Descriptive Terms, Collocations and Technical Terms

It is an unconvincing arugment to maintain that inflationäre Spannungen cannot be translated as 'inflationary tensions', simply because 'inflationary tensions' is not a common collocation nor a technical term (any more than inflationäre Spannungen is); nor can it be translated as 'inflationary pressures', since 'pressure' is outside the semantic range of Spannung; the translation is more likely to be 'inflationary tensions' which is a descriptive term (tensions associated with inflation'), but only a wider context can determine the matter. In contrast, 'inflationary trend' (tendance inflationniste) is a standard collocation; 'inflationary gap' (écart inflationniste) is a technical term.

Peter Newmark (1998) More Paragraphs On Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 21.

Modern Art in Rome

The National Museum of Modern Art (Museo nazionale di art moderna) is a misnomer, since it mainly displays modern Italian art, to which it is a magnificent introduction. There is a superb variety of pictures by Sironi, Balla, Guttuso, Severini, de Chirico, Morandi (not even one jug!), and two lovely landscapes by Ottone Rosai. However, in the whole building, there only appears to be one translation, viz. the notice on the bar: E vietato recarsi in giardino con tazze e bicchieri Close translation: 'It is forbidden! (here again, das Betreten ist verboten, see Rupert Brooke's Grantchester) to make one's way into the garden with cups and glasses.' Displayed translation: 'Please do not carry glasses and cups in the garden.' My preferred translation: 'Please do not take cups or glasses into the garden.' Note again the warmth and friendliness of the 'untranslatable' English 'please', to which I wrote a hymn of praise in this journal many years ago. There are excellent descriptive leaflets to the main pictures in each room, but why only in Italian?

Peter Newmark (1998) More Paragraphs On Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 17.

The Met

The magnificent Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue in New York appears to be stubbornly monolingual. Not even non-English titles of paintings are given in their original languages, thus inviting confusion. A mysterious Monet entitled The Mists is given the alternative title La Débacle. The second language, Spanishthere are now more Spanish speakers than blacks in the Statesis ignored. Yet the descriptions of the paintingsall in Englishare exemplary.

Peter Newmark (1998) More Paragraphs On Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 9-10.

Languages and Tourism

The chairman of the British Tourist Authority is aware that 'if Britain is to be successful as a leading tourist destination, we must learn to speak to people in their own language'. What is equally important is the provision of multilingual brochures, leaflets, manuals etc. in shops, museums (the V and A is a model), galleries and public buildings, which requires a separate skill.

Peter Newmark (1998) More Paragraphs On Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 8.


'However hard it may often be to render the meaning of a sentence in another language, and however much we may have to resort to glosses and roundabout explanations, the sense can be made accessible even though it may entail a loss in neatness and elegance'. (Topics of Our Time: Twentieth Century Issues in Learning and in Art by E. H. Gombrich p.41; Phaidon, London, 1991.) Thus Gombrich, expressing his conviction that translation can always, even with difficulty ('a difficulty is never an impossibility') penetrate the cultural complexities of another language, from its colour system onwards. In fact, in this marvellous, instructive and morally outstanding book, in which he devotes four chapters to attacking what he calls 'cultural relativism', Gombrich goes further: 'Art and literature are now menaced by . . . this trend, which constitutes a threat to all aspects of scholarship because it denies the existence of any objective standards of truth . . . Recognising differences must not lead us to deny the unity of mankind . . . Art is an embodiment of values' (p. 9.) 'The humanities would atrophy and die if they attempted to become value-free' (p.55) . . . 'I am sure that Michelangelo was indeed a greater artist than the English seventeenthcentury painter John Streeter.' (p. 72.)

Gombrich names some of his adversaries (Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Harold Bloom, Norbert Bolz [Barthes, Greimas, Kristeva, Foucault unaccountably missing]), but not the so often trumpeted 'value free' movements: structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, reception theory, pop art, trends in post-modernism, historicism as relativism.) With rejection of or indifference to values, standards cannot exist.

Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 164-165.

Notes on the Translation of Three Medical Texts on Epilepsy

(with assistance from Jane Soulal, Senior Information Officer, Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals, Horsham, venue of a recent Medical Translation Workshop and ITI Medical Network meeting.)
  1.  Le terme, encombrant d'épilepsies liées à une localisation. 'The term, which is rather clumsy (alt. cumbersome), ''epilepsies related to a specific area''.' (Note that the plurals of disease should be reproduced; also that this is a metalingual translation: the term is 'cumbersome' in both languages.
  2.  La neuro-imagerie est muette. 'The neuro-imaging does not show up.'
  3.  Crises sensitivo-motrices. 'Sensory and motor seizures.'
  4.  Grandes pointes émoussées. 'Large flattened (alt. blurred) spikes.'
  5.  En bouffees sous une électrode rolandique basse. 'in bursts appearing under an electrode in the lower part of the motor (alt. rolandic) area of the cerebral cortex.'
  6.  Crises résistantes. 'Seizures which are resistant to treatment.'
  7.  Etats de mal non rares. 'Fairly frequent malaises' (alt. periods of mild sickness.)
  8.  Signes végétatifs. 'Involuntary movements.'
  9.  Genuine Epilepsien (G). 'Idiopathic epilepsies.'
  10.  Liquorzirkulationsstörung. 'Disturbance of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) circulation.'
  11.  L'aggressività e la vischiosità anticamente riferite agli epilettici in generale. (It) 'The aggressiveness and sluggishness generally attributed to epileptic patients in times past.' (N.B. Not 'to epileptics' (derogatory).)
  12.  La casistica: les antecedents. 'Case history'.
  13.  Gêne épigastrique. 'Epigastric discomfort' (alt. 'discomfort in the epigastrium').
Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 164.

Economic Pretentiousness

La réforme du financement de l'État était consubstantielle à celle de la place toute entière. 'The reform of government financing entailed the reform of the whole money market.' The religious term consubstantiel, meaning 'of the same substance as' is as out of place in the English as in the French; 'was inseparable from' would be a closer translation than the above. There are normally more variations available in nonauthoritative than in authoritative texts, in particular where no one-to-one equivalents are available; positives are to be preferred to negatives (except for intentional understatements) as they make for stronger contrasts.

Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 156.