Poor Translations

An issue that bothered me for some time now; poor translations! Many people ask me why I read books in English and watch movies in English while my mother tongue is German. There are two reasons: First, I like English and I think it is the best training to acquire a foreign language. And secondly, I just like to read the text in the original language in which it was written. A book by a German author, therefore, I read preferably in German. You should probably already know the reason for this by looking at the title of this post. There are way too many bad translations, especially from English into German. Not only that established terms are sometimes translated literally, no, even the language level is changed, for a example a sentence that passes as normal everyday language in English is translated into German and almost gets a vulgar tone. I do not quibble over small mistakes, some people are even fussier when it comes to this. But when I see such huge mistakes, I feel embarrassed for some people. If you think about it, those translations are supposed to come from professional translators who are being paid for this Of course, I can imagine that a translation should be completed as quickly as possible, but this is no reason for someone to be sloppy or put the text into an Internet translator. A translation is hard work! And you can tell if someone tried hard or did not. As for me, I can say that I put all my effort into translations. And I would never release a translation that is not a hundred percent free of mistakes. When you translate into your native language, you should realize when sentences sound awkward, right? Then you just have to look over it again or get someone to help you, which is no disgrace.

I admit, sometimes it is really difficult to translate something. It is always sad when for example a pun is lost through a translation. But even then, you can come up with something. When I translate, I try to write in the same style of the author’s language and so far I have always managed to make puns sound funny in German, too. I am also not a big fan of “Germanizing” proper names; I believe that character names should remain as they are and sometimes it even does not make much sense to translate the title of a book, and I think a good solution would be to just add a German subtitle.

A note: I am aware that I did not use examples in this article here, because I do not want to say that some German translations of books are bad, and I’d advise against the purchase. But maybe (or rather, I am sure) you have own examples. What is your opinion about that? And of course, I do not limit this to English – German translations.

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