The Process

The text I have chosen to translate is an extract from a short story called ‘Casa Carbonell’. Casa Carbonell is a building which still exists in Alicante city centre. This short story starts in present time with a couple, Álvaro and Yolanda walking through Alicante and they are talking about Casa Carbonell which only one of the two is familiar with. He then begins to tell the interesting story of the building to his girlfriend. The story is about Enrique Carbonell, his wife and their journey to improve the health of their sick daughter. The story is about 5,000 words in length and I was tasked with translating 2,000. I tried to shorten it to include as much information as possible but abridging it was seeming more and more difficult, the further the story went on. I decided to focus on the first half of the story. I abridged it only slightly to include more information about Enrique Carbonell’s story than the story of Álvaro and Yolanda. I chose to include some of the present day story to show the readers that this is an existent building nowadays. I also chose to abridge more information I thought was less relevant so that the translation could end on a positive note. Ending the story on a positive note would entice to readers to want to read more and perhaps investigate the history of Casa Carbonell themselves to find out the ending. I thought that “The whole family had high hopes” was a nice way to leave positivity but also a touch of mystery at the end of the text.

During my third year of university, I completed my Erasmus program in Universidad de Alicante. Before moving to Alicante, I tried to read as much as I could about the culture, history and life in Alicante. I enjoyed learning about their many festivals and the Castle of Santa Barbara, but I did find it hard to understand more about Alicante as most texts were in Spanish. My Spanish was not very strong before moving to Spain, so I struggled reading the texts. I chose to translate this text for people like myself who want to read a text based in another country but in English to facilitate better understanding. Writing out different personas helped me decide the target audience of my text. It would not be the same as the target audience of the original text. While translating the text, I thought about the personas and considered whether they would understand the cultural references and whether they would be able to see it was a translated piece.

Persona 1

Name: Jane Doe

Age: 19

Profession: Part time waitress

Education: International student in University College Cork

Family: Lives with her family in Cork, all younger siblings who all also live at home

Hobbies: Enjoys music and swimming. Likes going out with her friends on nights off

Personality: Outgoing and interested in traveling and meeting more outgoing people abroad to broaden her outlook on life

How will they use this translation? She is looking to study economics abroad next year with Erasmus and cannot decide where, this text set in Alicante, will give her a small insight to the culture and lifestyle into life in Alicante while also educating her on one of the most monumental buildings in the city

Persona 2

Name: John Doe

Age: 25

Profession: About to finish his graduate program at a law firm in Dublin

Education: Completed his Law degree in University of Limerick

Family: Middle child. Older brother is living and working in Australia on the Gold Coast. Younger sister is working in a hair dresser in New York

Hobbies: Enjoys travelling during his time off. Reading and hiking are his favourite pastimes

Personality: Adventurous and interested in leaving his comfort zone like his siblings and moving abroad to work. With his law degree and having English as a native language, he is confident he will find work in a big European city

How will they use this text? While researching different law firms who are hiring English speakers, he will see that Alicante has many law firms. He could read this text to find out some information such as main street names, history and economic standards in the city

Translating from a second or third language into a first can raise many difficulties for many reasons. There are cultural references that cannot be translated directly. Direct translation versus translating in your own words is another challenge as a translator should be true to the original author’s meaning, but translators have a particular poetic licence which allows them to play with words and order a bit to make the target text more enjoyable for the reader. I came across my favourite example of this while attempting to read Harry Potter in French. The translator translated the famous Sorting Hat as “choixpeau”. This is a play on the word hat being “chapeau” and choice being “choix”.

More translating issues are that the target audience for a source text and target text may be completely different. This means the translator must include some more information in the target text than in the source text, this makes it easy for the reader of the target text to understand the context without having the need to source an external information source on the same topic. A target text, however, should not appear as a translation. The aim is that it is a stand alone text and it is not obvious that it has been translated from a different language. This created problems for me as I wanted to explain the meaning of some words or festivals or describe the geographical location in terms the reader would understand. The more I put in extra text, in hopes to make the whole text easier to read, the more it looked like a translation of a Spanish text.

When I started translating this piece, I had to be aware of the time difference that is apparent in this text. As some of it is based in present day but some of it is based around one hundred years ago, there were a few things I had to consider. As languages are ever evolving, the meaning of words changes. When translating the Carbonell family’s story, I encountered a few issues. When leaving Alcoy, they stopped at a family member’s house. This relative was going to be minding the house and in charge of the “animales” while the Carbonell family lived in Alicante. Instantly, I thought animals in the house must be pets. But after thinking about it, I considered that these animals may be more like cows or sheep. Choosing animals as the translation instead of pets felt truer to the time. The author of source text did not use “mascotas”, so therefore he was also choosing a vaguer word which wasn’t giving us any indication of which animals were present. Another challenge I came across while differentiating between the two time frames, was Enrique’s “gafas de pasta negra”. This phrase is one in which, you must research. If directly translated, Enrique would have worn black pasta glasses, or black paste glasses. Also, I had recently come across a piece of writing in which this meant plastic rimmed glasses which makes sense but, in this time, though, I think they would have been thick, black rimmed glasses.

In the opening line, the original text is “Álvaro y Yolanda paseaban por la Explanada de España”. The Explanada de España is a landmark, tourist spot in Alicante. I added in a short few words description after this sentence to the target text. This was added to aid the new target audience’s understanding of what the Explanada is. People who are familiar with Alicante would know this but otherwise, it may be something that readers would have to look up. This is an example of a cultural difference. Adding a short description does not change the meaning of the text and it does not alter how the story is told but it is crucial for the story to read well and to facilitate comprehension. Another cultural difference which was small but could cause confusion for readers is when Álvaro and Yolanda drank a horchata. I decided to translate “Allí, se tomaron una horchata” as “There, they drank a horchata, a fresh cinnamon flavoured drink”. As a translator, I could have changed it to They had a soft drink, or They drank a refreshment. I chose to keep it as the original drink and add a short description because of the target audience I had imagined. People who were reading this text wanted an insight into Spanish culture and this is a typical Spanish drink enjoyed on hot days. This would probably be a new drink to English speakers as horchatas are not typical drinks in English speaking countries.

Spanish is a very complex language and I found myself making a few basic mistakes from time to time. As the person is not always said Yo, ella, ellos etc., it is easy to mix up the he/she verbs. The pronoun is also the same. While proof reading, I noticed a few errors such as her hand instead of his hand. Or she said when it should have been, he said. These are small errors which would have confused the reader a lot and taken away the meaning of the original text. Señor Gonzalez was the hotel manager in the Palace. On first efforts translating, I translated it as Mr. Gonzalez. After reading again, I decided keeping it in Spanish would make it sound better. I assumed that Señor is a well-known Spanish word that would not confuse English speaking readers. So therefore, I left him as Señor Gonzalez.

I had complications with some cultural differences, the main one I found hard to translate was “ya que aprobó la oposición muy joven”. I did not understand the sentence but upon researching further, discovered the Oposición exam is one in which you must pass to become a Spanish civil servant. This is a business cultural difference between Ireland and Spain that I was not aware of before completing this translation.

Before moving to Spain, I had learned about many different festivals in Spain and their different traditions, rituals and parades. While trying to abridge, I did not see much use in keeping the information about the Filaes in Alcoy. They did not appear elsewhere in the story and did not contribute much. However, it would show the reader an example of a religious tradition that Spain has which does not get celebrated elsewhere in the world. I researched the festival myself to get a better understanding. Instead of putting in the Spanish word and describing it, I decided to just describe the festival in a brief few words. I did not want to go into too much detail as it would distract from the sad story happening along side the festivities.

Many language barriers and cultural differences appeared in the translation process of this story. However, I always thought about my personas and what they would want to read and what information they would find useful or meaningless. It helped me decided which sentences to leave out and when I needed to add a line which is not in the original story to help comprehend Casa Carbonell as a whole.