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A-Z of Translation – the letter O:

Our choice of entry for the letter O shows that translation can sometimes involve conflict:


Opposition – Strange but true: clients will not always accept that perfectly standard usage in another language is correct, simply because it clashes with the rules of their own language or is inconsistent with their beliefs about the language in question. It could be something relatively minor – like the mandatory space before an exclamation mark, question mark, colon and various other punctuation marks in French – or something more major, like an inability to understand that a word similar to one in their own language has a quite different meaning and is indeed appropriate.

Unfortunately, this kind of problem sometimes only emerges when a translated document has been printed, with things that were perceived as “wrong” having been carefully “corrected”. To be fair, Tolkien apparently had problems with printers replacing his deliberate use of “dwarves” with the more common plural form “dwarfs”, as well as changing “elvish” and “elven” to “elfish” and “elfen”, respectively (which must have involved an awful lot of changes in a book the size of The Lord of the Rings…). But it’s still disappointing and unnecessary.

There is no easy solution, but being allowed to proofread a document before it goes to print at least makes it possible to highlight any issues.

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