichi Daily News English version leads with a shorter paragraph, for starters.

My best guess is that the editors decided to do more than a simple translation. Their English-language article conforms to a style which may be better suited to people whose cradle language is English.

A search for a Japanese rendering of the term "hibakusha," which I had found in today's news. I was writing another post at the time, and was verifying a few facts.

I didn't find "hibakusha" in The Manichi Daily News Japanese article. Actually, I'm sure I did: I just couldn't sort out which symbols added up to "hibakusha." the closest I got was 被爆者健康手帳制度 which apparently means "Hibakusha health card system," but I couldn't get "Hibakush" out of that string of characters. 被爆 apparently means "bombing" and 被爆者 "survivors."

At that point, I dropped the matter and went on to finish the post.

Don't Be Suspicious: But do Be Aware

When someone who almost certainly was not speaking English is quoted in the news - in English - that's not what the person said. It's a translation. It may be very accurate, somewhat accurate, or wildly wrong.

One of the better examples is on the SCMTranslation website:

"During a state visit to Poland in 1977, President Jimmy Carter delivered an address at Warsaw Airport. His speech was translated by a certain S. Seymour, whose grasp of Polish was sadly lacking.

"When Carter spoke of his 'desires for the future,' Seymour relayed the phrase as 'lusts for the future.' And when Carter mentioned his safe arrival in Poland, Seymour inadvertently explained that the president had 'left America, never to return.'

"['I had to grit my teeth from time to time,' Poland's President Gierek remarked, 'but one must not be rude to ladies or interpreters.']"


P11 said...

so better be careful of what one read

Brigid said...

Hoo boy.

A note, there's a word missing in this paragraph:

"What is important to recall is that "The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County" was written [in] English, American English, and a very popular story. So popular that a translation into the French was attempted."

Also might want to look at your previous posts in this blog and the Loonfoot one. I noticed a few typos along the way.

Take care!

Brian H. Gill said...

Café P11,

That's about it. I'd say it's both well to both be careful of what one chooses to read; and, of what one does read, careful to analyze what has been written.

Brian H. Gill said...


Okay. I'll get into 'edit' mode now, and fix things up. Thanks again.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.