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Translations

Pun Analysis 2: Are you hitting on me?

Hi everyone, and welcome back to another pun analysis! This week, I’m looking at a pun translation from a manga called Takane no Hana nara Ochitekoi! This is not a manga I’ve read or plan to ever read, but this pun was very useful for my thesis research. I’d like to show it to all of you, as well as my analysis on this pun.

In Japanese, this pun revolves around the word tsukiatte (付き合って), which is used by a student asking out his classmate, and means please go out with me. The girl, however, interprets this as a different meaning of tsukiatte (突き合って), which can mean something like please hit me or let’s hit each other. This is a homophonous pun, as the words used in the puns have different meanings and different spellings but share the pronunciation of tsukiatte.

The pun in Japanese

In the English translation, the translator translated both forms of tsukiatte (突き合って and 付き合って) according to the meaning the kanji give them, and not to the double meaning of the pronunciation of the word. This removed the pun, but the translator added a note explaining what the pun was in Japanese. This is what we call a Pun to Non-Pun translation, with usage of an editorial technique (in this case, a translator’s note to explain how the pun works in Japanese).

The pun in English

I would personally try to keep a pun in the translation, possibly using the English phrase “to hit on someone.” This still gives ambiguity if used correctly and also matches with the Japanese meanings of tsukiatte.

How would you translate this pun? Leave a comment and let me know! This post is a bit shorter than my usual ones, but these analyses are pretty short. I have more pun translations available, and I will analyze them all eventually, so check back regularly!

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Translations

Pun Analysis 1: Punk Bicycles

A few weeks ago, I promised to show some puns and their translations, and analyze them in a blog post. The past weeks have been busier than I expected, so I haven’t had the time to properly write for my blog, but I fully intend to keep that promise, so here’s the first pun analysis! This pun is from the Nintendo game Earthbound/Mother 2.

In the Japanese version of the game, the bicycle shop is called Panku (パンク), which can mean either punk or flat tire. This is a homophonous pun involving the double meaning of the word panku, combined with the fact that it is the name of a bicycle shop owned by a typical punk guy. The translators used a Pun > pun translation here, using a similar bicycle-related pun that also covers the meaning of the word punk.

The English translation for this bicycle shop is Punk-Sure. This is a pun in multiple ways. First of all, the name of the shop sounds almost identical to the word puncture, which is another possible translation of the word panku. This is a paronymous pun, as Punk-Sure and puncture have similar, but not identical spellings and pronunciations. Secondly, the name Punk-Sure involves the word punk, which again refers to the store’s owner. Lastly, going back to the word puncture, this is very closely related to the name of the shop in Japanese, as a puncture (Punk-sure) usually results in a flat tire (panku).

That’s all for this post! I’ll analyze more puns over the next couple of weeks, so check back regularly!

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Translations

How to translate: Puns part 2

Around two weeks ago, I wrote a post on translating puns, mainly focusing on the different categories and some strategies you can use while translating puns. That post was mentioned and used as a source by Nicholas Rossis here, and his post was reblogged multiple times. So, I’ve decided to elaborate on pun translation a bit more, and show some more strategies you can use. I will follow up on this with more posts, showing a pun that has been translated from Japanese to English and explaining the strategies used by the translators.

I will be using the following acronyms in this post:
ST: Source Text, the original text in its original language, and
TT: Target Text, the translated text.

Once again, I will make use of Dirk Delabastita’s work, which differentiates between significant or intended wordplay and non-significant or unintended wordplay. Unintended wordplay is, according to him, best omitted from the target text to prevent the text from looking clumsy, but intended wordplay and puns should be preserved in the translation.
These are the strategies he mentions, and the ones I will use when analyzing puns in upcoming posts:
• Pun → Pun translation,
• Pun → Non-pun translation,
• Pun → Zero translation,
• Pun → Related rhetoric,
• ST pun = TT pun,
• Non-pun → Pun translation,
• Zero → Pun translation, and
• Miscellaneous editorial techniques.

Pun → Pun translation involves replacing the ST pun with another pun in the TT in the same setting, but with different linguistic structure and wordplay. Pun → Non-pun translation involves translating the pun in a way that keeps one of the ambiguous meanings and discards the other.

Pun → Zero translation cannot be called a translation, since the part of the ST containing the pun is completely removed from the TT.

Pun → Related rhetoric is not a true translation, but the usage of another form of wordplay, like alliteration or metaphors, in the same setting as the pun. This still keeps some form of wordplay intact, albeit not as a pun.

ST pun = TT pun is a reproduction of the same pun, barely changed or edited. This can be possible because the SL and TL are very similar, as in the example he gives of the Disney movie The Aristocats. Due to the similarity of Dutch and English, the movie title The Aristocats
can simply be transcribed to Dutch as De Aristokatten. This is the most direct of the translation
options, but not possible in every case. If a pun uses loanwords from the language you are translating to, you might also be able to use this translation strategy.

Non-pun → Pun and Zero → Pun translations do not directly involve translating puns, but they create puns in the TT where there are none in the ST, possibly as a way to compensate for removing a pun earlier in the text. Miscellaneous editorial techniques that can beapplied are using footnotes and comments to explain that there was a pun in the ST and why it was omitted.

Using these translation strategies as a guideline, I believe that there is an appropriate translation for almost any pun, and I will show how these strategies are employed by translators in my next few posts. I wrote about pun translation from Japanese to English for my BA thesis, so I will be using the sources and examples I researched for that as a basis for the posts. I hope you’re all looking forward to it as much as I do! And in the meantime, if you want to practice translating puns, go to the Pun Generator and try translating those puns!

Sources

Delabastita, Dirk, and André Lefevere. 1996. Wordplay and Translation: Special Issue, Dedicated to the Memory of André Lefevere (1945-1996). Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

Categories
Translations

How to translate: Puns

Puns have always intrigued me. The idea of using similar or identical words to create a humorous sentence based on the way it’s interpreted is something I have always wanted to learn more about, as well as the factors that make up a pun. Making puns has become a sort of game for me. If I’m in a light-hearted conversation or playing a game with my friends, I try to make puns regularly in different languages, depending on the friends I’m with. If I’m with friends who speak Dutch and English, I’ll make puns using Dutch and English. If I’m with friends who also speak Japanese, I’ll pun in Japanese as well. I believe that being able to pun and use wordplay in a language is proof of your skill in and knowledge of that language. After all, for a pun to work, you need to create some sort of ambiguity; a situation that can be interpreted in multiple ways. A good example of this is “The first scientists who studied for were mistified.” This pun works because of ambiguity on multiple levels, which I will explain more about later.

Puns can be divided into four categories of ambiguity, according to Dirk Delabastita (1996). These categories are homonymy, homophony, homography, and paronymy, each of which is better suited to different forms of communication.

CategoryDefinitionExample
Homo-nymyA pun where a word
with multiple meanings
is used to give multiple
meanings at once.
A hard-boiled egg in the morning
is hard to beat.
Homo-phonyA pun using two words
that sound identical, but
have different spellings.
‘Mine is a long and a sad tale! said the
Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.
‘It is a long tail, certainly,’ said Alice, looking
down with wonder at the Mouse’s tail; ‘but why
do you call it sad?’
Homo-graphyA pun using a word with
multiple meanings, but
different pronunciations
for those meanings
You can tune a guitar, but you
can’t tuna fish. Unless you play
bass.
Paro-nymyA pun using two words with
similar, but not
identical spellings and
pronunciations.
A skunk fell into a river
and stank to the bottom

Translating puns can cause several difficulties because most puns are specific to their own language. A pun that works in Dutch most likely won’t work in English and the other way around. Exceptions to this are puns using loanwords from the language you’re translating to, but realistically, you won’t see many of those.
When translating puns, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind. We need to know where the ambiguity lies and how it’s used in the source language. We also need to keep the topic of the dialogue or text in mind, as a pun about bananas in a text about monkeys makes sense, but a pun about bananas in a text about fish won’t work at all. Thirdly, we can’t use overly complicated puns. A pun should add humour to a sentence, without becoming the focal point of said sentence. This means that the puns need to be easy to understand and make sense to the reader. Like every translation, we need to keep in mind what we’re translating for. If it’s a book, we can use more words to get our pun across, but in the case of subtitling, we have a limited amount of time and space to make the pun. The most important factor is also the most straight-forward one: Don’t try too hard. If you can use a pun in the translation without too much effort, that’s great! If you can’t, don’t worry about it. Sometimes the situation just doesn’t work with a pun in your translation, so then just leave it out, or compensate by adding a small pun later in the translation.

Pun translation is, to me, one of the most difficult parts of translating media, but it’s also the most fun part. There are only a few other situations in which you get to go so deep into the language, and you’re guaranteed to learn something new every time. Next week I’ll show some pun translations from Japanese to English and discuss them using the things I’ve explained today, so look forward to that!

Sources

Delabastita, Dirk, and André Lefevere. 1996. Wordplay and Translation: Special Issue, Dedicated to the Memory of André Lefevere (1945-1996). Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’\s Adventures in Wonderland

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Translations

What’s in a Name, Part 3: Deeper Down Under

Welcome back to What’s in a Name, where we look at how to translate animal names! Last time, we started translating some deadly infamous Australian animals in a travelogue, and took care of the funnel web spider (Atrax robustus) and box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri). Today, we’re looking at the remaining three species mentioned in the fragment: The blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish. As a reminder, the translation brief for this fragment was that we’re translating a travelogue about Australia from English to Dutch for a general audience. The fragment was as follows:

Five of its creatures—the funnel-web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish—are the most lethal of their type in the world.1

Bryson, B. (2000). Down under. London: Doubleday.

All animals mentioned in this fragment are venomous and can pose a real danger to a person, so it’s important to translate the animal names as accurately as possible within the limitations set to us by the client. As I mentioned in the previous part, this fragment was used in a class assignment, so we don’t have any limitations besides the obvious ones (don’t turn one sentence into a whole paragraph, for example) and the ones given in the translation brief. So lets get started with what might be the easiest animal in this fragment to translate!

Blue-ringed octopus

The blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena genus) is a name that refers to a genus of highly venomous octopuses, all known for their bright blue and black rings. I am not a fan of using general terms or genus names in a translation, as I like to be specific, but this is one of the cases where I believe translating with the general term is best. Blue-ringed octopuses are well known around the world, and finding a specific species to translate can make the text more confusing. Most Dutch people know the Dutch name for this genus, blauwring-octopus, so this is the best translation to use here.

Paralysis tick

The Australian paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is a species of tick found along the coast of eastern Australia, and is one of the few venomous tick species. This should make translating easier, as we don’t have to worry about the specifics when it comes to name translation, as we’ve seen with the animals I wrote about in the previous article on Down Under. All we have to do is find the proper Dutch name for this animal, and that’s it. Simple, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as you’d expect. There’s no commonly used Dutch name for I. holocyclus, which means we have to do this another way. The method I chose here is to write down every Dutch name for I. holocyclus I can find, then do a Google search for all of them, and see how many results I get for each name.

Dutch nameAmount of search results
Australische verlamming teek9
Australische verlammingsteek75
Australische verlammende teek26

This clearly shows that the name Australische verlammingsteek gives the most results, so that’s the translation we should go with. This way, readers who want to do their own research can find enough information on the animal.

Stonefish

The name stonefish refers to the genus Synanceia, which is a genus of venomous fish found in the Indian and Pacific Ocean. The species most commonly found in Australia is S. horrida, or the estuarine stonefish. After a bit of research, I found out that this fish is known in Dutch as the wrattensteenvis, so there’s not much to think about in regards to this translation. The only thing to consider is whether or not we want to use the Dutch genus name, steenvis, or the species name, wrattensteenvis. Wrattensteenvis is the more specific translation, which I have a preference for, but it might be too specific for the general audience, which means steenvis might be the best option here. In the end, it depends on what the client wants and what you judge as best for the translation.

That’s all for this part of What’s in a Name, and the last article on Down Under and translating Australian animal names! Translating animal names is not something that pops up too often, so it might be while before I can write another article like this, but there are still plenty of topics to write about, so look forward to a new article soon!

Sources

1Bryson, B. (2000). Down under. London: Doubleday.
Featured image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blue-ringed-octopus.jpg

Categories
Translations

How to translate: Venomous and Poisonous

When I started learning English, two words always confused me, due to my textbook not explaining the difference. Those words were, as you might have guessed, poisonous and venomous. In my textbook, it said that they both mean giftig in Dutch, which gave me the impression that they were interchangeable. One time, I gave a presentation in English class and said something along the lines of “a venomous frog,” which resulted in a weird look from my teacher, who explained to me that it’s supposed to be “a poisonous frog” and “a venomous snake.” But 14-year-old me wasn’t satisfied yet. I have always had a slight interest in poisonous and venomous animals, and I wanted to know why that distinction mattered. What makes a snake venomous and a frog poisonous? And what about scorpions? Or spiders? Eventually, I stumbled across an image on the internet that said “If it bites you and you die, it’s venomous. If you bite it and you die, it’s poisonous.” To many of the people reading this, it all sounds so simple, but it was confusing to me back then, and this single sentence helped me understand the distinction better.

If we want to translate the words poisonous and venomous, we need to be clear on the difference in meaning. A venomous animal uses fangs, stingers, spines, or other body parts to inject a toxin in a prey or attacker. Some examples are cobras, hornets, box jellyfish (which I’ve written something about in a different post), and the platypus, one of the few venomous mammals. A poisonous animal uses toxins as a way to not get eaten by predators. Some examples of poisonous animals are poison dart frogs, the infamous fugu, and the pitohui, one of the few poisonous birds. So to give a concise definition:
Poisonous: Secretes toxins through its skin or a specialized gland to avoid being eaten.
Venomous: Injects toxins into a wound, in order to kill/capture prey and fend off attackers.

Out of all languages I’m familiar with (this doesn’t mean I speak all of them fluently of course), English is the only language making the distinction between poisonous and venomous. Dutch, German, Japanese, and Hindi all have a single word which means both poisonous and venomous.

LanguageMeaning
DutchGiftig
GermanGiftig
Japanese毒々しい (dokudokushii)
Hindiविषैला (vishailaa)

So now that we’ve established the definitions of the words poisonous and venomous, as well as their counterparts in other languages, how are we going to translate it? In most cases, the solution is quite simple: just use the words I’ve given above. Most sentences and texts talking about venomous and poisonous animals will most likely not focus on the distinction between the two terms, so there’s no reason to make this more difficult for yourself. But if you ask me, thinking about translation is more fun when it comes to the rare corner-cases that you barely ever see, so let’s make one up! Let’s say we have a text fragment that looks like this, with a translation brief that specifically wants us to keep the distinction:

Some frogs are poisonous, while some snakes are venomous.

As you can see, translating this using the words in the above table gives us a bad translation. Let’s look at the Dutch translation for this sentence, as that is the language I’m most comfortable translating to. The sentence would look somewhat like this: “Sommige kikkers zijn giftig, maar sommige slangen zijn giftig.” Do you see the issue? We’re repeating the same adjective, even though there’s supposed to be a distinction between the two, and the meaning of the Dutch word giftig doesn’t allow for that distinction to be made. What are our options? We can’t just make up two new words that mean poisonous and venomous respectively, try to get them printed in the Dutch dictionaries, and expect people to use and understand them. That’s now how language works, so we need another method to make our target audience understand the distinction. Making these distinctions the core of our translation is a good option here. There are a few ways that we can differentiate between venomous and poisonous, which I will explain next.

The first way to differentiate the two terms is with the method of delivery. A poisonous animal does not need a specialized delivery method, as the goal of a poisonous animal isn’t to poison something, but to deter predators from eating it. Venomous animals, on the other hand, do have specialized delivery methods for their venom. Snakes have fangs, scorpions have stingers, and stonefish have spines. In other words, venomous animals actively inject venom into other organisms, and poisonous animals passively poison other organisms when they’re eaten. Using this method, our translation looks like this: “Sommige kikkers zijn passief giftig, maar sommige slangen zijn actief giftig.” This doesn’t quite work as a sentence, so we need to do some retooling. Depending on how much space we have, we can edit our translation to explain the distinction a bit more, for example: “Kikkers scheiden passief gif af, maar slangen moeten hun gif actief injecteren.” This still isn’t a sentence I would use in the final translation, but since this is a hypothetical situation, that’s not important. The most important thing here is to give a clear distinction between a poisonous animal and a venomous animal, which you can do by placing focus on the difference in delivery.

Placing focus on the different delivery systems can also be done in another way. Instead of looking at active and passive delivery of toxins, we can look at the body parts used to deliver them. Many poisonous animals have toxins that don’t need to enter the body through the bloodstream, but enter through the skin and digestive system, so they don’t need specialized fangs, stingers, or barbs. Dart frogs, for example, secrete their toxins through their skin, and show their toxicity using their bright colours (this is called aposematism). Venomous animals have specialized body parts to inject their venom into their victim’s bloodstream, such as fangs, stingers, or barbs. So if we focus on that difference, we can translate the sentence like this: “Giftige kikkers scheiden hun gif af door hun huid, maar giftige slangen moeten hun gif in hun prooi bijten.” The issue with this sentence is that it only shows the difference between frogs and snakes, and not necessarily between all poisonous and venomous animals. There are many poisonous animals (including the fugu) that have their poison concentrated inside of their bodies instead of on the skin, and not all venomous animals use bites to inject venom. Of course, if the text you’re translating is only about frogs and snakes, then this would be a great way to show the differences between the two, but it’s not quite right for describing the general differences between poisonous and venomous animals.

Another way to differentiate poisonous and venomous animals is with the way they use their toxins. Poisonous animals mainly use their poison defensively to avoid being eaten, while venomous animals use their toxins offensively, to capture and kill prey or fend off attackers. If we use this in translation, we get a sentence like “Kikkers gebruiken hun gif defensief, maar slangen gebruiken hun gif offensief.” This clearly shows the difference between poison and venom, while making it understandable for the readers. I personally prefer this translation over the others, as it clearly explains the difference in a concise manner and doesn’t cause much confusion.

That’s all I have to say for now about the words poisonous and venomous, and how to translate them to a language that doesn’t naturally make that distinction. I have one last question to think about with regards to this translation: there is a snake that’s both poisonous and venomous (the Rhabdophis keelback snake), and I’m curious how you would translate that in a text if you need to explain this. If the sentence to translate is “Some snakes are both venomous and poisonous,” how would you do this? Feel free to let me know!

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Translations

What’s in a Name, Part 2: Down Under

Welcome back to What’s in a Name, where we look at how to translate animal names! Last time, we discussed what to do with turtles and tortoises, but this time we’re looking at the more dangerous side of wildlife; we’re talking about deadly animals in Australia. This fragment is from an assignment my best friend and her classmates had to do for class, and she went to me for help with translating the animal names. The sentence I’ve chosen to analyze here contains multiple animal names that can cause problems in the translation process. We’ll look at what to do if an animal doesn’t have a name in your target language, so-called ‘false friends’ in animal name translation, and another discussion on when to use generic animal names over species names. The sentence itself lends itself to translation well, so I will only discuss the animal name translation for the five species mentioned. This fragment will require a lot of analysis, so I will split this article up into two parts because I don’t want to write a huge wall of text.

Text analysis and translation (English to Dutch)

Text fragment:

Five of its creatures—the funnel-web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish—are the most lethal of their type in the world.1

Bryson, B. (2000). Down under. London: Doubleday.

Translation brief: You’re translating a travelogue on Australia to Dutch for a general audience.

Five animal species are mentioned in this fragment, but not all are mentioned in the same way. The blue-ringed octopus and paralysis tick are specific species, the box jellyfish and stonefish are generic names encompassing a whole class and genus respectively. The funnel-web spider is a generic name that is used here as a reference to a specific species, the Australian funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus). I will discuss each of these species separately and show the way I would translate the animal name, but I won’t show the translated sentence, as it’s a simple sentence with the only difficulties being the animal names.

Funnel web spider

The first species mentioned is the funnel-web spider, which, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, refers to the Australian funnel-web spider. This is a good example of a so-called ‘false friend’ that I fell for the first time I saw this fragment (and I’m not the only one making this mistake). In translation, a false friend is a word that looks a lot like a word in a different language but means something else. An example would be the German Handy, meaning cell phone, compared to the English handy. The Dutch word for spider is spin, and the Dutch word for funnel is trechter. Knowing that we have the name trechterspin in Dutch, I decided I’d translate it like that and call it a day. But, when I did some further research, I found out that I had mentioned a completely different family of spiders. The Australian funnel-web spider refers to a group of spiders belonging to the family Hexathelidae, with Atrax robustus and Hadronyche modesta being the most well-known, while the Dutch word trechterspin refers to the family Agalenidae, which consists not of funnel-web spiders, but funnel weaver spiders.
Now, you might not see this as an issue, but if you translate it as trechterspin and a reader of the translation then decides to look up some information would find out that these spiders can be found all over the world, including in the Netherlands. So imagine you don’t know much about animals, see the name of a deadly animal in a book, look it up, and find out it lives in your country. Many people would (rightfully so) not enjoy that thought. Or what if someone who happens to know a lot about animals would read this fragment? The moment they look up the animal you mentioned, they would find out you picked the wrong name.
So if trechterspin isn’t an option, what should we do? The answer is simple: research until you find an option. Go on Google, Wikipedia, get an encyclopedia, anything works if it gets you the answer. After some research, I found the name Australische tunnelwebspin, which literally translates to Australian tunnel-web spider, named after the distinctive shape of its web. Another translation offered was the one I dismissed earlier, Australische trechterspin, which surprised me. I am still of the opinion that this translation can cause confusion in readers, and as someone with a love for biology, I try to avoid using incorrect nomenclature wherever possible.
The translation I would use in this case is Australische tunnelwebspin, as this one can only refer to a single species, while the word trechterspin can cause confusion and technically refers to the wrong family of organisms.

Box jellyfish

The second species mentioned in the fragment is the box jellyfish. The name box jellyfish refers to the class of organisms known as Cubozoa. Some of the notorious species of box jellyfish are the sea wasp (Chironex fleckeri) and several species known as the irukandji jellyfish. Interestingly enough, even though these are all known as box jellyfish, the one most referred to by the name box jellyfish is the sea wasp (C. fleckeri)2. This leaves us with two options in the translation: Do we keep the general term box jellyfish just to be on the safe side; or do we use the name sea wasp as a base for our translation?
Using the general term box jellyfish as a base for our Dutch translation gives us the term kubuskwal, which is the general Dutch term for the family of Cubozoa. This term has the advantage of encompassing all species of box jellyfish, including the aforementioned irukandji. It works as a catch-all term, but the fragment itself doesn’t lend itself to that translation. “Five of its creatures” means you can’t just use a general term like that, as it describes five specific creatures, not groups of creatures.
The other option for translation is using the species name sea wasp as a base, resulting in the Dutch translation zeewesp. This is a specific translation referring only to the species C. fleckeri, which is the best-known species of box jellyfish in Australia, and the most venomous jellyfish in the world. Using this translation allows the reader to do their research on this animal, and fits better in the sentence, which is about specific creatures.
Looking at Dutch media, both terms are used interchangeably. Some media prefer the term kubuskwal, while others prefer zeewesp. In other situations, looking at the most common term used by media in the target language can offer some good insights, but that is not the case here. Since the media use both terms, in the end, the decision lies with us, the translator. Do we go for the general term or the specific one? We can always ask the client what they think, and this should often be done in situations like this because your translation needs to match the client’s expectations. Since this was an assignment for a class, we don’t have the luxury of asking the client, so I would personally use the translation zeewesp, because it is a more specific translation that is more fitting for Australia on its own, whereas kubuskwal can apply to the entire class of Cubozoa, which are found around the world.

That’s all for the first half of this article! Next time I’ll discuss the remaining three species mentioned in this fragment: the blue-ringed octopus, the paralysis tick, and the stonefish!

Sources

1 Bryson, B. (2000). Down under. London: Doubleday.
2 https://www.barrierreefaustralia.com/info/reef-dangers/box-jellyfish/
Featured image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victorian_funnelweb02.jpg

Categories
Translations

What’s in a Name, Part 1: Turtle Troubles

As someone with a passion for zoology and translation, translating animal names is something I often think about. I never saw translating animal names as a big challenge, since most animals have a proper name in the languages you work with (Dutch, Japanese and English, in my case), and even if that’s not the case, one can always refer to the scientific name and a literal translation of the English name. Crested Gecko in English can easily be translated to Wimpergekko in Dutch and オウカンミカドヤモリ Oukan Mikado Yamori in Japanese, or if you want to make sure your target audience understands which species you’re talking about, the scientific name Correlophus Ciliatus clears all doubt. But what do you do if your source text uses a name that’s too general, or too specific? I will give two examples of animal name translation that stuck with me, and show my thought process as I work through translating these parts. I will discuss one text fragment today, and another in a week (maybe sooner, I don’t have a set writing schedule yet). If you disagree with my translations or arguments, feel free to leave a comment, I’m always open to civil discussion!

Text analysis and translation (Dutch to English)

Text fragment:

Schildpadden zijn dieren die op het land, maar ook in het water leven. We kunnen schildpadden onderverdelen in groepen: landschildpadden, moerasschildpadden, en zeeschildpadden.

Translation brief: This is from a presentation for British primary school students

The key point in this translation to me is that it’s for British primary school students. This means that we need to translate into British English, which is where the problems begin. The Dutch word schildpad is a general term, encompassing tortoises, terrapins, and sea turtles. In American English, the word turtle is similar to the Dutch schildpad, meaning it can be used to describe any of the species in the order Chelonia. In British English, however, the word turtle describes only the marine and freshwater turtles. The all-encompassing term for tortoises and turtles in British English is Chelonian. So, translating the first sentence as “Turtles are animals that can live on land and in the water.” would not work. The sentence would be factually correct because turtles can, in fact, move on land and survive there for a while, but it would not work because this sentence implies that this sentence is only about aquatic turtles, and not about tortoises. Trying this on the second sentence would result in “Turtles can be divided into three groups: tortoises, terrapins, and turtles.” This looks weird in British English because a turtle can only be aquatic, so setting tortoises as a group of turtles is impossible. This means that we can’t use the word turtles as the translation here, so that leaves chelonian as an option.
This raises another issue. Is the word chelonian common enough to be used for primary school students? The answer is obviously no, many adults won’t have heard of the word chelonian, so I doubt many primary school students know the word. Translating the first sentence as “Chelonians are animals that can live on land and in the water.” doesn’t work if the students don’t know what a chelonian is in the first place. For the second sentence, however, using chelonian might work: “Chelonians can be divided into three groups: tortoises, terrapins, and turtles.” This is a good sentence, all it needs is an introduction of the word chelonian and it could work. But how do we introduce the word chelonian in the text without over-complicating it?

One option is to incorporate it in the previous sentence. The text would then be something like this: “Turtles are part of a group of animals called Chelonians, which can live on land and in water. Chelonians can be divided into three groups: tortoises, terrapins, and turtles.” These sentences are short and use simple grammar, which makes them easily understood by primary school students of all ages while avoiding any factual inaccuracies related to chelonians.
Another option is to start the text with an introduction on chelonians. This would move the second sentence of this text fragment to the beginning, starting the text with “Turtles, tortoises, and terrapins all belong to a group of animals called Chelonians.” This provides a clear explanation from the start, making it easier to use the term chelonians in other parts of the text where necessary.

Now that we’ve solved the Chelonian conundrum, there are a few more things to do before we can finish this translation as a first draft. First, we need to figure out how to continue from here. Do we replace every general mention of turtle with chelonian? This would be the most accurate option, but we have to keep our target audience, primary school students, in mind. Do children really want to constantly hear the word chelonian in a presentation? I can imagine that they’ll get bored with the word, or forget what exactly a chelonian is.
However, using turtle instead of chelonian goes against the narrative we’ve established. In British English, all turtles are chelonians, but not all chelonians are turtles, so blindly using turtle means we are directly contradicting ourselves on top of using incorrect language. Would primary school students mind if we used turtle for the rest of the text? Probably not, but using it as a general term after establishing the term chelonian will most likely only add to the confusion.
The solution I’ve gone for is to add a small ‘disclaimer’ in the text, saying that, while chelonian is the technically correct term, we will use turtle when we refer to them, and use the specific terms of tortoise, terrapin (or freshwater turtle), and sea turtle. This clears up the confusion over the term turtle, explains what a chelonian is for the students who might be interested, and allows us to put specific names for certain facts that only apply to one of the three groups of chelonians. This leaves us with a first draft that looks like this:

Turtles are part of a group of animals called Chelonians, which can live on land and in the water. Chelonians can be divided into three groups: tortoises, terrapins (or freshwater turtles), and sea turtles. From now on, when we say turtle, we actually mean chelonian, but turtle is a lot easier to say.

Keep in mind that this is only a first draft, and will most likely go through many revisions before the finished product, but at least we have a base to work off of, and we can send this draft to the client for approval and further comments.

That does it for the first part on animal name translation! Feel free to leave a comment with your insights if you agree or disagree with me, and I’ll try my best to reply to you. The next part will involve some well-known Australian animals, including the infamous box jellyfish (Chironex Fleckeri).

Featured image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Green_turtle_John_Pennekamp.jpg