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 What is a translation?
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 10/28/2007 :  11:17:25  Show Profile Send diricawl a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've been editing a page over on Wikipedia called "Harry Potter in translation".

Here it is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter_in_translation

I just edited the table a while ago to stop some warring over what constituted a translation, what constituted a language and what constituted a dialect. It's fascinating really.

For instance: There are two separate translations for Serbian and Croatian, but ten years ago if I'd asked anyone they would have told me they spoke the same language.

There are two separate German translations: one into German and one into Low German. Are they separate languages, or dialects? There have been two attempts to translate Harry Potter into Gaelic, one Irish, one Scots (though the latter was abandoned). Again, languages, or dialects? I'm no expert in Ukrainian, but I have to say that when I've seen the same words paired up in Ukrainian and Russian they don't seem any more distinct from each other than, say, an American and a thick-accented Yorkshireman.

And what about the "American" edition of HP? Does it count as a translation? Does the fact that there have been two separate Portuguese translations, one for Portugal and one for Brazil, count as well? I don't know.

The two separate chinese translations are especially perplexing. Does the fact that one is in traditional and one in simplified characters make them separate translations? I don't know.

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As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Siobhan
Chief Healer

USA
2157 Posts

Posted - 10/28/2007 :  14:56:21  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This is more about what makes a language a language, isn't it? Two languages can be similar, but separate. Look at how many words in french, italian, and spanish share roots. One would never say that they are dialects. Irish, Scots and Welsh are all separate languages, though I do not doubt they started out from the same roots.

English, whether British or American, retains enough similarities to remain understood-- at least in formal usage ie non slang. The HP books use a lot of vernacular terms that may be misunderstood. I've never felt the US versions to be translations, in fact, I've never believed the changes to be necessary-- but that goes back to familiarity with British English.

The portuguese translations may be necessary because the physical distance of the parent language may have allowed for the languages to develop separately with centuries of change making them distinctly different.

I'm entirely unfamiliar with the Chinese translations, but is one possibly Mandarin and the other Cantonese?

Deliberatley causing mayhem in Snape's Potions class.
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s.i.n.e. qua non
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 10/28/2007 :  16:22:47  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
No; that's the beauty of Chinese writing. The symbols stay the same no matter which language you speak. You can learn Chinese writing without knowing a single word of any Chinese language, just by translating the symbols into English. People across China speak many different mutually unintelligable languages, but they all read the same books and newspapers. That (I think) is why the Chinese have resisted adopting the alphabet, even though it might be simpler in many ways. Think of all the trouble the EU has having to translate all its documents into every one of its twenty-odd official languages. In China, everyone gets one copy, and everyone understands it. That may also be why the Chinese often refer to their separate languages as "dialects" even though they are as closely related to one another as French and Spanish. A unified writing system makes these distinctions less important.

Why the Japanese still use Chinese characters, especially when they already possess two perfectly good syllabaries, is more of a mystery.

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As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 10/28/2007 16:23:51
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Bee
Mediwizard

846 Posts

Posted - 10/28/2007 :  16:53:06  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by diricawl

There have been two attempts to translate Harry Potter into Gaelic, one Irish, one Scots (though the latter was abandoned). Again, languages, or dialects?


Separate languages, though I've seen some Gaidhlig written down and they look very similar, to the extent where I think I might be able to read a bit of a Gaidhlig at a push. Irish has three separate dialects all of its own - not bad for a language hardly anyone ever speaks.

I didn't know that about Chinese writing. That's amazing!

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Purveyor of Fine Peebles
Haggy is (probably not) Cactus!

Edited by - Bee on 10/28/2007 16:56:36
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Cour_Delafleur
Confunded

Canada
714 Posts

Posted - 10/29/2007 :  19:32:28  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That is amazing about the Chinese writing. I've always wondered why the Japanese used Chinese characters as well.

(This is sort of off topic, but interesting) Last year I did a marketing assignment on Mastercard and their "Priceless" campaign. The ads were introduced in Japan, but there was no Japanese equivalent for the concept of "priceless" so they simply kept the English word in the commercials, and the commercials were so successful that "priceless" has become integrated into the vernacular.

And I've never understood the need for British and American versions either. I think the only reason we get the British version of the books in Canada instead of the American versions is because we use the British spelling of words like "colour", etc.

"I think she's magic," said Nor.
________"You, you think everything's magic," Manek said. "Stupid girl."
____"Well, everything is," said Nor. - Wicked

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Edited by - Cour_Delafleur on 10/29/2007 19:34:07
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 10/30/2007 :  14:03:40  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Admit it; you're all Limey traitors at heart. :)

Personally I learned my spelling in the UK, and I've always found US spelling inelegant.

"Priceless" is a tricky word. Bend it one way, and it can mean "worthless". Bend it another, and it means "free".

I wonder what the Japanese transliteration of "Priceless" is. Probably something like "praisurisu". It's interesting that the commercials were such a big hit. I've always been puzzled by the global appeal of our graceless tongue. You'd think French would be more, well, chic, but no, it's always English. Even in fancy restaurants.

I wonder why Japanese companies don't try selling their products in the West using exotic sounding Japanese words with no exact English translations?

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 10/30/2007 14:04:39
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Unicorn8
Barmy

Germany
319 Posts

Posted - 10/30/2007 :  16:30:20  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Regarding Low German: Linguists are still arguing about its status. Some say it is a mere dialect, others regard it as a language. However it is offically recognised and protected as a regional language in the Netherlands and in Germany.

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gimu
Addled

Ireland
209 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2008 :  18:59:03  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Is low german such a different language - I guess I will try to find some and read it. What about swiss german? that seems like an entirely different language to me. One word in about ten is what I understand! It's like an extreme dialect...
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Starling
Confunded

United Kingdom
701 Posts

Posted - 06/10/2008 :  14:09:07  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
AFAIK, the only protected language in Holland is Frisian. Some people in Groningen speak something akin to Plattdüütsch, but it's not a protected language/dialect or anything.

Swiss German is impossible to understand!

I wuv multicoloured werewolf puppies.
"When Mister Safety Catch Is Not On, Mister Crossbow Is Not Your Friend."
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gimu
Addled

Ireland
209 Posts

Posted - 08/26/2008 :  15:02:22  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I agree. I would consider myself an ok/passable german speaker, but, I work for a swiss company, and trying to understand those guys speaking "german" is almost impossible for me. I'd say I understand one word out of ten. They write in high german though, so I doubt there is much written swiss german around. The order of the words and even the words themselves are different in the spoken language. I guess the swiss just don't want people (germans) to understand what they are saying, but they are happy enough to understand everyone else (the germans and Austrians).
Accents do vary a lot in the german speaking world - just like in the english speaking world.
I miss germany today
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 08/27/2008 :  16:14:11  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Fascinating discussion. I love language in all its permutations. What’s a dialect and what’s a separate language? I don’t think the experts have a logical answer for that. A lot seems to simply depend on tradition. Take the issue of the Chinese and Japanese languages, for instance. All those Chinese dialects are just as different from one another as they are from Japanese in their spoken form. And all use the same kanji. But Japan is a separate country – one that has often been an enemy of China’s, so Japanese is a separate language, not just a dialect of one big Asian mother-tongue.

Why do the Japanese use kanji? For the same reason the Chinese do. Because they’ve been using it for 2000 years. It’s a very complicated and unnecessary form of writing. A common alphabet would serve the exact same function of providing a common written language. But there is a wealth of tradition and history surrounding kanji, so it stays. Btw, Japan’s two alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana, are used for Japanese words and foreign words respectively.

And yes, the Japanese love the English language. This is partly a byproduct of the American emulation that started after WWII and partly a practical result of the predominance of English usage in business and technology. It is common to find English phrases in the lyrics of popular songs, tv commercials, etc – the American fascination. But mostly Japan has assimilated English words because there is no Japanese equivalent, as with ‘priceless’. This isn’t really a new phenomenon. Just look at how many French words we have in English; most borrowed from a time when French was the international language of choice.

As to the American and British versions of HP, these are not translations at all to my mind, but simply different editions with a few spelling and word changes. It’s sort of like all the different versions of the Bible we have published in this country. Everyone of them is written in standard American English, yet there are still slight differences between them which presumably make them more accessible or appealing to their target audience.

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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 08/28/2008 :  07:05:51  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
re: English and Japanese. I like to think of it as a fair exchange. English is just as in love with Japanese, after all. take a word like "anime"; that's a word that the Japanese borrowed from the Americans, but then the Americans borrowed back from the Japanese. Salaryman is another one.

quote:
All those Chinese dialects are just as different from one another as they are from Japanese in their spoken form.


Er, this isn't actually true. Chinese languages; Mandarin, Cantonese, Fukenese, even Tibetan (but not Mongolian) are all part of the same language family (the Sino-Tibetan), in the same way that most of the languages of Europe, parts of the near east and western India are all part of the same family (the Indo-European). Japanese isn't related to Chinese at all; in fact no one really knows what Japanese is related to. The only language it is even remotely similar to is Korean and that similarity is only as close as English and, say, Russian. Korean doesn't have any relatives either. It's a bit of a puzzle.

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 08/28/2008 :  11:24:30  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by diricawl

re: English and Japanese. I like to think of it as a fair exchange. English is just as in love with Japanese, after all. take a word like "anime"; that's a word that the Japanese borrowed from the Americans, but then the Americans borrowed back from the Japanese. Salaryman is another one.

Don't forget karoke and sushi! Sushi, I think is an especially good example of what we're talking about. How many of us really think of this as a Japanese word? It's simply the name of some food we love to eat. There is no English equivalent. Likewise 'computer' was the name given to the ubiquitous machines that sit on our desks and the Japanese didn't waste time inventing a different one.


quote:
quote:
All those Chinese dialects are just as different from one another as they are from Japanese in their spoken form.


Er, this isn't actually true. Chinese languages; Mandarin, Cantonese, Fukenese, even Tibetan (but not Mongolian) are all part of the same language family (the Sino-Tibetan), in the same way that most of the languages of Europe, parts of the near east and western India are all part of the same family (the Indo-European). Japanese isn't related to Chinese at all; in fact no one really knows what Japanese is related to. The only language it is even remotely similar to is Korean and that similarity is only as close as English and, say, Russian. Korean doesn't have any relatives either. It's a bit of a puzzle.
Isolation, whether geographical or social, probably accounts for this. Humans will invent language no matter where they are and if they don't have neighbors to share the process with, they will undoubtedly come up with some pretty unique constructions.

The point though, is that there seems to be a big cultural factor in how we define a language versus a dialect. No one would argue that French, Italian and Spanish are the same language even though they derive from a common ancestor, so why are Mandarin and Cantonese merely dialects of Chinese? I think the cultural cohesiveness of China over the last 5000+ years has to have something to do with this.

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gimu
Addled

Ireland
209 Posts

Posted - 08/28/2008 :  17:42:49  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
really interesting thing I saw today - I got an email from a chinese colleague of mine with the name jin Chao or something like that (don't remember correct spelling). Anyway the coolest thing is she signed herself "Ginger". Isn't that so cool? I suppose they sound quite similar...
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