10 Replies Latest reply on Feb 15, 2019 9:00 AM by Lauren Algee

    Bad translation

    Julianne Mangin Adventurer

      There is a French document that has an English translation appended to it.  The English translation is good.  However, there is one instance where the translator didn't pick up on a French idiom, and the meaning is lost.  They translated "Dieu ne plaisé" (which means "God forbid") as "God avert" which doesn't make sense.  I transcribed it as "God forbid" because that was what the author of the original document meant.  I don't want a reviewer to come along and change it back to "God avert."  Can someone in authority weigh in on this?  The document is https://crowd.loc.gov/campaigns/letters-to-lincoln/1863-civil-war-emancipation-proclamation-and-gettysburg-address/mal28…

       

      Or if one of you reviewers agree with me, you could go ahead and accept it as is.  I'm sure my transcription otherwise is perfect (just kidding).

       

      Julianne

        • Re: Bad translation
          Ethan Kent Wayfarer

          Julianne: I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you on changing what is in the contemporaneous translation for a number of reasons:

           

          1) we don't know who the translator was (especially, we don't know whether the translator was a native speaker of English or of French),

           

          1A) we definitely know that the translator is not a person of our time,

           

          and 1B) we certainly can't read that person's mind  (well, I know that I can't) ;

           

          2) "[May] God avert" seems to me not that different in meaning from "[May] God forbid" (or [...] forfend, or [...] prevent) , so I'm not really sure it's a completely different phrase/expression in meaning;

           

          3) I just did a Google Advanced Book Search for "God avert" for works from 1850 to 1875; while I haven't found the phrase exactly as it is in the translation here (especially the first page seems to have phrases including "God avert" connected to (perhaps naturally) what seem to be (Christian) religious works, I have definitely found "God avert" as a part of works printed in the era, and I (personally) would not make a change in the document just because "God forbid" is more-familiar to us (including to me) than "God avert".

           

          That said, I would welcome additional input from other transcribers, and hope to see a post from one or both of the Community Managers on this point (altering a word in a scanned document because the transcriber thinks the transcriber believes that the writer (here a translator) intended/was thinking of another word.

           

          Signing off (with best wishes to you, Julianne, for a good Monday and a good week),

           

          Ethan (in New York City). [Smile.]

          • Re: Bad translation
            Melissa Himes Newbie

            I'm not sure that I understand since the link you provided now shows the transcription as "God avert".  Perhaps someone has already changed it from God forbid.  As transcribers, it is our task to type exactly what is written.  The  translation may be wrong, but, that is what was written.  Perhaps you could use the tag section to add a comment about the "bad translation". 

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              • Re: Bad translation
                Julianne Mangin Adventurer

                Melissa, Ethan:  I understand your points.  However, we don't know how long after the initial document was written the translation was done, and by whom.

                 

                If it was translated so that Lincoln would be able to read it, I would not touch a thing.  We want to know exactly what he was looking at and how it might have influenced him.  However, since the document is type-written, I suspect not.

                 

                If it was a Library of Congress staffer who translated it many years later, I think it's different.  It's a mistake that doesn't reflect exactly what the original writer was trying to express.

                 

                If a mistake were to be found in one of these crowd-sourced transcriptions many years after the fact, I would hope that someone would fix it.

                 

                But what really matters is what the Manuscript Division wants us to do.  I await a response from them.

                 

                Julianne

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              • Re: Bad translation
                Melissa Himes Newbie

                Has anyone from the Archives addressed this question yet? 

                  • Re: Bad translation
                    Victoria Van Hyning Adventurer

                    Hi Melissa,

                     

                    I'm Victoria from the Library of Congress (which is separate from the National Archives). We're still working on how best to address translation for the By the People project. You can read a brief update here.

                     

                    Julianne's surmise about this specific case sounds right to me, but I would also offer an overarching point, which is that we will never be able to develop a set of guidelines that can anticipate or even consistently guide volunteers on how to deal with each quirk of the archival record. We ask instead that volunteers use their best judgement, and assume that others on the site are doing the same. History Hub is an important place for dialogue and discussion about how best to address a tricky document and I think two or three pairs of eyes on a difficult document is better than one. We have provided a few guidelines about transcription, but have kept the list of guidelines short on purpose, because we would rather that volunteers transcribe as best they can than get bogged down in too many formatting details. That said, we are working to address some of the consistently expressed sticking points around translation, for example.

                     

                    Hi all, I've just had another look at the document in question and reread this thread here--please ignore my earlier response, which I strike out above, but which I think you can still read if you'd like. In this case we would preserve the text exactly as it appears in the document. In which case 'God avert'. This may not seem idiomatic to us now, but it may have been at the time. These linguistic quirks are important to preserve. We ask that you transcribe documents exactly as you see them for the sake of search.

                     

                    All best,

                    Victoria, Community Manager

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