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Discussing articles edited by others

I appreciate revisions from others of articles I translate. I try to revise translations of others who have missed the meaning of the sentence, typos, etc. One article in particular about Paul Auster was written in the present in the Italian version, but translated in the past tense. Can we take this much liberty in translating an article?

May 12, 2013



In real life translation situations, that is often up to the translator, and what they feel best serves the translation and for what purpose that the translation is being done.

A good example is with recipes. Invariably in many European countries, the first person plural is often used for recipes, 'we now mix the sugar and spices, and then we put it in the oven', whereas in English a more neutral form of the understood second person imperative is generally employed, 'now mix the sugar and spices, and then put it in the oven', generally without even using a pronoun. Some cultures don't like to employ imperative forms to things as it might seem too forward or rude.

Now of course one can literally translate these first person plural recipes as, "we mix that, and then we put this in the oven, and then we take it out to cool'. However, this is not very natural for English language recipes. It is much more natural to say, 'Mix this,add a teaspoon of cinnamon, and then put it in the over, and then take it out to cool.' So take your pick. Either is technically correct, but I will personally almost always change it over to the English language second person style, as that is in line with what 90% of English language recipes do.

Likewise the story-telling and historical tenses in English generally relate to some form of the past tense, whereas other cultures may have a more present tense way of telling tales or there might be a specific literary reason for doing so. So again, you can translate it literally in the present tense if there is a good reason stylistically or informatively to do so, but then there is nothing wrong for it to be transferred to a past tense form, if the translator things that it would make more sense to the English language reader. Again you can take your pick.

The main things is to be consistent throughout the article, and not jump in-between tense styles. On Duolingo, this is bit tricky as different people will employ different techniques for different reasons, and people jump in and out of articles.

There are many good translators on Duolingo, but you can readily see their varying styles by looking at how they translate, and sometimes two or more very good translators will of course disagree on how to approach an article. It is actually quite fun watching the interplay between the varying translation styles working all together, along with the spammers and newbies who add the occasional touch of chaos ;-)

The translations of certain blogs are good examples, as some of them can be written rather tongue-in-cheek or sarcastically, and there is always a good mix of people who will try desperately to translate them quite literally, and those who will go well outside the 'literal' box to preserve the intent of the article's wit or satire.

Hope this helps. Welcome others' thoughts!


I totally agree with that. Translation is about getting the meaning across as it would have been written in the English language not about giving word for word equivalents. I came across this discussion while looking for a place to send a message to an admin person/ moderator to report someone's bizarre translation. Does anyone know how I can do that please?

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