00-02 Think of your reader


Think of your reader

This unit is about some aspects of translation. We will use and illustrate the ideas and quotes from the wonderful book written by Teresa Pearce. It has the title: The Russian-English Translator's Handbook. A practical guide to the most common pitfalls when translating from Russian into English

The author writes in the Foreword:

“In fact, the UK's Institute of Linguists, the professional body to which I belong, forbids its members to work out of their mother tongue; if a client absolutely insists on it, we are bound to give them a suitable disclaimer just in case it should all go horribly wrong.”

The corner stone of translation is The Mother Tongue Principle, which states that linguists translate into their native language. An English native speaker translates content into English, a German native speaker translates content into German, etc. A native speaker of a language is a person who was born, grew up and obtained his or her education in a country where the target language is spoken.

It is impossible to master a second language equally as well as one's native tongue. The main benefit of using a mother tongue translator is that the translated document will make sense to those who read it. This is especially important in legal, financial and health-related issues or marketing materials. The marketing specialists failed to localize Cadbury's Wispa chocolate advertising material for the Ukrainian market. Having spent a substantial amount of cash on new packaging, they learned that the word 'wispa' sounds like the Ukrainian word for small pox: віспа…

The most important benefit of using a mother tongue translator is the translator's natural knowledge of his or her native language speakers' culture. They have “built-in” tools to localize the document saving time, money and potential embarrassment. But what if we don’t have the translators whose native tongue is English or we simply cannot afford them? We should try to do our best at least to avoid typical translators’ errors. This is where the book of Teresa Pearce is very helpful. Before we read the first part from it watch the following video to memorize the word “thorny”:

This will remain one of the many thorny issues between Israelis and Palestinians.

How would you translate “thorny” into Russian? Surely, there should be a better word than «острый»…

The example of “this country” usage in American English:

I happen to be Jewish by birth, by the way, and I've always said in many interviews around the country, that the slaughter of Jews began in Nazi Germany in 1938 after Hitler passed a law that said Jews could not own guns. So, I just want to always make sure in this country, we have a right to own guns as the Second Amendment says.

Keeping in mind that many words are hyphenated in Russian (Премьер-министр) but not in English, listen for the word Commonwealth used by the former UK Prime Minister:

Buckingham Palace issued this photograph of the Queen with two of her grandchildren and her five greatgrandchildren, the youngest of whom, Princess Charlotte is sitting on her lap next to her brother Prince George. But this isn't just a family day, the wider world has also been paying its birthday tributes led in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister to recall the 64 years the Queen has been on the throne. "Throughout it all, as the sands of culture shift and the tides of politics ebb and flow, Her Majesty has been steadfast - a rock of strength for our nation, for our Commonwealth and, on many occasions, for the whole world.

Try to translate these parts of the video:

-         the wider world has also been paying its birthday tributes

-         the sands of culture shift and the tides of politics ebb and flow

CIS usage:

What does the verb “to annex” mean in English and why it is so sensitive for Russians? The answer is clear: to annex = to add to something earlier, larger, or more important; to incorporate (Merriam-Webster).

And this is what Russian media wrote: “Присоединение Крыма является не аннексией, а самоопределением крымчан”

Neither English nor Latin meaning of the word has negative connotation. V.K.Muller’s dictionary, though, gives us something in between: присоединя́ть, прилага́ть; де́лать приложе́ние (к книге и т.п.); аннекси́ровать, захва́тывать

This is the definition of Vladimir Lenin: «аннексия есть нарушение самоопределения нации, есть установление границ государства вопреки воле населения». It seems that modern Russian dictionaries follow the same logic: «Насильственное присоединение, захват всей или части территории, принадлежащей другому государству или народу, а также насильственное удержание какого-л. народа в границах чужого государства» (Efremova dictionary). There are at least three or four others giving similar meaning of this word.

Teresa Pearce writes: “A woman should be addressed as Ms. unless you know for certain that she prefers Mrs. (for a married woman) or Miss (if she is unmarried).” A wonderful illustration from the movie “Death Becomes Her”:

Regarding the names:

Many English-speaking people choose to use a short form of their names at all times. Just as "Bill (not William) Clinton" and "Tony (not Antony) Blair" do not sound anything like "Боря Ельцин" and "Вова Путин" (!), so "Mike" is not as informal as "Миша". If Mike has introduced himself to you as "Mike", that is what he wants to be called; otherwise he would have introduced himself as "Michael".

Example: this is what Russian media write

Example: this is what Russian media write

One more paragraph from the book:

Царь should be translated tsar (Am. czar) only if it refers to a Russian tsar such as Peter the Great; otherwise the general word king must be used.

Watch the episodes from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar: 

If you are interested in video examples illustrating dates, you may find them in the following unit:

Do you remember the phrase “And this is what Russian media wrote?” Did you think just for a moment that this is not correct? Is “media” plural or single? This is what Teresa Pearce writes:

The wonderful word media (СМИ: we usually say "media" rather than "mass media", which sounds a bit academic) can be singular or plural, depending on the sense:

♦ The media has been hounding Kazhegeldin/Prince Charles [singular, with definite article = the media in general; every single newspaper and radio station).

♦  Small media find it difficult to survive in Tajikistan (plural, no article = individual newspapers).

Why do we think or does the media think that Mohammad Ashraful, the former “Golden Boy” of Bangladesh cricket is involved?

The singular form of “media” is “medium”.

There is a joke: “Television is called a medium because anything good on it is rare.”

How would you translate it?

Специализируемся на развитии навыков говорения и понимания реальной речи на слух. Используем только оригинальные материалы.