Dr Bittner Business English

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Presenting you the most interesting translation solutions


Why Like-Blog? Now, first of all, this blog is a blog that you should like (and read regularly) – at least, if you are interested in translation. Then, the topic discussed here is one in which the meaningful likeness between a text and its translation in the language pair English-German plays a key role. On this page, I will take a close look at some interesting translation solutions that I have come across in the course of my work as a translator and translation scholar.

A translation solution is only as good as the arguments that support it. This means that any translation criticism, whether positive or negative, needs to be justified. The quality of a translation solution shows only when we compare it to other possible translation solutions in a given translation situation. Therefore, a translation critic should not only say why a translation solution is bad, but also demonstrate what a better solution might look like. I will try to stick to these principles of translation criticism. So if you have any questions regarding my line of argument or if you disagree, please, let me know your opinion by phone at +49 4171 6086525 or by e-mail to bittner@businessenglish-hamburg.de. So much for the introduction. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this blog!

Inflating tyres (October 2019)

Unexpected connotations can obstruct reading, even if the meaning is obvious. If you stumble over such a connotation when evaluating a translated text, you should check whether the original passage also makes you stumble and whether this stumbling is intended. If it is intended in the original, the translator would do well to use a corresponding obstruction – provided that this procedure is in line with the purpose of the translation. The example discussed in this blog post does not have a stumbling block.

In the article “America’s Untapped Energy Resource: Boosting Efficiency” by Michael Grunwald in TIME Magazine of 31 December 2008, we read: “President-elect Barack Obama noted on the campaign trail that if we all just properly inflated our tires and maintained our engines, we could save as much oil now as new offshore drilling would produce by 2030.” The following German translation, it is true, is unequivocal with regard to meaning: “Der künftige Präsident Barack Obama erklärte während seiner Wahlkampftour, dass wir, wenn wir alle nur unsere Reifen richtig aufpumpen und unsere Motoren warten würden, heute so viel Öl sparen könnten, wie durch Offshore-Bohrungen bis zum Jahr 2030 gefördert werden würde.” However, the translation still contains a stumbling block.

When I read “einen Reifen aufpumpen” (i.e., pump up a tyre), I imagine a hand pump with which I can pump air into the flat tyre of a bicycle. I do not think of the tyres of a car that need to be inflated. That the translated text is, indeed, about car tyres becomes clear only when we look at the context. As the source text does not feature such a stumbling block, the target text should be optimised. For example: [...] wenn wir alle immer mit dem vorgeschriebenen Reifendruck fahren [...].