Translation or original version?

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Translation or original version?

Postby linguoboy » 2015-03-12, 17:40

I assume all of us here read multiple languages. Often the content we want will only be available in one of them. But often it will be available in more than one and we'll be faced with a choice: original version or translation and, if translation, which one?

It's not even as simple as always favouring your native language if possible, since I know a lot of people like to read novels translated into their target language as part of their language learning. Frequently, these are novels they have already read, but not always.

When it comes to the decision of whether or not to attempt the original version, the question arises of how much competence you need to make it worthwhile. This, in turn, will probably depend on your goals (is nuance important or are you mainly interested in practicing your language skills?) and the nature of the material (e.g. user manual vs poetry).

So what are some of the factors which influence your decisions? And how have these changed over time? What would you do differently if you could?
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons


Re: Translation or original version?

Postby IpseDixit » 2015-03-12, 18:45

I realize it's kind of nonsensical but I used to believe that it was only worth reading works in another language as long as that was the original language. This worked fine with English but it's working much worse with French and Portuguese considering that my favourite genre is sci-fi/dystopia and the sci-fi/dystopian literary scene in these two languages looks very desolating. This has led me to re-consider my position about this issue and now I'm planning to read various English novels translated into Portuguese/French. And whether to choose [flag=]en[/flag][flag=]fr[/flag] or [flag=]pt[/flag] is completely arbitrary and I guess it depends a lot on my mood.

And personally I've never given too much importance to picking up on nuances, I've always been so excited about reading in a foreign language that I've never had this dilemma.

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Re: Translation or original version?

Postby Yasna » 2015-03-12, 20:03

If I know the language of the original, I will always choose the original. If the language of the original is a language I am fairly certain I will learn in the future, then I put off reading it until I learn that language. For all other cases, I make do with translations. When I was younger, I read a number of English novels in German, blinded by the excitement of reading in another language. But now the very idea of it seems nonsensical to me.

I love the idea and feeling of reading works in the original, in the author's own words. If it was feasible, I would do all my reading with original versions.
Ein Buch muß die Axt sein für das gefrorene Meer in uns. - Kafka

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Re: Translation or original version?

Postby vijayjohn » 2015-03-12, 20:48

I think I tend to prefer reading the original version, too. I remember having to read a lot of novels in translation in my final year of high school, and it felt so weird that I always tried to look for the original online and read that side-by-side with the translation. I guess I tend to not completely trust translations. If the author wrote something, then that's what they wrote, but if a translator writes it a certain way, who's to say whether that conveys what the author really meant or not?

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Re: Translation or original version?

Postby Fabiano » 2015-03-17, 0:23

I'd say I will only read a translation when I can't read the original text. Right now I'm reading an English translation of War and Peace and it's quite good.

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