Translation Corner: Underwhelming Response
Posted 23. Juni 2009on:
About a week or two ago, I asked you to leave your comments on words you’d like for me to translate in detail, tough ones. Well, quite a bit of time has passed, and whoops, no one has commented. Guess I’ll just have to pick words to I would consider hard to translate.
Germany has a grading system from 1 to 6, where 1 is the best (excellent) and 6 is the worst (fail). However, both grades 5 and 6 are failing grades, and in the English-speaking world, there are no two grades for failure – only one.
One way to go about it is to use the British grading scale from A to F, but what if I want to use AmE? A quick internet check for „mangelhaft“ tells us that both dict.cc and leo.org recommend inadequate, but only dict.cc denotes it as a the „Zensur 5“. So, do we just use inadequate, risking that people might be confused?
It doesn’t really matter. If you can’t find the exact match for a word, take the next-best match and make the wanted meaning apparent through context. Using our current example, the German grading system is not very difficult or different from other systems, so a simple „inadequate“ with an added „(failing grade)“ will solve the problem.
This solution is applicable to almost any situation – sometimes there is no perfect translation, you will have to make due with what the language gives you.