I have been reading "The Sound and the Fury" by William Faulkner, and it happens that I also have a Spanish translation of this novel. The title in Spanish is "El ruido y la furia." Here is a fragment and its Spanish translation:

"Come on." Luster said. "We done looked there. They ain't no more coming right now. Let's go down to the branch and find that quarter before them niggers finds it."

"Vamos." Dijo Luster. "Ya hemos mirado por ahí. Ya no van a volver. Vamos al arroyo a buscar los veinticinco centavos antes de que los encuentren los negros."

Is this a correct translation? It seems to me as if the translation is cleaning the grammar, and consequently it loses its meaning, perhaps, or the intention of the writer. As we can see, the way Luster, a character in the novel, talks is in Vernacular Southern English, which is a dialect of English. How can you translate texts in these situations?

  • It's such a shame the translation cleans it up. But compromises have to be made.
    – Joze
    Jul 10 '15 at 12:27

Translating is an art, not a science. When encountering dialectal variations, a translator needs to make decisions based on many different factors: authorial intent, the author's perceived/intended audience, the purpose of the translation, the context in the original work, etc.

Generally, it's easier to just translate to a standard version of the language and include a translator's note that certain characters speak with certain dialects in the original. This is more important in critical/academic translations and less important in translations aimed for a wider audience who might not be as concerned about such details.

Consider the same issue with poetry: you often need to just translate the meaning, and then tell the reader the original had a particular rhyme scheme.

In this case (and being a native speaker of SAE — the dialect in Faulkner's works), I can't think of any appropriate "equivalent" dialect in Spanish, so, IMO (and obviously in this translator's) the better option was to just translate to standard Spanish.

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    Do you think the Spanish reader misses a lot when reading Faulkner's Works? When you change the orality of the character, somehow you are transforming the character. The character is not the same any more. Honestly, it bothers to me this situation.
    – Learner
    Jul 10 '15 at 11:15
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    Undoubtedly. But honestly, Faulkner's stream of consciousness style has to already be hard enough to translate and he was more known for that then is use of dialect (for which Twain is most famous), so personally I'd be most concerned about the translator handling the SoC correctly, but I may be biased since SAE is basically normal English for me and rather unremarkable :-) There may be a better StackExchange for translation theory questions like Linguistics (I'm no expert in it and people who translate between other languages may have better answers). Jul 10 '15 at 11:29
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    @HoracioOliveira Una anécdota sobre esas concesiones necesarias en las traducciones: En la versión española de Regreso al Futuro (Back to the Future) la madre de Marty le llama "Levis Strauss", porque es lo que ve escrito en sus calzoncillos. En la versión original le llama Dustin. Dustin hace ropa interior y Levis no (que yo sepa), pero por aquel entonces la marca Dustin era completamente desconocida en España y para que la gente entendiera la gracia en el doblaje so modificó a algo bastante diferente, pero que sin embargo conservaba en sentido de la escena y la situación.
    – Diego
    Jul 10 '15 at 20:16
  • @Diego Realmente, en el original le llama Calvin Klein
    – MikMik
    Jul 13 '15 at 14:04
  • @MikMik, Gracias. Sí, ahora que lo dices eso suena como "más correcto" que "Dustin".
    – Diego
    Jul 13 '15 at 15:41

Have in mind that they are not book translations, they are called adaptations so it happens with any book, written in any language. Things as simple as quarter, are adapted to "25 centavos" because we are not used to say "un cuarto" and in some regions we don't have cents any more, from long time ago.

  • Maybe you are too young, but some of us were used to "un real" (a quarter of a "peseta", or 25 cents). And there was another coin, "dos reales" (half a peseta or 50 cents); these two coins were very popular for boys to hold the end of the rope used to spin the peg-top (the coin has a hole). Jul 13 '15 at 6:52
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    Maybe your ego makes you forget that Spain is not the only Spanish native speaking country. Also you need to learn to read I wrote "in some regions" and "adaptations". Tell me why the adaptation doesn't says un cuarto. Is more " universal " to say 25 cents for countries who doesn't use "cuarto" anymore. Also it depend an the age of the book and the adaptation. Jul 13 '15 at 10:23
  • I tried to support your idea, because I agree on to adapt over to translate; I think about the target user. Today in Spain we use Euro instead of Peseta, and there is not a 25 cents coin, but that should be not a problem; anyway I would chose "un cuarto de dólar". Also, while dubbing films, most studios think about the target public, and so we can find different "adaptations" depending on the studio. Sorry if I sounded aggressive. Jul 13 '15 at 10:37

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