[lg policy] Term for sth spoken in one language, written in another
dzo at bisharat.net
Sun Jun 5 13:09:36 EDT 2016
Is anyone aware of a formal term for transcription from a recording
where what is written is in different language than the spoken? This is
not strictly speaking translation, since it is from the spoken word, nor
interpretation, since it is to the written word, nor transcription,
because the spoken and written words are in different languages.
I first really noticed this practice when I learned of at least one
organization in Kabul, Afghanistan doing qualitative research that
"translated" focus group and interview recordings this way - someone
fluent in the language of the recording would listen and write or type
English equivalents. The normal procedure in research, of course, is to
transcribe in the same language, then translate into another language -
that is what the organization I worked with at the time did. The
shortcut of skipping the same-language transcription may be rationalized
on the basis of cost savings or issues relating to the orthography of
the spoken language.
Reason for asking now is that I'm working on a project proposal
involving taped interviews in African languages and accompanying
"transcripts" in English or French. It would be helpful to have a clear
accepted term for what we have in writing.
I posed the question on LinkedIn and one suggestion, from Dr. David
Cooper (UIUC), was to use "interepretation-transcription." This is
satisfactory as a description and I will probably use it unless there is
an accepted term. Alternatively one could get imaginative with a
neologism (something like "transcreation").
More broadly, it seems there is at least one other gap in terminology
for cross-language work. When writing up some analyses of languages in
the response to Ebola in West Africa, I was reminded how local radio
announcers in Africa take something printed in En or Fr and speak their
translation of the text or the gist of it over the air in a local
language. This is basically the reverse of the situation I described
above - sort of translation except the output is voiced without being
first written; sort of interpretation, except the source is written.
(Otoh, thinking of the artistic sense of "interpretation" that might
almost be appropriate, but starts to get confusing.)
The localization company Lionbridge offers a clear set of five
differences between interpretation and translation.* On balance at
situations I described might be called translation, because it is not in
real time like interpretation. However, there is a sixth difference that
they omitted, and that is the ability to verify. Translation in text can
readily be reviewed, vetted, revised, whereas once spoken word is
involved, such review is difficult, impractical, or (in the case of
unrecorded broadcasts) impossible. So translation doesn't seem to fit
This may seem to some like nit-picking, but given the growing importance
of cross-language work in various fields I would contend that clarity on
terminology for types of transformations between languages is important.
Thanks in advance for any feedback.
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