The Linguist

The Linguist 54,5

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Page 14 of 35 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER The Linguist 15 FEATURES implied knowledge must be made explicit. Such glosses do not actually add to the original, they simply compensate for gaps, raising English readers' knowledge to that of their German counterparts. There are various methods of doing this: retaining the German term along with a translation (with one or the other in parentheses); adding a parenthetical explanation; expanding the main text to include a brief explanation (possibly set within commas or dashes); or adding a footnote or glossary entry. Unless it occurs within a direct quote, I usually prefer an expansion that does not interrupt the reading flow, rather than a parenthetical translator's note. Here is an example from a general readership book set in Nazi Germany: "the Volkssturm, a territorial militia of older men and young boys unsuited for regular military service". In the exhibition on the press in Nazi Germany, some terms could be glossed as an appositive or using parentheses: e.g. "Brownshirts, the Nazi storm troopers (SA)"; "'national comrades' (Volksgenossen)". Others, such as Das Blaue Buch, required a more extensive explanation: The popular author Erich Kästner (1899- 1974) remained in Germany after 1933 even though he was banned from publishing his work. In his 'blue book' (Das Blaue Buch, his war diary published posthumously) he secretly made critical notes about everyday life in the Third Reich. Another option is to add a translator's note. When translating the memoirs of the now deceased German-Jewish mathematician Abraham Fraenkel, for instance, I was asked to elucidate even aspects that were unclear in the original German edition. The added footnotes required independent research: he… became a settler in the 'German egg village'* of Ramot Hashavim. Footnote: *Ramot Hashavim was founded by German immigrants, largely academics without university positions and lacking agricultural skills, who thus started chicken farms. TO TRANSLATE OR NOT? Puns and wordplays are often lost in translation. Whereas novels can use a suitable alternative, in historical texts accuracy and detail are a priority, necessitating a gloss. Here the author Fraenkel provided an adequate parenthetical explanation for German readers; the footnote was added for an English-speaking audience: he said that contemporary Berlin philosophy needed to be eliminated 'mit Stumpf und Riehl'* (Stumpf and Riehl were two philosophy professors at the University of Berlin). Footnote: *This is a pun on the German idiom: to eliminate something 'mit Stumpf und Stiel' (root and branch). Translating names of organisations can be problematic, as the name is often both a description (which would be translated) and a proper name (which could be retained). An organisation's website might use its preferred translation, but a web search can even reveal multiple 'official' translations, making it difficult to determine the most common or most appropriate name in English. Pitfalls can be avoided by also mentioning the German original or retaining the German acronym. The translation of titles and names of rulers also depends on the type of text (academic vs. general), the target audience, and the publisher's preferences. For example, when would an emperor be called a Kaiser? When does Friedrich become Frederick? And which would you choose in what context: Karl der Grosse, Charlemagne, Charles the Great, Charles I or King of the Franks; and Holy Roman Emperor or Imperator Romanorum? The context and time period of the subject matter itself must also be considered. Place names often change with the geopolitical situation, so depending on the time period of a historical text, one must decide, for example, if German Lemberg should be kept or translated as Lwów (Polish), Lviv (Ukrainian) or Lvov (Russian). Also time- and context- dependent, the German Bürger can be burghers, bourgeois, members of the middle class, citizens or townspeople. Particularly within a Nazi context, Volk and the attributive form völkisch take on semantics other than simply 'nation' or 'people', so they are sometimes rendered in English to denote the Nazis' intended ethnic or racial connotation as 'national community' (with quotation marks) or by retaining the German. Apparently minor differences can also have substantial implications. Thus, while Gefängnis and Zuchthaus are often both translated as 'prison', in some historical contexts the distinction that the Zuchthaus involves penal servitude or hard labour is significant. All of these decisions demand the informed judgment of a translator, shaped in part by insights gleaned through research and immersion in the subject. Although I am neither a historian nor an expert in the field, I have the responsibility to speak in the author's voice, transporting the text to the target language. And the publisher needs me to offer a link back to the content and context of the source text. A translator thus does not only simply translate words, but acts as a linguistic mediator across history and cultures. RE-SOURCING: Catalogue for the 'Press as an Instrument of Nazi Power' exhibition at the Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin

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