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Subject:Re: Beating translation to death... From:Robert Bononno <bononno -at- ACF2 -dot- NYU -dot- EDU> Date:Wed, 9 Feb 1994 21:14:14 -0500
On Wed, 9 Feb 1994, JACK P. SHAW wrote:
> Robert Bononno makes the point that (out of context here)
> "...it's not simply a question of terminology (but) grammar,
> usage, and natural flow of the ("to") language...". Those
> are the continuum (neat Scrabble word--also Qiviac, of you're
> stuck with a Q with no U...that's muskox fur) with which one
> would measure mediocre translation against good/super/wow
> work. But turn it around: isn't the native speaker short on
> those very items "by nature of birth/origin" when deciphering
> the source language? That was what I wanted to point out in
> that quickie German translation I tried to pull off in my
> last message; that a native will just as likely take the
> safe, literal out in interpreting that a non-native would
> use when creating a stiff, choppy, "unfeeling" translation
> from the source.
> And if technical translation is the task, wouldn't simpler
> construction be a worthwhile objective, right from the start?
> Cultural caveats notwithstanding...
I'm not sure I understand this line of reasoning. As a non-native
speaker, you are at a great disadvantage. The fact that your grammar is
simpler doesn't make it better--or even correct, for that matter. It
takes skill to write good technical documentation, even if you define
"good" as being something that's simple and direct, and communicates a
I think something was dropped from the last sentence in the next to last
para above. You seem to be saying that native speakers are afraid to take
the risks that a non-native speaker will. Is that correct? The point is
the native does it from a position of authority, the non-native by
accident or lack of awareness. There are an infinite number of nuances
that can be applied to language and native speakers build up the ability
to manipulate these by growing up in a given culture. They have the whole
weight of their culture's history behind them as well, with all that
implies. This is what makes translation so difficult, even when
translating INTO our mother tongue.