Freitag, 8. Oktober 2010

off topic --> Translating & The Acceleration of Time

I held a presentation on time the other day. And while doing my research I sort of got sidetracked and found some interesting things.

As I am a science fiction fan, and randomly collect books, I somehow ended up owning this book three times. Once the English original, then a translation published in the 50’s and a newer translation published in the 70’s. As this is pulp literature, my theory is that the translators are less motivated to preserve original wordings then when, say, translating Virginia Woolf. So I figured that comparing the two German versions of the book might give some interesting information on how language had developed in those 20 years.

Take a look yourself, here is the first paragraph in all three versions.

Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein - 1950

Our troop had been up in the High Sierras that day and we were late getting back. We had taken off from the camp field on time but Traffic Control swung us 'way east to avoid some weather. I didn't like it; Dad usually won't eat if I'm not home.

50 Words, 196 Characters - 1950


Pioniere im Weltraum (Gebrüder Weiß, 1951)

An jenem Tage war unser Trupp hoch oben in den Sierras gewesen, und wir kehrten mit Verspätung zurück. Wir waren pünktlich vom Lagerfulgplatz gestertet, erhielten aber vom Flugüberwachungsdienst die Weisung, nach Osten auszuweichen, weil wir sonst in schlechtes Wetter geraten würden. Das paßte mir gar nicht; Dad ißt nämlich nicht, wenn ich nicht da bin.

55 Words, 301 Characters – 1951


Farmer im All (Heyne, 1970)

Unsere Truppe war an dem Tag oben in der Sierra gewesen, und wir kamen spät zurück. Wir waren rechtzeitig vom Feldlager aufgebrochen, aber die Leute von der Verkehrskontrolle drängten uns wegen irgendeines Unwetters nach Osten ab. Das paßte mir nicht. Paps ißt meistens nicht, wenn ich fort bin.

48 Words, 248 Characters


Aside from the obvious difference in the length of these fragments, there is also a huge stylistic difference. Personally, I find that the second, newer version does the original more justice – so maybe it has nothing to do with language development after all, and we are just looking at a better translation. An interesting point is that while the Heyne book uses an Anglicism in its title, it refrains from using the Anglicism “dad”. I wish they would have refrained from using the word farmer as well…

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