Cultural “flair”

There is an art to querying the client that goes beyond what intuition and common sense can teach. It’s obvious you should ask about formatting needs, citation style, and spelling preferences (color vs. colour, e.g.) when the author hasn’t specified. But what about stylistic preferences?

I’ve had a few clients recently who prefer to leave certain terms “semi-translated” for a bit of cultural flavor in the target text. These are terms that the target reader might not immediately understand, but are commonplace in the source language. L’Hexagone, for instance, or le royaume chérifien. On my own, I might just iron out these odd wrinkles by using boring, old France or Morocco, respectively. But is that good enough?

For some clients, these are the little terms that give a translation “flair” and remind the target reader that they are delving into a foreign viewpoint. You can’t leave them out. When you come across one of these gems, I strongly suggest you ask your client what to do: hide it, or flaunt it? For many texts, it’s a simple matter of adding a short translator’s note to explain away any residual “weirdness.” And the original author will likely appreciate the opportunity to have a say.

How do you handle these sorts of terms? What semi-translatables have you come across recently?

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One thought on “Cultural “flair”

  1. Pingback: On the English language | translation, untangled

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