MET workshops

International Translation Day: Bridging Cultures, freelance views from two associations, MET and APTIC
Quotations: lost in translation

Ailish Maher

Dilemmas inevitably arise when we come across quoted matter in a text for translation. Three situations are typically encountered: the cited author wrote in (a) the same language as the target language (TL), (b) the same language as the source language (SL), or (c) a third language. Each situation is affected by a number of factors, such as whether the author is well-known (hence, possibly translated), the possibilities available for consulting originals and translations, especially online, and the knowledge field.

Some possible doubts include:

    By providing a translation to the TL in quotes, can we really imply that our author read this information in the TL when we know he/she didn’t?
    Should we use an “official translation” or our translation? Are there circumstances in which we might opt for one or the other translation?
    To what degree can/should we paraphrase, independently of the author (who often doesn’t understand the dilemma – after all, it’s “just the References”)?
    What can we do if, after a reasonable search, we are unable to locate the original words/official translation? Likewise, what if the text is peppered with quotations from many different authors?
    What copyright issues need to be considered?
    Should we adapt the list of references and, if so, how?
    When should we use footnotes or translator notes?

My departure point is the notion of intertextuality, the most explicit form of which is quoted matter. I will next present real-life examples and possible solutions (referring to the three situations described above) to some of the myriad - and sometimes extremely time-consuming - difficulties potentially encountered by the translator of quoted matter. The talk will conclude with a brief review of the guidance available from style guides and an open discussion.

Although, of necessity, the examples are Spanish/Catalan to English ones and the style guides referred to are US and UK ones, every effort will be made to take the local TLs into account.

Ailish Maher is a freelance translator based in Barcelona. She is also a sometime reviser of translations and editor of non-native speaker academic and EU texts.