verbatim vs literally [translation]

< Previous | Next >

cheshire

Senior Member
Japanese
Wolff said, "Ich liebe dich." Now I report to you that he said "I like you."

Is "I like you." a verbatim translation? Is this the correct use of the word?
 
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Well, I don't think so, because "verbatim" means "in exactly the same words as were used originally" to quote the OED. And as the original is German and the reported speech English, it is not strictly verbatim.

    But perhaps this definition is relaxed when used with "translation" as by definition a translation cannot be exactly the same words as the original.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi Cheshire,

    I think saying verbatim translation makes perfect sense, however you would do well to avoid this in formal writing. The reason is as vachecow has pointed out, verbatim means word for word the same as in "He delivered the message verbatim as originally received."

    This is a direct translation.
    This a a word for word translation.
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I think this would be called "literally translated," not "verbatim."

    If I said, "I think that you should sleep or you will be tired tomorrow" and you said that I said "I think that you should sleep or you will be tired tomorrow," you would have quoted me verbatim. If you said that I said "You'll be tired if you don't sleep," that would not be a verbatim quotation even though that almost means the same thing.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I agree, that it makes sense, but I agree with AWL in that it would be best to avoid it, considering there are so many other ways to express the idea.

    Looking up "verbatim translation" in Google I got the impression it was not a technical or preferred term, because it turned up quite a motley looking collection of pages which did not inspire confidence in the term.
     

    manthano

    Member
    German
    I have got a small question: what exactly is the difference (in meaning and usage) between the adverbs "literally" and "verbatim"? For instance, could one say "I translated this phrase verbatim" instead of "I translated this phrase literally"?

    I guess, "literally" is much more common (although etymologically, the term "translate verbatim" would be more appropriate since, when translating, you do not find corresponding letters (Latin: litterae) but corresponding words (Latin: verba)).



    With best regards,

    manthano

    << Merged with a previous thread. Please read from the top. >>
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    GiovanniC

    Member
    Italiano (Napoli), Spanish (México, DF)
    Very few would be attentive to this nuance if you don't mind my saying that. "Verbatim" conveys the idea better, though, as "literally" has been hackneyed and thus has lost some if not all of its meaning. As to the original meaning of these words, I fail to see much of a difference.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    "Verbatim" means "word-for-word, including every word in the original statement." "Literally" means "according to the dictionary meaning of every word."

    You normally wouldn't translate something "verbatim." You would normally transcribe something verbatim - writing down every single word that was said. This is basically the only use of the word "verbatim"; we use it when discussing transcriptions, recordings, citations, etc. "Verbatim" relates to the level of discourse, to the act of saying itself.

    You could translate something "literally" (although I, as a translator, would advise against it). "Literally" has to do with interpretation and semantics - the content of what is said rather than its form.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    My first reaction is that 'verbatim' does not make sense here. It is generally used to mean 'using the exact words of the original'. On this basis, you cannot translate verbatim, because if you use the very same words, you are still using the original language.

    Then I did a Google search of "translate * verbatim".
    This initially promised a generous 597m results, but clicking through to the end brought it down to 403.

    So some people do talk about translating verbatim, meaning 'word for word', but my advice would be to regard that as non-standard usage and keep the word for such phrases as 'quote verbatim', 'deliver the verbatim text' etc.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    This is my reaction. "Verbatim" can't collocate with "translate," because it's about the set of signifiers (and not signifieds) of a statement.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    "I translated this phrase verbatim" = Word for word (even if it is wrong or does not make sense). e.g.

    A: "This piece of foreign language, what does it say?"
    B: "It says, 'I would over the jungle swim, if I time had."
    A: "What?"
    B: "
    I translated it verbatim, I think he meant to write, 'I would go into the jungle, if I had the time'."


    "I translated this phrase literally" = as it was expressed in the other language.

    A: "This piece of foreign language, what does it say?"
    B: "It says,"Frau Merkel said that she had been pulling Sarkosy through the cocoa for the last 3 months.""
    A: "What?"
    B: "
    I translated it literally, the phrase, "to pull someone through the cocoa" means "to pull someone's leg."
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    The use of "verbatim" for a translation is unusual but both etymologically sound and long-established. It is attested in the OED to 1583.
    The Scriptures translated verbatim, exactly, and according to the proper vse and signification of the wordes.

    1815: A translation verbatim from the french.

    That said, I think that "literally" would usually be used now.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I'd never heard of a verbatim translation before this and strikes me as illogical (for the reasons given in posts 4 and 5 11 and 12). A literal translation (or word-for-word translation) is, however, an accepted term in translation theory, to be contrasted to a dynamic equivalent translation (thought-for-thought translation) or paraphrase (free translation).
     
    Last edited:

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Despite some usage dredged up from the past, I have a logical roadblock when it comes to "translation verbatim."

    If you translate something from one language to another, how can they be "exactly the same words as were used originally?"

    verbatim /vəːˈbeɪtɪm/
    adverb & adjectivein exactly the same words as were used originally.
    – origin C15: from med. L., from L. verbum ‘word’.


     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    In everyday English I would not mind hearing either verbatim or literally when describing ways of translating. My interpretation would be as detailed by PaulQ in post 13 - excellent explanation, indeed. :)
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    It appears that "verbatim translation" and "literal translation" originally meant the same thing, namely what we now call a "literal translation".

    The two terms (applied to a translation) are first attested in the OED at about the same time - 1583 for "verbatim", and 1616 for "literal".

    The source of the 1583 "verbatim" citation (above) is at: http://www.catholicapologetics.info/scripture/translations/adiscovery.html

    It is from a tract which protests that some protestant bible has mistranslated a number of passages including Acts 2:27 and Acts 3:21. Yet the author's proposed "verbatim" alternatives neither provide a word-for-word translation nor preserve the same word-order. Nor would it make any sense if they did: the translation would be gibberish if it were possible. They are, however, a literal translation.

    I conclude that the two terms were originally used with the same meaning. However, only the term "literal translation" is in current use. The term "verbatim" in this context is apt to be misunderstood.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Verbatim is an outdated term in translation and linguistics. It may still make some sense in other spheres of life, such as law. You can only repeat things word by word -- you cannot translate anything word by word. It means word by word. Literally means with the exact meanaing of the original phrase. It is still used in translation, but it does not mean that three words will be translated into three words, but that the exact menaing of the original phrase will be retained.

    I agree with Lucas, with everything he has said. Verbatim is absolutley the wrong term in reference to translation. It is used by many laywers who expect three words to be translated into three words, which is absurd.
     
    Last edited:

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    ...you cannot translate anything word by word. ...
    ;) Quite to the contrary - this is exactly how I translate from Arabic on the rare occasion I have to. :D - word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph... It is a slow, painful process, excruciatingly tedious because I have to look up each and every word in the dictionary. :D

    And in the end I am rewarded with some silly word-for-word translation that hardly makes any sense. :)
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    This is, Boozer, what most current translation theories warn against. The word verbatim is advised against in relation to translation and interpreting at many translation and interpreting seminars. It just creates the wrong idea what translation is all about. It is a term originally used by lawyers when they wanted a witness, for example, to repeat everything the person heard exactly the way it had been said -- in the same language.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top