Editing Source Text Errors in Translation | January 2016 | Translation Journal

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Editing Source Text Errors in Translation

Abstract

Theoretical works on translation criticism and assessment focus on the translated text and the errors that may be made and how to tackle them. Few theorists criticize the errors made in the source text and how to tackle them.

When an error(s) is found in the ST, a translator will encounter a number of issues: Is it acceptable to edit the ST? Is it a matter of achieving faithfulness in translation or a kind of offering advice and providing good professional service to the client? Is it part of the job of a translator to correct the ST or just transfer it into another language? Is the client receptive to criticism or not? If the client refuses to have his text edited and the errors are kept, will the translator be accountable for them in the TT? What will the translator do to indicate that the error(s) is/are not his? This paper will discuss the professional aspect of translation as a service offered to a client through these issues. According to their causes, four classifications for the ST errors are proposed: intentional, linguistic, moral and technological.

1. Introduction

Most theoretical works on translation criticism and assessment focus on the translated or target text (henceforth TT) and the errors that may be made and how to tackle them. Few theorists criticize the errors made in the source text (henceforth ST) and how to tackle them. In this paper, the word error is used as a term to refer to a deviation from the standard language or standard use of language. It could be grammatical, semantic, stylistic or even moral.

Accuracy in rendering a ST is an essential requirement of translation. When the ST contains an error, its rendition into the TT may affect the communication of the intended message. Here, the translator needs to consider the plausibility of transferring this error into the TT accurately. In this case, accuracy entails a number of issues: is it acceptable to edit the ST? Is it a matter of achieving faithfulness in translation or a kind of offering advice and providing good professional service to the client? Is it part of the job of a translator to correct the ST or just transfer it into another language? Another issue is whether the client is receptive to criticism or not. Moreover, if the errors are kept as they are, will the translator be responsible for them? Will the TT receptor blame the translator for these errors or the ST producer? In other words, if the client refuses to have his text edited, will the translator be accountable for these errors in the TT? What will the translator do to indicate that the error(s) is/are not his? Another issue to be considered is that the translator here faces the issue of translation ethics and faithfulness in translation. This paper will discuss these issues and provide suggestions for tackling them.

Working for international and local bodies (humanitarian organizations, export-import commercial firms, news agencies, etc.), the author dealt with a large number of unpublished texts written by both native and non-native speakers of English. The texts produced by non-native speakers of English were in most cases flavoured by the mother languages of the producer and deviated from the norms of the English Language. Some of the text producers in such bodies, moreover, were specialized in their fields, but they did not necessarily master the standard languages they used – whether they were using their own mother tongue or another language. This is quite common in export-import companies where the means of communication is mostly English. Working in such companies, the author noticed that the text producers, who were from different nationalities, knew the terms and commercial layout and expressions very well, but their grammar suffered immensely. For instance, they might use “them goods” instead of “these goods”.

Published works usually undergo a series of editing, revising, rewriting processes, and thus hardly suffer from any errors. Unpublished texts, however, as the ones lots of translators including the author usually deal with, do sometimes have errors. For instance, a French person would use French collocations; a Danish or Arab person would use long complicated sentences following the grammar of his own mother tongue, etc.

The data of this paper will be translations mostly from Arabic into English translated by the author for different local and international bodies. Most of the data are not published. The unpublished examples of this paper include TV spots sponsored by an international organization (Exs.1 and 6), a report on holding a number of symposiums (Ex.2 and Ex.13), a political study (Exs.3 and 4), analyses of the results of surveys on the media in Iraq (Exs.5, 8, 9 and 11), project proposal for the preservation of an ancient castle (Ex.7), a report on elections (Ex.10), a text on combating corruption (Ex.12).

2. Revising and Editing

 Employers nowadays seek out “translator-editors” who are able to translate, revise, standardize and re-write (Mossop, 2001: ii). Mossop (ibid:11-12) identifies four broad types of editing or “amending work”:

  1. Copyediting, “correcting a manuscript to bring it into conformance with preset rules”;
  2. Stylistic editing, “This is improving work, to tailor vocabulary and sentence structure to the readership and to create a readable text”;
  3. Structural editing, “This is the work of reorganizing the text to achieve a better order of presentation of the material, or to help the readers by signaling the relationship among the parts of the message”; and
  4. Content editing, “This is the work of suggesting additions to or subtractions from the coverage of the topic.”

When a translator finds a ST error, s/he may perform any or all of these editing types. The difference between an editor and a reviser is that the editor engages in activities that do not concern the reviser. These are (ibid: ii):

  1. finding writers,
  2. suggesting changes in the content of submitted manuscripts,
  3. designing page layouts,
  4. editing translations, which have already been revised for accuracy and language quality,
  5. using market-oriented criteria that are not the same as those used by the reviser.
  6. It is extraordinarily easy to write sentences that are structured in such a way that readers will misunderstand or have difficulty understanding them.
  7. It is easy, while writing, to forget about the future readers and write something which is not suited to them or to the use they will make of the text.
  8. A text may fail to conform to society’s linguistic rules or rules for translating, or rules for writing in a particular genre.
  9. What the author or translator has written may conflict with what the publisher wants to convey.

In tackling a ST error, the translator may perform any of these activities. For instance, when working as a freelance translator for an import-export company, the author was asked to edit the content of the ST(s) in a manner that makes the TT adhere to the market-oriented style of commercial correspondence. Moreover, when the translator finds a ST informational error, he can suggest changing the content to correct it.

3. Faithfulness

 In translation theory, the concept of faithfulness has developed from being synonymous with fidelity and accuracy, and from referring to “how closely a translator preserves the meaning of the original” to “how closely a translation honors the natural lexical and grammatical patterns of the target language” (Motamadi, 2008:84). In other words, faithfulness “should look both directions, toward the source and toward the target” (Ibid.). When s/he finds an error, therefore, the translator ought to be accurate in his translation by revising the error. This act is, thus, an act of faithfulness and not the opposite. Revising a ST error, in fact, reveals the competency of the translator when he tackles it tactfully. In other words, the translator needs to deal with the client diplomatically to convince him of the importance of the revision.

Faithfulness is part of the translator’s ethical obligation. Muhammad (2012:197) defines the ethical obligations as the adherence to principles, specific bases, or current models of ethics based on agreed-upon principles or ideas about the proper behavior in translating. He (Ibid.) explains the four models of translation ethics proposed by Gouanvic (2001): representation, services, communication and norms.

In the first modal, representation, the TT is like a mirror that reflects the ST, and thus the TT might turn into a foreign text for the receptor. This may hinder the comprehension of the ST message and alienate the receptor from the TT.

In the ethical modal of services, the translation is functional and concentrates on the professional aspect of translation. Here, there is interaction between the translator and the initiating institution or client. It goes in line with the Skopos Theory, presented by Hans Vermeer and enhanced by Katherine Reiss, the aim of the translation will determine its strategies. It also emphasizes the importance and value of time.

The communication model emphasizes communication on two levels: micro (lexemes, collocations, semantic and syntactic) and macro (paragraphs, texts). Here, the ST is analyzed by decoding the ST codes and encoding them in the TT.

The ethical model of norms studies the norms or bases a translator need to adhere to. These norms will specify the kind of the translation and reception.

Muhammad (Ibid: 202) states that each of these models highlights a different ethical value. Representation represents value, services represents faithfulness, communication represents understanding and norms represents trust. Then he wonders: are some ethics finer than others, or do some of them depend on the other and develop them? He concludes that people who say the truth are more trusted than these who do not. Moreover, he thinks that truth and trust may lead to understanding, and that when values conflict with each other, they cannot be clear-cut. He also notes that each of these four ethical models has its own application. For instance, the representation can be used in translating religious texts, whereas the services can be applied with administrative ones.

This paper will highlight the services ethics and the professional aspect of translation. The translator here, moreover, interacts with ST producer or client. Telling the truth will establish trust between him or her and the translator. Faithfulness, therefore, is not to the ST only, but also to the ST producer and TT receptor.

 4. Client Vs. TT Receptor

 As stated above, translator-editors are needed nowadays. This is because revisers and editors amend texts in two ways: they correct and they improve. They act like “a language therapist who improves the text to ensure ease of mental processing and suitability of the text for its future users.” (Mossop, 2001: xiv). In the case of translations, the future readers will be the TT receptors.

When a translator finds an error in the ST, he ought to inform the client of this error. This will make it clear for the translator whether this error is intended, and thus it will no more be an error; or it is unintended, and thus need to be considered. In the latter case, the translator can advise the client on how to correct this error. If the client is not receptive to criticism and refuses to have his text edited, the translator can keep the error as it is and write between two square brackets [sic.] to tell the TT receptor that the error belongs to the ST, and therefore not his.

Without informing the client, revising or editing a ST error may represent a case of violating faithfulness in translation. If such an error is intentional (such as the deviations in poetry due to poetic licenses, or the use of dialect in a dramatic text, etc.) it will no more be an error, rather editing it will represent an error. A ST producer may attempt to monitor his audience in what the translator may erroneously consider an error

A translator may feel obligated to inform the client of the existence of an error as a kind of offering advice and providing good professional service especially when the error does not affect the translation. Some may argue, however, that the job of a translator is not to correct the ST, his job is just to transfer it into another language. The client may not be receptive to criticism. A translator, yet, is not only a lifeless means of communication that translates exactly the same message in the ST, whether it is right or wrong. For, if the errors are kept as they are, the translator may be considered responsible for them by the TT receptor who may blame the translator for these errors instead of the ST producer (see Sirriyya, 2010). In other words, if the client refuses to have his text edited, the translator may be accountable for the TT errors. To prevent this, a translator may indicate that the error(s) is/are not his in a footnote or by using the abbreviation [sic.] put between two square brackets.

5. Classification of Errors

Errors found in STs are varied. The paper proposes four classifications for these errors. The first classification takes into consideration the intention of the ST producer. It divides the errors into: intentional, unintentional and referred. The intentional errors are overtly erroneous, but they are correct, such as the poetic licenses or colloquial expressions in literary works, etc. The unintentional errors are attributed to the inefficient linguistic capacity of the ST producer. The referred errors are found in a text in which the client is not the producer of the ST, and the producer’s intention is, therefore, unknown. In other words, it is not clear whether the error is intentional or not.

The second classification of the errors considers the linguistic aspects of the ST. It divides them linguistically into: grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, informational errors, erroneous use of punctuation marks and stylistic errors.

The third classification is related to ethics and the fourth considers errors due to the use of technology. The paper will analyse these types, provide examples and offer suggestions for tackling them.

5.1 Classification according to Intention

In this classification, the errors are divided into: intentional, unintentional and referred as shown below.

5.1.1 Intentional Errors

The intentional errors are overtly erroneous, but they are correct, such as the poetic licenses or colloquial expressions used in literary works, etc. Standard rules of a language are intentionally violated to achieve a specific purpose. For instance, the fixed order of SVO in a Standard English sentence is not adhered to in poetry. As for the phonetic deviations, they are uncountable.

The vernacular language also deviates from the standard rules of a language. See the following example, taken from spots that were filmed in cartoons on TV in 2010 in Iraq, the ST is an excerpt from a dialogue spoken in Iraqi vernacular[1]:

 

Ex.1

يجلس رجلين في المقهى وقد جلس بالقرب منهم عبد الله أفندي وهو يسترق السمع منهم

أبو سليمة: ها أبو عفاف مرتاح بوظيفتك الجديدة

أبو عفاف : اي والله يابو سليمة بس

أبو سليمة : بس شنو ؟ أشو خليتك تصير المدير العام

أبو عفاف : مو أكو جم واحد بالدائرة مضوجني ومامخليني أستفاد .. فياريت نطيرهم

أبو سليمة : اني أعرفهم ؟

أبو عفاف : هاي قائمة بأسمائهم...

أبو سليمة يمسك القائمة ويبدأ بقراءة بعض الأسامي

أبو سليمة: معقولة .. أبو رحيم بالقائمة ؟

أبو عفاف :عمي هذا فد واحد نافخ روحه ورافع خشمة.. عبالك بس هوه وبس

أبو سليمة :   صدك حجيك ... يستاهل .. زين سويت ..زين ابو صفاء ليش

أبو عفاف : شفته ذاك اليوم شلون فات وما سلم عليه

...

أبو سليمة : وام غسان

أبو عفاف :عاوية

أبو سليمة :وأبو سامي ؟

أبو عفاف : عيونه زغار ... لا وفوكاهه .. لابس مناظر جعب بطل

عبد الله : كلي سؤال رحمه لوالديك ....كلي هم أكو بغير دوائر موظفين مثلكم    

أبو عفاف : يعني شتقصد؟  

عبد الله :شقصد عمي شقصد .. الله يعين الناس.. فعلا عجيب أمور غريب قضية

 

Two men sitting in a café near Abdullah Afandi, who is eavesdropping.

Abu Saleema: Abu Afaf, are you comfortable in your new job?

Abu Afaf: Oh, yes, Abu Saleema, but...

Abu Saleema: But what? I’ve made you a director general.

Abu Afaf: Well, there are some people in the office who are bothering me and preventing me from making profit… I wish we can get rid of them.

Abu Saleema: Do I know them?

Abu Afaf: Here is a list of their names.

Abu Saleema: (Takes the list and reads some names) Is this real?! Abu Raheem’s name is on the list?

Abu Afaf: My dear, he is a pompous and arrogant man. He is so full of himself.

Abu Saleema: You’re right… serves him right. You did well. What about Abu Safa’?

Abu Afaf: Have you seen him that day? He passed by me without saying hello?

Abu Saleema: And Um Ghassan

Abu Afaf: She’s horrible.

Abu Saleema: And Abu Sami?

Abu Afaf: His eyes are tiny. What’s more, he wears very thick glasses.

Abdullah: May I ask a question, God bless you? Are there officers like you in the other offices?

Abu Afaf: What do you mean?

Abdullah: What do I mean, sir, is God help the people. Indeed, how odd and incredible!!

In this example, there are many errors (stated here with their literal meanings): grammatical in يجلس رجلين yajlis rajulayn (two men sit), spelling mistake in يابوسليمة yābū salīma (oh, Saleema’s father) and رحمه لوالديك rahimahu liwāldeik (he had mercy on him for your parents) which should have been رحمة لوالديك rahmah liwāldeik (an abbreviated form for ‘May God have mercy for your parents’), semantic in the use of collocation in نافخ روحه nāfukh rūhah (blowing his spirit) and شايل خشمه shāyil khashmah (raising his nose), نطيرهم ntayyirhum (fly them) – which represent vernacular idioms and translated as such – and stylistic in كلي سؤال gullī su’āl (say to me a questions) and عجيب أمور غريب قضية ‘ajīb ’umūr gharīb qadhiyya (strange matters strange issue). All these errors are, however, intentional because they reflect the use and style of the vernacular Iraqi and the ST producer intends his text to be written in it, for he is addressing the laymen and not the educated one only. These errors are, therefore, not errors. The translator, however, did not translate them literally, but rather communicated their intended messages in the idiomatic target language (henceforth TL).

5.1.2 Unintentional Errors

 The unintentional errors are committed, but they are not premeditated. They could be attributed to the weak linguistic capacity of the ST producer. Mossop (2001:xiv) expands on this and suggests four possible reasons for the necessity of editing or revising a written or translated text:

When the translator finds an error in the ST, he needs to check with the client, who may or may not be the ST producer, to find out whether such an error is intentional or not. Sometimes, it is evident that the error is unintentional; and the translation will not show the difference, as in the following:

 Ex.2

علما ان عدد الحظور من منظمات المجتمع المدني 59 شخص و عدد الحظور من موظفين الدولة كان 87...[2]

The attendants were 59 from the civil community organizations, 87 civil servants,…

Here, the spelling mistake in الحظور ’al-huzūr which should be الحضور ’al-hudūr and the grammatical error in موظفين الدولة muwazzafīn ad-dawla which should be موظفي الدولة muwazzafī ad-dawla will have no effect on the TT. The translator, therefore, will have the option to inform the ST client about them, as part of the after-sell services, or not. In other times, it is not clear whether the error is intentional or not. In such case, if the error affects the translation, the translator will need to inform the client; otherwise, the translator may unwisely alter the intended ST message when he edits it.

As was stated above, a translator may feel obligated to inform the client of the existence of an error as a kind of offering advice and providing good professional service especially when the error does not affect the translation. For instance, in (Ex.1) above, there is a ST grammatical error: يجلس رجلين (yajlis rajulayn), where the subject is erroneously in the accusative case, which should be يجلس رجلان (yajlis rajulān) (two men sit) where the subject is correctly in the nominative case. This error does not affect the TT just like the error in the spelling mistake in (Ex.2). In both cases, however, informing the client will be a part of the professional after-sale services.

5.1.3 Referred Errors

The referred errors are found in a text in which the client is not the producer of the text, and the producer’s intention is, therefore, unknown. In other words, it is not clear whether the error is intentional or not. In such cases, the translator may be given the freedom by the client to edit the errors, especially when they may affect the TT if kept as they are. In other cases, the translator may keep the errors, but inform the client of them, especially if the ST producer is unavailable. If the translator is pressed for time and s/he knows the ST producer is available, s/he may translate the errors as they are, but inform the client to check them with the ST producer after highlighting them in the ST during the translation process.

5.2 Linguistic Classification

In this classification, the ST errors will be classified linguistically into grammatical and spelling mistakes.

5.2.1 Grammatical Errors

The errors in this group pertain to grammar. For example, sometimes, essential part(s) of the ST grammatical structure is deleted because it is embedded. For instance, in the following example of an agentless passive voice, as in:

- The window was broken.

Here, the agent (or doer of the action) is deleted and embedded in the grammatical structure because the speaker does not know him/her, or does not want to mention his/her name. Such a deletion is considered an only even when it has no justification. For instance, in long compound or complicated sentences that start with a conditional phrase, the ST producer may forget the second part of the condition and deletes without a justification.

In the following example, the ST producer started the conditional phrase ان تلعب دورا فاعلا لايران واذا ما اريد wa ’ithā mā ’urīda li ’īrāna ’an tal‘aba dawran fā‘ilan (if it is intended for Iran to play an active role) and then after several conditional clauses that encumbered the ST and distracted even the author himself, the author forgot to provide the second part of the condition فعلى ايران ان تفعل fa‘alā ’īrāna ’an taf‘ala (Iran must do so and so), and instead he mentioned what would otherwise happen to Iran وبعكسه فإنها سوف wa bi‘aksihifa’inahā sawfa (otherwise it will):

Ex.3

وإذا ما أريد لايران ان تلعب دورا فاعلا في مستقبل العراق السياسي وان تضمن لنفسها قدرا معقولا من المصداقية في التعامل مع معطيات ثورتها الاسلامية ونهجها وان لا تتخلى عن دورها الايجابي الداعم لخروج القوات المحتلة، وان تدرك أنّ الضغط الامريكي تجاه تحجيم دورها لا يعبر سوى عن مخاوف واقعية تعكس هشاشة القدرة الامريكية … وبعكسه فإنها سوف لن تتجنب بأي حال من الاحوال مخاطر مؤكدة تمس صميم مشاعر المواطن الايراني وتمس بينونة نظامها الديني ….[3]

Because the client was not the ST producer and she has no access to him, the translator edited this error by rearranging the clauses of the paragraph. She brought forward the answer for the condition, which was embedded in the context but not stated overtly as it, and then divided the very long cumbersome sentences into shorter ones as shown below:

To avoid the definite dangers that await the Iranian citizens and which might endanger the very structure of its religious system, which it has worked hard to protect for more than a quarter of a century in spite of the huge size of these dangers, Iran has to do the following. Iran is to play an effective role in the political future of Iraq and to secure to itself an appropriate amount of credibility in dealing with the achievements and approach of its Islamic Revolution. It should not give up its positive role, which supports ending the occupation, and it should realize that the American pressure to limit its role only conveys realistic fears that reflect the frailty of the American ability …. Not doing so might endanger its Islamic religious structure...

Here is another similar example in which the ST producer uses the conditional phrase فبينما كان التيار الاول يدعو الى (while the first current was calling for), then he follows it by a number of clauses and, eventually, forgets to state the second part of the condition. He started the second paragraph by اما التيار الثاني فكان يدعو (As for the second current, it called for). To deal with this error, the translator opted for deleting the conditional (while) from the translation:

Ex.4

فبينما كان التيار الاول يدعو الى تحقيق أعلى درجة من المكاسب بتوظيف الازمة لتحقيق المصالح الايرانية سواء أكان ذلك بتحسين العلاقات مع الولايات المتحدة أو بمد يد العون الى النظام العراقي الجديد على خلاف النظام السابق الذي يختزن قدرا كبيرا من الاحقاد على مستقبل ايران ومن ثم ابعاد شبح ادراج ايران عربيا واقليميا ودوليا على قائمة الدول المعارضة للاحتلال.

اما التيار الثاني فكان يدعو الى اتخاذ موقف مبدئي من الولايات المتحدة قائما على عدم المساعدة في شن أي عدوان على دولة مسلمة، وكان ينبغي ان تتخذ ايران مواقف وسياسات من هذه الازمة بما يحول دوت تفجر الاوضاع الداخلية.[4]

 The first current, on one hand, called for achieving the greatest gains by using the crisis to achieve Iranian interests, whether by improving the relations with America or by helping the new Iraqi regime, unlike the previous one which bore great spite against the future of Iraq. The result will be moving away the fear of listing Iran on the Arabic, regional and international levels on the list of the states that oppose the occupation.

The second current, on another hand, calls for adopting an initial attitude towards the US which is based on not aiding in waging war against any Muslim state. Concerning this crisis, Iran should have adopted attitudes and policies that avoid exploding the internal conditions.

Vague use of reference and pro-forms in the ST may also confuse the translator and make him edit the ST before translating it. See the following:

Ex.5

من ذلك يشكل الاهتمام بإعمال حق المشاركة من قبل المجتمع المدني من خلال المنظمات غير الحكومية والإعلام إلزاماً قانونياً دولياً متاحاً لأجل المجتمع وحمايته بالوسائل المشروعة من قبل الدولة وبضمنها التشريع من حيث ما لهاتين المفردتين من إمكانية التأثير على شرائح واسعة من الشعب وإلزام الاتفاقية هنا إلا من اجل إعطائها الدور الفاعل ويتشارك مع الحكومة حيث لا تستطيع المؤسسات الحكومية بمفردها الوصول إلى ما يعاني منه أو يفكر فيه أو يطلبه أفراد الشعب لذا كان إلزام الأول بالتشارك ضرورة حتمية.[5]

Literally (From this the interest in the activation of the participation right of the civil community through the non-governmental organizations and media represents an available international legal commitment for the community and protecting it by the means which are legalized by the state including legislation due to the possibility these two words have to influence large segments of the population and the obligation of the convention here is except for giving it an active role and share the government for the public institutions cannot alone outreach what the individuals’ are suffering from, thinking of, and demand and thus the first obligation was inevitably by share.)

As the literal translation shows, this ST is full of vague references that confuse the translator and make him raise several questions. First, does الاهتمام بإعمال حق المشاركة ’al-‘ihtimāma bi’i‘māl haq ’al-mushāraka (interest in activating the right of participation) here represents الزاماً قانونياً ’ilzāman qānūniyyan (legal commitment)? Second, does the pronoun for the feminine الهاء h in بضمنها التشريع bidimnihā ’at-tashrī‘ (including the legislation) refer to المشاركة ‘al-mushāraha (participation) which is the only possible preceding Arabic feminine word, which is of course impossible? Third, the reference of the pro-form لهاتين المفردتين lihātayn ’al-mufradatayn (these two words) is not clear in the ST, and consequently, the following phrase إمكانية التأثير ’imkāniyya ’at-ta’thīr (possibility to influence) becomes unclear what influences the people here? Moreover, the ST uses the word الا (except) and does not state what is excluded! Moreover, the reference of hidden subject in the verb يتشارك yatashārak (he/it shares) is also not specific. Finally, the pro-form الاول ’al-‘awwal (the first) again is not clear. Such cumbersome paragraphs and its numerous errors render the process of translation very difficult.

In this case, when the translator contacted the client and asked for clarifications, no answer was provided. The client was not the ST producer, and the producer seemed unable to make himself clearer. That left the translator on her own. She tried to comprehend the total gist of the whole text, and provided a translation which she thought, but was not sure, closer to the intended message:

Therefore, the interest in activating the right to participate by the civil community through the non-governmental organizations and the media represents an international legal commitment available for the community and its protection. The State is to protect this participation by a legal measures including legislation, which has great effect on large groups of people. The commitment on the Convention gives it an effective role. The governmental institutions alone cannot outreach the people’s suffering, thinking or demands. Thus committing the first to participate was inevitable.

Along with this translation, however, the translator stated her questions within the ST and sent it the client to check with the ST producer:

من ذلك يشكل الاهتمام بإعمال حق المشاركة من قبل المجتمع المدني من خلال المنظمات غير الحكومية والإعلام إلزاماً قانونياً دولياً متاحاً [هل الاهتمام يشكل الالزام؟] لأجل المجتمع وحمايته بالوسائل المشروعة من قبل الدولة وبضمنها التشريع [هل التشريع من ضمن الاهتمام؟] من حيث ما لهاتين المفردتين [هل المقصود الوسائل المشروعة؟] من إمكانية التأثير على شرائح واسعة من الشعب [هل الوسائل المشروعة تؤثر ام التشريع؟] وإلزام الاتفاقية هنا إلا [؟؟؟] من اجل إعطائها الدور الفاعل ويتشارك مع الحكومة [من الذي يتشارك مع الحكومة؟] حيث لا تستطيع المؤسسات الحكومية بمفردها الوصول إلى ما يعاني منه أو يفكر فيه أو يطلبه أفراد الشعب لذا كان إلزام الأول [من هو الأول] بالتشارك ضرورة حتمية.

In short, when the ST producer or client refrain from correcting or clarifying the ST, the translator has to have an overall review of the text and try to grasp the general message and try to edit the errors to communicate as close as possible the intended message. See also Exs. 1 and 2 above.

5.2.2 Spelling Mistakes

 A ST spelling mistake may also cause an error that may affect the translation. Such instances may not be frequent, but they do exist. See the following:

Ex.6

عوني : بس تعرف أستاذ هاي شغلة الكهرباء وحدة كلمتنه [6]

Awni: You know what? Electricity has unified us.

In the ST, the word وحدة wihdah (unity) is a noun, but the context makes it clear that the speaker means the verb وحدت wahhidat (unified). Although the ST is written in vernacular Iraqi, such difference between the noun وحدة wihdah and the verb وحدت wahhidat is maintained in both the standard Arabic and spoken Iraqi Arabic. Such a mistake cannot be maintained. The translator corrects the error and uses the verb, but the client, who was not the ST producer, was nevertheless informed of the error. See also Exs. 1 and 2 above in رحمه لوالديك and حظور respectively.

5.2.3 Informational Errors

 Sometimes the translator encounters an error(s) in the information offered in the ST. This is a critical issue for the translator needs to be completely sure of the information.

Ex.7

نينوى مدينة موغلة في القدم يرجع تاريخ مدينة نينوى كقرية زراعية الى الالف الخامس قبل الميلاد وبعد مرور اكثر من ثلاثة قرون وبالتحديد عام 1080 ق.م. اتخذ الآشوريون مدينة نينوى على شاطئ دجلة الشرقي عاصمة لهم.[7]

Nineveh is a very ancient city. As an agricultural village, its history goes back to 5000 BC. After more than three thousand years, in 1080 BC,   the Assyrians used Nineveh, which lied on the eastern bank of the Tigris, as their capital.

In this example, instead of three thousand the ST states three centuries, and this is a historical mistake as the context of the text shows. This is, of course, an unintentional error the translator needs to inform the client about.

In the following example, it is not clear whether the error is intentional or not, first because the client was not the ST producer, and second, the speaker may have wanted to exaggerate to support her viewpoint:

 Ex.8

يشير المشاركون الى ان الصحفيين العراقيين لا يحظون بالاحترام والاهتمام الكافيين من قبل المسؤولين في الحكومة فمثلا عندما قتلت الصحفية اللبنانية مي شدياق ارسل رئيس الجمهورية ورئيس الجمعية الوطنية برقيات تعزية، بينما لا يفعلوا مثل ذلك مع الصحفي العراقي.[8]

The participants indicate that the Iraqi pressmen are not sufficiently respected or esteemed by the officials of the government. For instance, when the Lebanese journalist, May Shidyaq, was killed, the Lebanese President and the Chairman of the National Assembly sent cables of condolences to her family.   No similar thing is done to an Iraqi journalist

The Lebanese journalist, May Shidyaq, suffered from a terrorist attack, but she was crippled and not killed. It happened that during translating the ST, I heard on the radio that Shidyaq was nominated for the parliamentary elections in spite of her disability as a challenge to terrorism. The ST producer may not be aware of this fact, or she intended to exaggerate in order to support her viewpoint. Because the intention of the ST producer was not clear, I opted for keeping the ST error in the translation, and, at the same time, I felt obligated to tell my client about this informational error.

Some of the informational errors are quite serious and need to be edited with care. For instance, see the following example:

Ex.9

القرار رقم 127 (ء -2) والمعتمد من قبل الجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة في 1947 والذي يطالب الدول الأعضاء بالقيام ، في الحدود التي تسمح بها إجراءاتها الدستورية ، بمكافحة نشر الأنباء الزائفة أو المشوهة التي يكون من شانها الإساءة إلى العلاقات الطيبة بين الدول، وبغيره من القرارات التي أصدرتها الجمعية العامة بشأن وسائل الإعلام الجماهيرية وإسهامها في دعم السلم والثقة والعلاقات الودية بين الدول.[9]

Here, the ST text provides a quotation from a UN Resolution No. 127 of 1947 and states that it is Paragraph (2-d). In such quotations, the translator has to refer to the original wording of the international documents, which are usually available, at least on the Internet. When checking the original Resolution, the translator found out that the ST refers to Paragraph No. (1) and not (2-d), a matter that cannot stated erroneously in the translation. Since the client was not the ST producer, the translator opted for stating the number of the Resolution without stating the exact number of the Paragraph, but she informed the client of the correct number as shown in the TT:

UN Resolution No. 127, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1947, which invites the Governments of States Members “To study such measures as might with advantages be taken to the national plane to combat, within the limits of constitutional procedures, the diffusion of false or distorted reports likely to injure friendly relations between States,” in addition to the other UN resolutions on the mass media outlets and their contribution in supporting peace, trust, and friendly relations among states.

5.2.4 Erroneous Use of Punctuation Marks

 Sometimes the erroneous use of a punctuation mark affects the meaning, and thus confuses the translator. See the following:

Ex.10

جريدة صوتك مستقبلك على المستوى المنظور في السبق بالتعامل مع موضوعة الانتخابات كانت الاولى ايضاً لأنها صدرت بعد ايام قلائل من اعلان موعد انتخابات مجالس المحافظات ولأنها صارت بعد عددين او اكثر بقليل مصدراً مهما لوسائل اعلامية كبيرة ومعروفة . صدرت الى جانبها. بل ان صحيفة معروفة على نطاق واسع قلدتها في الفكرة وحتى الاخراج تقريباً، ومع انها جريدة يومية، الا انها تأخرت عن ما نشرته جريدة صوتك مستقبلك.[10]

The bulletin “Your Voice Is Your Future” (YVIYF) was a pioneer in dealing with the elections: it was issued few days after announcing the date of the provincial council elections. After two or three numbers, it had become an important source for big and well-known media outlets which were issued simultaneously. Moreover, a well-known paper had imitated its idea and nearly production. In spite of being a daily paper, it lagged behind YVIYF.

Here the clause صدرت الى جانبها sadarat ’ilā jānibihā (were issued simultaneously) modifies وسائل اعلامية wasā’il i‘lāmiyya (media outlets) and it is part of the sentence. The ST producer erroneously separated the two by using a full stop. Noticeably, this might have been a typing mistake, but still the translator received it as such without knowing for sure whether it was the ST producer’s or the typist’s mistake.

Moreover, the clause بل ان صحيفة معروفة على نطاق واسع قلدتها في الفكرة وحتى الاخراج تقريباً bal ’inna sahīfa ma‘rūfa ‘alā nitāq wāsi‘ qalladathā fī ‘al-fikra wahattā fī ‘al-‘ikhrāj taqrīban (Moreover, a well-known paper had imitated its idea and nearly production too) and ومع انها جريدة يومية، الا انها تأخرت عن ما نشرته جريدة صوتك مستقبلك wama‘a ’annahā jarīda yawmiyya, ‘illā ‘annahā ta’akhkharat ‘an mā nasharathu jarīdat sawtuk mustaqbaluk (In spite of being a daily paper, it lagged behind YVIYF) express two independent notions and need to be separated clearly either by a full stop or a semicolon. The use of a comma in these cases was not successful if not confusing. In the TT, the translator opted for separating them clearly by a full stop.

Since the use of punctuation marks in Arabic is not as strict and well-established as it is in English, it is expected of the Arabic text producers to make erroneous uses of the punctuation marks. In fact, such errors are quite common in the Arabic texts. Consequently, translators from Arabic into English will frequently face this problem much more than translators from English into Arabic. Due to their frequency, translators from Arabic into English are advised to edit the ST use of punctuation marks and adhere to their English use in the TT without reference to the client except when very necessary.

5.2.5 Stylistic Errors

 In a stylistic error, the ST producer does not adhere to the stylistic norms of the SL. For instance, Ex.5 is full of vague references that confuse the translator, and hence she has to disambiguate them. See also the following:

Ex.11

وقد وضع رقم تقريبي لهذا المجتمع قدره عدد من الممارسين والعاملين في المجال المهني وأساتذة كلية الاعلام في جامعة بغداد … ورئيس اتحاد الصحفيين العراقيين، …و رئيس الجمعية العراقية للدفاع عن الصحفيين. ولذا فان فريق البحث وزع 2500 استمارة على الصحفيين العراقيين (النموذج الاول) استردت منها 2100 استمارة.[11]

 An estimated number for this community was put by a number of practitioners, presspersons and professors at the College of Information of the University of Baghdad, … President of the Iraqi Journalist Union, and … President of the Iraqi Society to Defend the Journalists. The teamwork, therefore, distributed 2500 form among the Iraq journalists (First Form), 2100 of which were restored.

Here, the ST verb قدّره qaddarah (they estimated) commonly needs an estimation in Arabic بمقدار كذا bimiqdār kathā, meaning by the estimation of), which is not mentioned in the ST. The following sentence, however, entails that the estimated number is 2500, but the ST does not state it clearly. To solve this stylistic problem, the translator merged the two ST verbs: the passive voice وضع widi‘a and active voice قدر qaddara in one passive verb (put) and thus avoided the use of repeating the verb estimated and the deleted ST word. As a professional service, however, the translator notified the client, who was not the ST producer, about this stylistic error in the ST.

In the following example, the ST modifies by using two contrasted modifiers:

Ex.12

تم شرح الإستراتيجية الوطنية لمكافحة الفساد في العراق بشكل ملخص ومعمق…[12]

The ST states that the شرح sharh (explanation) was both ملخص mulakhkhas (summarized) and معمق mu‘ammaq (in depth), which is impossible. In such cases, if the client does not clarify the contrasted points, the translator has to analyse the whole text and try to find out which one is the correct one; otherwise, he can choose the most appropriate one to the situation. In this case, since the ST was about the contents of a training course that usually lasts for few days, ملخص mulakhkhas was more appropriate than معمق mu‘ammaq as shown below:

The national strategy of combating corruption in Iraq was summarized.

The following example gives two cases of stylistic errors:

 Ex.13

نحن شملنا قانون 20 لسنة 2009منذ اول يوم 2003 بعد التغيير لحد الان ولكن الكثير من النساء لم يحصلوا على حقوقهم والكثير من الشهداء لم يحصلوا على امتيازاتهم.[13]

We made Law No. 20 of 2009 include the victims since 2003 starting after the Change and up till now. There are lots of women, however, who have not gotten their rights and lots of martyrs whose families have not gotten their privileges.

Here the ST does not make it clear who is made included in Law 20 of 2009, and the phrase منذ اول يوم 2003 munthu ‘awwal yawm (since first day 2003) is awkward. Moreover, in the clause الكثير من الشهداء لم يحصلوا على امتيازاتهم ‘al-kathīr mina ‘sh-shuhadā’ lam yahsilū ‘lā ‘imtiyāzātihim (lots of martyrs did not get their privileges), the martyrs are already dead and cannot get any of the material privileges stated in the law, but rather their families.

5.3 Moral or Ethical Errors

Morals and ethics are relative. What is considered moral or ethical in one society may not be considered so in another. Even truth itself is relative because it is seen differently by different nations.

The relationship between culture and language can be highlighted by the example of the word truth. For an Arab, German and Finn, a truth is the truth. In Japan and Britain, it is acceptable as long as it does not “rock the boat”. Whereas in China, there is no absolute truth, and in Italy it is negotiable (Lewis, 1996:8). This example leads us to the fact that there are shared tenets among all human beings like love, honor, duty, justice, revenge, etc. Yet, different cultures have different notions of these tenets. Lewis (ibid.:11) gives an example that reveals how serious such differences may be. The word contract may be translated easily, yet it has different notions in each language:       

To a Swiss, German, Scandinavian, American or British person, it [a contract] is something that has been signed in order to be adhered to. Signatures give it a sense of finality. But a Japanese regards a contract as a starting document to be rewritten and modified as circumstances require. A South American sees it as an ideal which is unlikely to be achieved, but which is signed to avoid argument.

Therefore, the most basic tenets can be seen differently. In the above example, one may wonder who the ethical is and who is not in the points of view of these different people? Lewis (1996:11-12) elaborates on this point by saying “The American calls the Japanese unethical if the latter breaks the contract. The Japanese says it is unethical for the American to apply the terms of the contract if things have changed.”

Since translation involves the communication between two cultures, the translator may face this issue. For instance, when translating English-speaking films, it is quite common to come across vulgar expressions, cursing, calling names or blasphemous expressions. Though originally a blasphemous word because it refers to Christ’s blood, the word bloody, for instance, is quite common in spoken English. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (Hornby, 2004, s.v. bloody1) states that bloody is “a swear word that many people find offensive that is used to emphasize a comment or an angry statement.” Though some of these expressions are used in everyday dialogues in Arabic, but they are considered immoral and vulgar and are used in limited and informal situations. The Arab society is still, generally speaking, conservative and classifies such words as taboo.

When translating such expressions, the translator can choose any of the following three alternatives. First, to render these expressions into the TT, and thus his translation may not be acceptable by the Arab society. Second, he may mitigate the effect of these expressions by deviation. For instance, many translators of English films opt for تباً له (لها) tabban lahu/lahā as a mitigated equivalent for many English vulgar expressions. The third alternative is deletion. For instance, in the poem of Elizabeth Barrett Browning “The Cry of the Children” (Buckley and Woods, 1965:382-4), the poet talks about the hardships children face in the Victorian age. They were treated so badly that when they were told to pray to God, they reply: “He is speechless as a stone” (Ibid.:383, l.126). In Arabic Islamic culture, the adjective “speechless” is never used to denote God, and thus is will not be acceptable to render it in TT. In this case, the translator is advised to delete it, for it cannot be mitigated.

5.4 Errors Due to Use of Technology

 

Due to the use of word processors, serious errors may take place when the ST producer slips while using commands like delete, cut, copy or paste. Mossop (2001:25) gives examples of such cases:

Word(s) may be missed when the writer, while self-editing a ST, presses the delete key more than once. During cut-and-paste and click-and-drag operations, when a passage is moved within a document or pasted in from another document, imperfect transitions between the pasted passage and what surrounds it may take place.

The use of technology can create any or all of the above stated linguistic errors, viz., grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, stylistic errors, etc. When the translator fails to edit the error by himself by reviewing the ST only, he can check with the ST producer; otherwise, he may depend on himself and guess the most probable message intended by the writer.

For instance, in the third edition of the book لمحات اجتماعية من تاريخ العراق الحديث Social Aspects of Iraqi Modern History by Ali Al-Wardi (2007(2010), Vol.5, Part 1),[14] page 120 has three footnotes, whereas the text above gives two numbers of footnotes only (1 and 2); and the text in page 121 has three numbers for footnotes (1, 2 and 3) whereas there is only one footnote below. When comparing the text in page 121 and that of 122, the translator guessed that footnote number 3 in p.121 actually belonged to no.3 of page 122 especially because there was a reference to the same topic in the previous pages of the book with the same reference. Yet, the translator could not restore footnote no.2 of p. 122 and left it empty.

There is another example in the same book on page138:

Ex.14

ولكني مع ذلك أستبعد أن تثير أعمال البوشهري غضب الكثيرين من الناس في كربلاء، فتلك عادة الناس دائماً حين يأتيهم أمر جديد لم يألفوه من قبل، فهم لابد ان يستنكروه ويتقولوا عليه الأقاويل، وربما قاوموه وحاربوه.

Here, the contextual meaning in this section of the book indicates that the writer does not rule out لا أستبعد what is stated after it, whereas the ST verb is أستبعد rule out, which is an obvious printing mistake when the whole context is taken into consideration (and not only this sentence). Thus the translator opted for correcting this mistake as follows:

However, I do not rule out the fact that many people were infuriated by Al-Būshahrī’sworks in Karbala. When people face something new they are not familiar with, it is natural for them todeprecate it. They may even resist and fight it.

Conclusions

Unlike other theoretical works on translation, this paper focuses on the errors made by the ST rather than TT. Consequently, it redefines the word error and uses it as a term to refer to a deviation from the standard language or standard use of language. It could be grammatical, semantic, stylistic or even moral. In some cases, as the vernacular language, the term error used here may not even be considered by some as such.

Errors found in STs are varied. The paper proposes four classifications for these errors. The first one takes into consideration the intention of the ST producer and divides the errors into: intentional, unintentional and referred. The second classification considers the linguistic aspects of the ST. It divides them linguistically into: grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, informational errors, erroneous use of punctuation marks and stylistic errors. The third classification is related to ethics and the fourth considers errors due to the use of technology.

For each type of these errors, the paper proposes ways of tackling them. First of all, the translator needs to check the intentionality of the error. Then s/he need to check whether any information can be restored from the ST itself. The client may be consulted if keeping the error may affect the translation. When the ST producer or client refrain from correcting or clarifying the ST, the translator has to have an overall review of the text, try to grasp the general message and try to edit the errors to communicate as close as possible the intended message.

To edit a ST that contains a case of deletion, the translator may (1) check with the ST producer, (2) look for the deleted items in another place in the ST, or (3) try to restore the deleted item from the overall message of the ST by guesswork.

If an error can be handled relatively easily, the need for checking with the client or ST producer will be part of the after-sales services offered by the translator to make him aware of the error.

Revising a ST error is, thus, an act of faithfulness and not the opposite. In fact, it reveals the competency of the translator when he tackles it tactfully.

After informing the client of an error, it will be clear for the translator whether it is intended, and thus it will no more be an error; or it is unintended, and thus need to be considered. In the latter case, the translator can advise the client on how to correct it. If the client is not receptive to criticism and refuses to have his text edited, the translator can keep the error as it is and write between two square brackets [sic.] to tell the TT receptor that the error belongs to the ST, and therefore not his.

The moral errors are debatable and culture-specific.

References

Buckley, Jerome Hamilton and Woods, George Benjamin (eds.) 1965. Poetry of the Victorian Period. 3rd ed. Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Company.

Gouanavic, Jean-Marc. 2001. “Ethos, Ethics and Translation: Toward a Community of Destinies” in The Translator. Vol.7, no.2, pp.203-2012.

Hornby, A. S. 2004. Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. Ed. By Wehmeier, Sally and Ashby, Michael. 6th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lewis, Richard D. 1996. When Cultures Collide. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing Ltd.

Mossop, Brian. 2001. Revising and Editing for Translators. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

Motamadi, Abbas. 2008. A Glossary of Concepts and Terms in Translation Studies. Tehran: Rahnama Press.

Muhammad, ‘Abdul-Wahid. 2012. Nadharāt fī At-Tarjama (Perspectives in Translation). Baghdad: Baytul-Hikma.

Sirriyya, Sawsan Saleh. 2010. “‘Indamā takūn ’al-khiyāna difā‘an ‘an ‘an-nafs.”   Al-Mamoon. Issue 3, sixth year, pp.17-18.

 


[1]The author was asked to translate this excerpt as part of a project to educate the people on how to choose the suitable candidates during the elections of 2010 in Iraq by European IREX.

[2] The author was asked to translate this excerpt from a report by Relief International, an international NGO working in Iraq, in 2012.

[3] The author was asked to translate this excerpt from "تداعيات الاحتلال الامريكي للعراق على السياسة الايرانية" د. حسين حافظ وهيب. مركز الدراسات الدولية، جامعة بغداد، قسم الدراسات الاسيوية. 2005, p.8.

[4] The author was asked to translate this excerpt from "تداعيات الاحتلال الامريكي للعراق على السياسة الايرانية" د. حسين حافظ وهيب. مركز الدراسات الدولية، جامعة بغداد، قسم الدراسات الاسيوية. 2005, p.5.

[5] The author was asked by Relief International, an NGO working in Iraq, to translate this excerpt entitled "الاعلام في المعايير الدولية" in 2010.

[6] The author was asked to translate this excerpt as part of a project to educate the people on how to choose the suitable candidates during the elections of 2010 in Iraq by European IREX.

[7] From “Project of Restoring Mosul Castle: Bashtabia.” By Al-Qistas Company for Contracting and General Trade, Ltd.”2004. An Arabic ST handed to me by an NGO working in Iraq in 2004 to be translated into English مشروع احياء قلعة الموصل باشطابيا.

[8] The author was asked to translate this excerpt as a part from Media Sustainability Index in Iraq 2008, a project implemented by IREX and UNESCO in 2006 in Iraq.

[9] The author was asked by Relief International, an NGO working in Iraq, to translate this excerpt entitled "الاعلام في المعايير الدولية" in 2010.

[10] The author was asked to translate this excerpt from a final report entitled "التقرير النهائي لمنظمة ارض النهرين الجامعة عن نشاطات (داعم) في التغطية الاعلامية لانتخابات مجالس المحافظات" by European IREX, an NGO working in Iraq, in 2009.

[11] The author was asked to translate this excerpt as a part from Media Sustainability Index in Iraq 2006, a project implemented by IREX and UNESCO, two NGOs working in Iraq, in 2006. This paper was entitled: تقييم الاحتياجات التدريبية للكوادر الاعلامية في العراق.

[12] This is an excerpt from a text on combating corruption as part of a training course held by Relief International, an NGO working in Iraq. The author was asked to translate it from Arabic into English in 2010.

[13]The author was asked to translate this excerpt from “التقرير النهائي عن حلقات النقاش” by Relief International, an international NGO working in Iraq, in 2012 to be translated from Arabic into English.

[14]The writer translated the bookلمحات اجتماعية من تاريخ العراق الحديث, Social Aspects of Modern Iraqi History, by Ali Al-Wardi, Vol.5, Part 1, London: AlWarrak Publishing Ltd. 3rd edition, 2007 (2010).

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