Translation, Ay yay yay

So it’s not so much that translating is hard, but there is a lot more to it that direct vocab translation. You have to look at the context. Look at who your reader/user is. And you also have to look at the field and it’s jargon. Where do I find the Spanish terminology for the archival field? What is an over-sized box called in Spanish? I find it hard believe it would just be called “una caja grande” (a big box). Right now I’m going with something more like “una caja sobre tamaño” (a box over it’s size, meaning bigger than it should be).

I have run into the problem that the standard we use in America, DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), is only available in English. So what do you do when in America we don’t just speak or write in English? I mean there have to be collections in the Midwest in German, Norwegian or Czech; or in Japanese in California or Jewish or Islam. As we decide to arrange more and more bilingual American collections, how do we do it?

Well, my first step was asking around on online discussion boards and listservs. Responses back have been slow. Next was to look at other Spanish speaking countries of course and see what they use. What manuals are available. Well the rest of the world supposedly uses ISAD-G (General International Standard Archival Description). ISAD-G, because it’s international, comes in various language versions, including Spanish.

From there I compared ISAD-G to DACS to see what they have in common. The elements that ISAD-G had in common with DACS, I went into the Spanish version of ISAD-G and found the archival terminology for those elements and used them in my Spanish DACS.

Example A: DACS Reference Code Element 2.1 = ISAD-G 3.1.1 which in the Spanish version is called Código de Referencia

That is an example that directly translates, but in this next example the word for “extent” isn’t clearly understood directly translated.

Example B: DACS Extent Element 2.5 = ISAD-G 3.1.5 in Spanish is Volumen y soporte de la unidad de descripción

There has to more written in Spanish to convey what is meant by extent, what information exactly is being asked to be given.

There is also another layer of complexity to translating into Spanish because there are so many different versions of Spanish. Mexican Spanish is very different from Chilean Spanish,which is very different from Cuban or Puerto Rican Spanish or Venezuelan or Columbian Spanish. Is folder carpetacarpetilla, or ficha? If you chose what Mexicans would most likely understand to be a folder, will people in other countries understand it to be a folder or will they understand it as something completely different. We find these issues even between English speaking countries like between England, the United States and Australia; but between Spanish speaking countries it can be a much bigger difference. The point is, depending who your audience is, those details matter.


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