Using translations of books to help understanding

sterling   Wed May 30, 2007 3:33 pm GMT
Has anyone out there used translations of books to help them understand what they're reading? (For example, having your native language version of Harry Potter next to the English version.) Or else using "parallel texts" which lists the book or story on one side with the translation on the facing page.

The antimoon guys like online dictionaries, but the translation (usually) gives you a more complete understanding in context. Or does it hurt your English concentration to keep switching back to a translation?
gringito   Thu May 31, 2007 4:58 pm GMT
I've tried it with Spanish and English versions of a novel side by side. After going through the Spanish--laboriously--with a dictionary, I scanned the English, which often clarified the meaning. (Some of the translations, though, were extremely loose--the translator turned an ethnic Anglo into a Pakistani, for no apparent reason.)

I didn't try it long enough to judge the full benefit. Has anyone given this method a try?
edo   Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:04 am GMT
I've tried parallel texts for a while, but was worried that I'd be looking at the translation more than the original. Maybe I should have kept at it. It would be interesting to see if someone else has used this method consistently, given that you see a whole sentence translated, not just a word.
Guest   Sun Jun 10, 2007 8:21 am GMT
I try to avoid reading translations because they often mess with the purity of the original work.
furrykef   Sun Jun 10, 2007 12:26 pm GMT
The point isn't purity, though, it's understanding.
Uriel   Sun Jun 10, 2007 9:12 pm GMT
The problem is going to be in how accurate your translation is. There are some phrases or nuances that just aren't going to be done justice or come through in the translated version. So it's probably A tool, but until you get to the point where you can really read them side by side, you won't know really how closely they match.
Guest   Sun Jun 10, 2007 9:56 pm GMT
<<The point isn't purity, though, it's understanding.>>

How do you know that what you're "understanding" in the translated version is really what the original author intended? For all you know, they could be putting their own spin on the translated phrases based on their own possibly flawed interpretations.
edo   Mon Jun 11, 2007 2:07 am GMT
Why is the using a dictionary, with your own non-native, less-than-perfect understanding of the language and nuances, better than a professional translation?
Skippy   Mon Jun 11, 2007 2:16 am GMT
does anyone know where i could find texts in like ancient greek? latin doesn't seem to be too difficult.
Guest   Mon Jun 11, 2007 5:44 am GMT
<<Why is the using a dictionary, with your own non-native, less-than-perfect understanding of the language and nuances, better than a professional translation?>>

Because professional translators often don't have much understanding themselves.
Uriel   Mon Jun 11, 2007 5:58 am GMT
I've certainly read plenty of stories and books that were translated from the original language, and I would imagine that most translators try to convey the mood and flavor and the basic gist of what the original author intended -- keeping as much to the original as possible, but also making linguistic decisions along the way to capture the right nuances. If there are idioms that don't make sense in translation or sayings that wouldn't be known to a foreign audience, they have to make some choices there. It's not always going to just be a word-for-word translation, and you may be at the mercy of their personal interpretation. But hey, furrykef and I might read the same English text and get two different interpretations out of it, too!

Most translators actually ARE pretty good, and do try hard to be accurate to both the letter of the text and the spirit, which isn't always an easy balancing act. So I can't be too critical of them -- it's an art unto itself.