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Translating: Accuracy or Correctness?

OK, first of all, take a look at the title of this document:


This is just an example, but the original title has "VS" and someone translated it as "vs.", which, while more correct, is not the same as the original title.

What I want to know is, should we be faithful to the original document, or correct errors the author made? I'm of the opinion that we should leave it exactly the same (or as close as possible) except translated to English. I usually follow this with things like capitalization and punctuation.

Cosa ne pensi?

May 22, 2013



If you are positive there is a mistake, correct it in your translation. I am not sure about "vs", but I'd suggest to use the most common English spelling of this word. Capitalization rules may differ from language to language, for example, it is incorrect in Russian to write "Headings Starting With Capital Letters", but it is a common practice in English.

You may also want to look into this: http://duolingo.com/#/comment/374605


Thanks for the replies, I guess it makes sense, but I still don't quite understand why you should correct real mistakes in the translation. I think it might make more sense to leave them, thus keeping the article faithful to the original. I definitely see why we should translate capitalization and such IF it is correctly used in the other language, and wouldn't be correct in English. If, for example, an Italian article began a sentence with a lowercase letter, (which is incorrect in Italian) would it not make sense for me to start the English sentence with a lowercase letter as well (which would still be incorrect)? I realize it's a pretty tiny detail, but I'd like to be accurate.


I posted a general recommendation. If I have no definite instructions and if I strongly believe the mistake is not intended, I will correct it. I won't make typos in my translation if there are typos in the original. I won't use incorrect punctuation if it is used in the original document and there is no evidence that it is intended (for example to show some uneducated person's speech or spelling).

That said, there can be some specific instructions. I am a professional translator and sometimes I get instructions to be as precise as possible even if the original text seems wrong. In this case, yes, I follow these instructions. If there are definite instructions to spell some word incorrectly, I will confirm to those even if with reluctance because that's what I'm paid for. In all other cases I correct the mistakes or, when in doubt, send an inquiry. This is how it is done in the world of professional translation. (In fact, in the world of professional translations the quality of original texts is often way lower than the expected translation quality. The original may be a mess but the translator will be held responsible for every tiny inconsistency.)

Here on Duolingo there are no instructions from the clients, so we have to use our best judgment. Imagine you are translating an article from Wikipedia. Wikipedia is written by people who of course can make mistakes and typos. While translating, you are creating the version of the article in another language. Why does it have to bear the same inaccuracies as the original?

If you are not sure if the issue is intended, i.e. if you suppose that something may be capitalized or decapitalized for a reason, don't "correct" it. Here is an example: If you are translating a chat log where people began their replies with lowercase letters, begin your translated replies with lowercase letters, too.

TL;DR: Use common sense unless you have precise instructions.


Capitalisation and punctuation must be translated as well. There's absolutely no benefit in keeping the original capitalisation and punctuation. It's plain wrong to keep them if they violate the rules of the target language.


Well said, christian!

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