Translating Turkish: 5 Common Mistakes

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What sounds natural in one language may sound odd in another.

As with any writing, it’s important when translating to remember who your audience is. A good translation should be true to the message of the source text, yet read naturally to a native speaker of the target language. If the reader detects they are reading a translation, they will be distracted from the message of the text. The goal is to create an end product which is undetectable as a translation.

When editing, we often spot certain words and phrases that would signal to a reader that the text is a translation. A translator’s task is made more difficult since although what they write may be grammatically correct, it may not sound natural. While there’s no short cut to learning how to write naturally, there are some common “giveaway” words and phrases that you can try to avoid.

  • X Company olarak – As X Company, we …
    Time and again we see this grammatical construction, and it’s actually just a literal translation. While we may say something like “As Turkey’s premier supplier of …,” we’d never introduce a company this way, and certainly not use it as the opening sentence in a document.
    “As Hilton, we strive to provide the highest standards in customer care.” – ODD
    “At Hilton, we strive to provide the highest standards in customer care.”
    – BETTER
    “We strive at Hilton to provide the highest standards in customer care.” – 
    BETTER
  • Within the scope/framework
    When I first began working on Turkish to English translations I was continually seeing a phrase that I’d rarely seen outside of formal bid proposals. Everything was done either within the scope (kapsamında) or within the framework (çerçevesinde). This is not language for everyday writing – it’s technical. This phrase is often either completely redundant or can be reduced to as part of or includes. You can read more on junk phrases here.
    “Within the scope of the development, communal gardens have been designed.” – WRONG
    “As part of the development, communal gardens have been designed.” – CORRECT
    “Communal gardens have been designed as part of the development.”CORRECT
  • Realize
    I also asked my colleagues why everything in Turkey was realized: meetings, buildings, parks – you name it. It’s like even mundane events are a “eureka” moment. I know now that it’s all down to the literal translation of the Turkish verb gerçekleştirmek. Yet realize in English is generally used only in terms of grasping or understanding, or in a limited financial sense. In most cases it can be substituted for a more specific verb, e.g., achieve, carry out, execute, hold, complete, perform and so on. You can read more on junk phrases here.
    “The board meeting was realized.” – WRONG
    “The board meeting was held.” – CORRECT
  • Trainings/feedbacks
    These are both uncountable nouns and have no plural form. The solution is to make them countable by adding a word such as “sessions.”
    “I have to undertake trainings next week.” WRONG
    “I have to undertake training next week.” – CORRECT
    (This could be either multiple training sessions or just a general reference. It’s very common to see this used as a general reference.)
    “I have to undertake training sessions next week.” – CORRECT
    (This is for if you need to be more specific and to let the reader know it is multiple sessions.)
  • Placing the year at the end of the sentence
    This habit has always puzzled me, as Turkish also places the year at the front of the sentence. Placing the year at the end of long sentences with multiple clauses is particularly troublesome. In English, the year is often used at the beginning to give the context of when something took place, particularly when beginning a new paragraph. Placing a year at the end often looks like an afterthought.
    “The company maintained its leadership in the white goods, LCD TV and air conditioner markets in 2009.” – WRONG
    “In 2009, the company maintained its leadership in the white goods, LCD TV and air conditioner markets.” – CORRECT

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