5

Example question I had in mind:

In this answer edit, someone changed my translation of a word "арбалет" from "arbalest" to "crossbow".

In the context of translating the book ("Hard to be a God, by Strugatsky brothers), which of the two English terms is more appropriate?

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  • Are any of the questions tagged translation similar to what you want to ask?
    – Shokhet
    Apr 26 '17 at 12:58
  • @Shokhet - I don't think so. This is more of "how do I translate this specific word/passage" ; NOT about existing translation or process of translation.
    – DVK
    Apr 26 '17 at 13:00
  • Okay. I skimmed the question list; I think the closest we have at the moment may be literature.stackexchange.com/q/2367/481 (similar, not same). Though we do have a couple of questions about the process (without specifics), like literature.stackexchange.com/q/40/481 (open) and literature.stackexchange.com/q/163/481 (closed).
    – Shokhet
    Apr 26 '17 at 13:03
  • See also literature.stackexchange.com/q/1182/481 (specific word, open). I suspect that questions like yours are on topic, but I'm not 100% sure. Care to try trial by fire?
    – Shokhet
    Apr 26 '17 at 13:07
  • @Shokhet - i hate being VTCed :( So I'd rather not :(
    – DVK
    Apr 26 '17 at 13:12
  • Fair enough. Guess I'll just have to wait along with you to see what everyone else thinks.
    – Shokhet
    Apr 26 '17 at 13:17
  • 2
    Absolutely. Questions about why a translator used certain words should be 100% on topic: these questions are interesting, they really help people get at the meaning of a passage, the questions clearly are about literature, and there's no reason why they shouldn't be on-topic, if not highly encouraged.
    – user111
    Apr 26 '17 at 14:27
  • 2
    I guess one restriction we should make is that this site isn't a translation service. So if you're asking about a book that hasn't been translated yet (we'll define translation as any complete translation by anybody), then we aren't going to translate passages of the book for you.
    – user111
    Apr 26 '17 at 14:30
  • 1
    Unintentional test case?
    – Shokhet
    Apr 26 '17 at 20:03
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I'm not entirely sure I agree with BESW on this one. The process of translation can be pretty important for understanding the printed word. Translations typically aren't trying to create new literature, but are instead trying to preserve the meaning of existing language in new literature. That can be difficult when dealing with language barriers, but the decisions made, and the process itself, deeply affect the way we read books. I'd suggest a slight modification of this test:

If the question involves a specific text: does the question on translation involves an understanding of the text itself? If so, it's on topic here. If not, perhaps it should be asked on a language site.

If not, is the question targeted towards thinking about books as a whole?

The decision-making process for translators is complicated and convoluted at times. That process ultimately feeds back into how we can or should read the text. Without being able the ask about why translators chose what they did, we'd be missing an incredibly important face of the analysis discussion.

4

Sure.

In fact, we already have fourteen questions, including some (especially the first of the list below) which seem quite similar in form to your proposed question:

Questions about its translations can increase the appreciation of a work of literature: why was a particular word or phrase translated in a particular way, why were certain aspects changed in a particular translation, does the translation of a particular passage preserve the original meaning, ... As Hamlet put it in comments:

Absolutely. Questions about why a translator used certain words should be 100% on topic: these questions are interesting, they really help people get at the meaning of a passage, the questions clearly are about literature, and there's no reason why they shouldn't be on-topic, if not highly encouraged.

I guess one restriction we should make is that this site isn't a translation service. So if you're asking about a book that hasn't been translated yet (we'll define translation as any complete translation by anybody), then we aren't going to translate passages of the book for you.

2

It might be worth laying out some guidelines for what good translation questions and bad translation questions look like.

A bad translation question would simply give two translated passages and ask which one is better or more correct.

A good translation question would give two translated passages, and then ask how differences in translation impact the meaning of the text.

The second question is much more interesting and much more answerable compared to the first.

1

Questions about reading and understanding translated works would be on topic; questions about translating works would probably be better in writers.se, one of the English Stacks, or another appropriate language Stack. Literature.se is not a place for questions which require expertise on creating literature; it's for questions about existing works.

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  • What if it's not a complete translation as a work but someone who translated something (as was the case in my example question)
    – DVK
    Apr 26 '17 at 14:36

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