Quotes

13 08 2012

Today I am translating an educational manual for a large Brazilian mining company and it begins with a George Bernard Shaw Quote.

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

This is one of the beauties of translating, you are exposed to all these topics and ideas that you may have not sought otherwise, but once you have to work with them, they inspire you. Anyway, that is a topic for a different post (hopefully!).

This post is about quotes and this is a topic I find quite crucial in translation. The manual I am translating into English is currently in Brazilian Portuguese. As such, the quote has been translated into Portuguese and I am translating it back into English.

I believe that in such cases  there should be a note in the Brazilian manual to say that the quote has been translated, because there is always the potential for the message to be lost in translation and that is the translator’s not the author’s fault. However, this does not seem to be a consensus among translators.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to coordinate a group of translators working on a large book project. One section of the book contained articles from several different authors and most of them, at one point or another, would quote other people. There were two approaches to these translations in my group of translators -the ones who translated everything as regular text and the ones who looked up references and tried to find the original quotes or original translations for the quotes.

My personal approach to this, which is what I ask of my translators as well, is to always try to find the original quote. However, whenever using Internet sources, I try to be really careful about copying a quote, because there are cases when these are not accurate as well. If I cannot find a reliable source with the original quote or an official translation, within reasonable time, I always include a note to say that the quote is a translation or back translation of an original quote by such and such.

This seems to be a simple thing, but as professional translators we must be aware of the importance of authorship; as well as of how easy it is to mistranslate or misunderstand what someone has said, and we must take responsibility for that. A good translator is aware of the limitations of translation and, instead of covering them, provides subsidy for readers to seek and judge for themselves.

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