Friday, December 16, 2005

The Dangers of Double Translation

I believe there's a standard term for translating through an intermediate language, a practice necessitated by the dearth of qualified translators from Chinese, Arabic, and other minor languages, but for the time being I'll call it double translation.

Case in point, The Girl Who Played Go, by Shan Sa, and translated into English from the French. (I'll leave the French translator unnamed.) An episode in the book involves Japanese soldiers fighting in Manchuria on the border with Russia. I don't mind them calling the city "Ha Rebin" (what we know as Harbin), but the very long river that separates the two countries is referred to repeatedly as "River Love."

There's never a good copy editor in the house when you need one.

No comments: