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A translator’s mandate – room for debate (part 2)

 

Another case where the translator’s intervention is necessary is when the text present incorrect information, as a result of lack of knowledge or lack of attention of the writer. The error may look quite minor, but in fact significant. For example, consider a technical translation from English to Hebrew with the sentence:

The remote controller is powered by 2 batteries of 15V each

technical translator should know that a standard remote control device contains one and a half volt batteries. In such case, one should look for the corresponding figure in the source text and rectify the error, which is obviously the missing decimal point between 1 and 5. Also, It would be more than nice to notify the client. The target audience is not familiar with the source text, which may not exist as far as they are concerned. The translator will naturally be held responsible for the error, even tough he has not created it in the first place.

Consider a source text with a statement that is not in line with a well confirmed scientific fact, which the translator is aware of. The translator may not ignore it even though it is not his or her responsibility. Example: “Quartz is probably the natural hardest material”. In spite of the reservation, it is clearly a wrong statement, as diamond is natural hardest material. Such errors may not be ignored. One could raise an interesting issue: Should a translator be familiar with all facts in all fields? To what extent should he or she to be critical – and if necessary, to investigate – the accuracy of the source text? Should he be held responsible for that? This is a complicated issue, but it can be concluded this way: It is imperative that the translator will be familiar in the subject matter of the translation. Another issue which deserves a discussion of its own: When making a technical translation from English to Hebrew, should we translate each and every term in the text, or maybe better leave some of them in English? And what about a technical jargon and even slang?

As pointed out above, a translator should improve a deficient or discrepant text, however there are cases with inherent limitations. With legal and patent text, a translator should be absolutely consistent with the source text, and any improvements may miss the end results. No omission, no addition, just meticulous, strict translation. The tolerance here is extremely narrow.

To summarize: The translator is called for the correction of spelling and grammar error, inadequate words as well as other discrepancies identified in the source text. Some refinement of rude texts may be necessary, as well as an attention to omissions and incorrect facts. A translator is in a way an agent of knowledge, which requires a lot of caution. Should the message be technical, literary, marketing etc.; a professional translator has the skills to absorb the message (and even read the author’s mind) to convert it to the source language in a mostly objectively and effective way.

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