I would be interested to hear from other non-native English speakers if you have read ASOIAF in your native language and what did you think of the translation? I know many people don’t like the names that (I guess) are often translated quite literally, and I’ve seen someone complaining of actual blunders as well. In AGOT, instead of a stag killing the direwolf, it was translated as a unicorn (was it in Italy?).
I’m interested, since so far I’ve only read the books in English, and had my own encounter with the Finnish translation some time ago and it left me quite baffled. Here’s my take on the Finnish situation!
I have a background in translation studies, though I’ve never actually worked as a full time translator. My master’s thesis is still in the making, since I couldn’t refuse a very nice job I was offered when I was finishing my studies. After a seven year hiatus, I’m now considering if I could actually use ASOIAF as the material for my thesis.
So, one day I took the Finnish translation of ASOS home from my local library, hoping to give it a go. I read a few pages, started leafing through the book, but after a while I had to stop. As a fellow translator who can appreciate the fact that translating GRRM might not have been the easiest job in the world I’m loathe to say I found the Finnish translation mindblowingly substandard.
I don't know how to say this nicely, but the translation was... well, let me just say it didn't do justice to GRRM's writing. Or maybe it did, and that's the problem. At uni, we were taught that a good translation is one that no-one notices - it needs to come off as if it was originally written in Finnish. But with the Finnish translation of ASOS, the language was unnatural, something that would be called translatese, or in our case, Finglish = too much of a literal (word-for-word) translation. And since Finnish and English are totally different, it’s bad, I mean real baaaaad.
It’s most obvious in the way the sentences are structured; they mirror their English counterparts, and that makes them sound ridiculous in Finnish - sometimes because they come off as infantile, sometimes because they are overcomplicated and Finnish would have another perfectly fluent way to express the same thing (usually with less words). One particularly annoying thing that caught my eye was the use of genitive forms of personal pronouns. We don’t use them all that often, since Finnish is an agglutinative language where suffixes are added to the nouns to do the trick. So when you see sentences where all the words like “my” or “your” are literally translated, it’s just redundant and silly.
I was surprised to find out that the publishing company was founded by the same person who translates the ASOIAF books. According to an interview, she got so excited about ASOIAF that she started translating AGOT and offered it to publishing companies. They declined, so she started her own publishing company and brought ASOIAF to the Finnish markets. Finding work as a translator can be hard, and I can appreciate her initiative for setting up a company and making ASOIAF available for Finns, but truly, there might have been a good reason behind the existing companies turning down her translation...
I was also horrified to see that Finns are still waiting to get their hands on ADWD, it's only expected to be out next year (the first half of the book). All in all, I think it's a shame - some more distinguished publisher with an experienced translator could have done GRRM’s work more justice.
TL:DR So, how is it with other languages? Are you happy with the translations? If you are, what makes them good? If you're not, what’s wrong with them?
Edited by Iona, 12 December 2013 - 11:50 AM.