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  • Black Country Translator

Delightful Darts: Tungsten Hurling Translation 101

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Many people believe that translation is easy, a process simply consisting in turning one language into another. However, this couldn’t be any further from the truth; there are many different things to consider and multiple obstacles to overcome in every single translation. Producing an accurate, effective and culturally relevant translation requires a lot of thought and effort, and, most importantly, a combination of expert linguistic knowledge and in-depth knowledge of the field in question.

In this blog post, I have therefore drawn inspiration from an academic exercise to help explain what makes a good translation in one of my fields of expertise: sport. This particular exercise is known as a translation commentary, i.e., a text which justifies particular decisions made in a translation. Although I won’t go into as much detail as a typical translation commentary, or structure my post in the way a commentary would normally be written, I will comment on the type of things that would typically be discussed in a standard translation commentary.

As a darts translation specialist, I have chosen a text about Portuguese darts star and current World No. 7, José de Sousa, which was published by Portuguese sports broadcaster RTP Desporto in January 2021.

To make things easier for readers, I have decided to concentrate on a paragraph or section at a time. The Portuguese original will appear first, with my translation following underneath. The fragments of interest will also be highlighted for ease of reference.

Translation and Commentary:

Dardos: José de Sousa escolhido para disputar Premier League em 2021

Darts: José de Sousa selected for 2021 Premier League

In this particular case, the Portuguese headline is written very similarly to the type of headline you would typically find in a British broadsheet newspaper. However, to suit the more concise style of journalistic texts in English, I shortened “escolhido para disputar” (chosen to compete) to “selected for.” I also changed the position of “2021” in my translation, because “2021 Premier League” sounds more natural and less clunky in English than “the Premier League in 2021.”

Antigo carpinteiro da Azambuja diz que está «nas nuvens»

· “Special One” makes 2021 Premier League line-up

· “I’m over the moon,” says de Sousa

As you can see here, I have completely changed the structure of the Portuguese text in my English translation, and there is a particular method in my Magners. Since I regularly read the Guardian, I decided to translate this text as though it were going to feature in the sports section of that particular publication. So although standfirsts, blocks of text that introduce the story, normally in a style different to the body text and headline, exist in English-language newspapers, those used in the Guardian follow the same format as the standfirst in my translation: two headline-style bullet points that briefly refer to the contents of the following story/article. In terms of the language used, I also drew inspiration from other sports articles published by the Guardian to create my standfirst, including this article about this year’s Australian Open. In other words, my translation meets the initial expectations of a typical Guardian reader, because they’re used to seeing standfirsts written and structured in this particular way.

From a linguistic point of view, my translation of the idiom “estar nas nuvens” as “over the moon” is also worth noting. Idioms often use different images and concepts across different languages to express the same idea, and this particular idiom is no exception. “Estar nas nuvens” (literally, “to be in the clouds”) would mean nothing to an English speaker if it were translated literally. I therefore went for the commonly used English equivalent of “over the moon” to convey the same message. I could have also said “on cloud nine,” but I always like to choose the most different option.

I also opted to use De Sousa’s nickname, the “Special One,” instead of “former carpenter from Azambuja” (“antigo carpintero de Azambuja”), because, firstly, it’s more succinct, secondly, his former job is mentioned later in the text anyway, and lastly, because although the town he’s from is culturally relevant for the Portuguese audience of the original text, it isn’t for the British readers of my translation.

O português José de Sousa foi escolhido para disputar a Premier League de dardos em 2021, segundo anunciou esta segunda-feira a Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), um dia depois de terminado o Mundial da modalidade, em Londres.

The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) has announced that Portuguese darts star, José de Sousa, has been included in the line-up for the 2021 Premier League, just a day after the final of the William Hill World Darts Championship.

There is a discrepancy here in how verb tenses are used in both languages. In Portuguese, the pretérito perfeito (“anunciou”) can either be used to refer to one-off actions completed in the past or actions that began in the past but have continued into the present, unless a time adverbial such as “últimamente” (lately) has also been used alongside it, but I won’t go into any more detail about that. However, in English, the past simple tense, which is the closest equivalent to the Portuguese pretérito perfeito, can only be used for one-off actions completed in the past. This English tense also marks a considerable sense of distance from the present, so we typically use the present perfect in English to indicate proximity to the present and to add a bit of dynamism to the text. I therefore chose to use the present perfect form of the verb “to announce” (“has announced”) to make it clear that the decision to include de Sousa in the Premier League line-up had only just been made at the time. I must also add that this particular tense is commonly used in newspapers discussing brand-new stories for exactly the same reasons as those mentioned above.

The idea of cultural relevance is also important in this paragraph. Darts is extremely popular in the UK, while the sport is only just starting to grow in Portugal, so it’s more popular among readers of the translation than the original text. Therefore, even if they only watch the sport occasionally, readers of my translation would mostly likely know that the Darts World Championships are held at the Alexandra Palace in London every year. Making this information explicit in the original text was therefore necessary for the Portuguese audience, but there was no need to include it in my translation, because it was already common knowledge among readers.

O jogador ribatejano foi eliminado pelo inglês Mervyn King na terceira ronda do Campeonato do Mundo, conquistado por Gerwyn Price, mas as boas prestações alcançadas ao longo do ano valeram-lhe um dos seis wild cards para disputar a competição organizada pela Sky Sports.

The Portuguese came crashing out of the Worlds in the third round following a 4-0 defeat to Mervyn King, but his great form throughout 2020 was enough for him to earn him one of the six wildcards on offer for the 2021 Premier League.

There are several things to point out here. Firstly, I changed “O jogador ribatejano” (“The player from Ribatejo”) to “The Portuguese,” because the region in Portugal where de Sousa comes from, Ribatejo, is most likely unknown to British readers, and the using the synonym “The Portuguese” for “de Sousa” was a good way avoid repetition throughout the article.

I also opted for “came crashing out of the Worlds in the third round following a 4-0 defeat to Mervyn King” as a translation for “foi eliminado pelo inglês Mervyn King na terceira ronda do Campeonato do Mundo” for several reasons. Firstly, the phrase “crashing out” is typically used in English to talk about big names or teams who have been knocked out of a tournament early; secondly, I wanted to use “the Worlds” as a darting synonym for World Championships to avoid repeating the same term; and, lastly, I included the result of the match between King and de Sousa to convey the idea that it was a crushing defeat for de Sousa and to serve as a memory aid for readers, since it’s likely that they would have forgotten about that particular game considering the tournament lasted for almost three weeks.

Likewise, I omitted “conquistado por Gerwyn Price” (“[Mervyn King was] defeated by Gerwyn Price”) from my translation, since this is not entirely relevant in an article about José de Sousa, plus it was very difficult to succinctly incorporate this information into the English sentence, whose structure was already considerably different to that of the Portuguese sentence before I even pondered how I could include it.

I also translated “ao longo do ano” (“throughout the year”) as “2020” for greater clarity, since the text talks about his form in 2020 and Premier League wildcard places are always handed out based on players’ performance over the previous year.

Moreover, there was no need to mention that the World Championships are broadcast on Sky Sports in my translation because British darts fans, and British sports enthusiasts in general, already know that.

«É uma grande notícia, porque se trata de uma Liga de primeira classe, onde só jogam os dez melhores jogadores de todo o mundo. Melhor do que isto não podia acontecer. Estou nas nuvens», disse José de Sousa em declarações à agência Lusa.

Speaking to Lusa News Agency, de Sousa said: “It’s wonderful news, because it’s a top class-league which only the 10 best players in the world get to play in. This is the best thing that could possibly have happened to me. I’m over the moon.”

Nothing of note here.

A Premier League de dardos é uma competição exclusiva, na qual participam apenas os quatro primeiros classificados da Ordem de Mérito PDC, que engloba os resultados dos últimos dois anos, e seis wild cards escolhidos pela organização.

The Premier League is an exclusive competition, featuring only the top four players in the PDC Order of Merit and six wildcard holders chosen by the PDC.

Unlike the Portuguese text, which explains how the PDC Order of Merit ranking system is determined based on players’ performance on the professional circuit over two years, I opted against doing so in the English version, since this is explained very succinctly, and much more concisely than I would have been able to here, in the final paragraph.

«Para além de ter sido o quinto melhor do último ano, creio que a maior influência na decisão da organização foi ter ganho o Grand Slam [em novembro]. Isso ajudou-me bastante para ser selecionado para a Premier League», comentou o jogador natural da Azambuja.

The Portuguese then went on to say: “As well as being the fifth best player [in the world] over the past year, I think the biggest reason behind the organisation’s decision was that I won the Grand Slam [in November]. That really boosted my chances of being picked for the Premier League.”

Again, as the British audience will not really be interested in the particular part of Portugal where de Sousa is from, and to avoid repeating his name, I translated “jogador natural da Azambuja” as simply “the Portuguese.”

I could have also translated “Isso ajudou-me bastante…” as “That really helped me…” However, this would have sounded slightly ungainly in English, so I chose a much more idiomatic (naturally sounding) phrase instead: “That really boosted my chances…”

Desta forma, José de Sousa vai competir com Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright e Rob Cross, além dos wild cards Gary Anderson, Glen Durrant, Nathan Aspinall, Dimitri Van den Bergh e um último jogador que só será anunciado após o torneio The Masters, no final deste mês.

“The Special One” will be pitted against the four qualifiers from the Order of Merit – Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Rob Cross – and the five other wildcard winners in this year’s competition: Gary Anderson, Glen Durrant, Nathan Aspinall, Dimitri Van den Bergh and another player who will selected after The Masters, which takes place at the end of this month.

I have omitted the conjunction “de esta manera” (in this way/therefore/subsequently) here because it adds nothing to the meaning in English. Likewise, as is often the case when translating from Latin languages into English, it’s best not to translate most conjunctions at the start of a paragraph because they are used much more sparingly in English than Latin languages, and, consequently, make English translations sound rather stilted and cumbersome if preserved. Therefore, I would only usually keep conjunctions in my translations that are essential to the coherence and logical progression of the text.

A Premier League 2021 estava agendada para ter início a 4 de fevereiro, mas foi adiada para data a determinar, segundo a organização, «nunca antes da Páscoa», devido à pandemia de covid-19.

The much-anticipated tournament was originally due to start on 4 February, but it has been postponed due to Covid-19. Although the new start date has yet to be confirmed, the PDC has said that it will “not be before Easter.”

It is clear that the text is still talking about the Premier League here, so there was no need to repeat the name of the competition, hence the use of the synonym “the much-anticipated tournament.”

Another point of interest here is the way “Covid-19” has been written. I have worked on many texts where the client’s style guide – a set of standards for the design and writing of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication or organisation, including standards for spelling, grammar and punctuation – has specified that “Covid-19” should be fully capitalised, while other clients’ style guides prefer “Covid-19” spelt as such, with only the first letter capitalised. Style guides exist to ensure consistency across all documents published by a particular organisation, so I checked the Guardian's style guide in this case, which states that only the first letter of “Covid-19” should be capitalised.

Na competição, que teve a sua primeira edição em 2005, os participantes defrontam-se em duas fases de todos contra todos. No final da primeira fase, os dois últimos classificados são eliminados, e na segunda fase os quatro primeiros passam à final e os quatro últimos ficam pelo caminho.

A final é disputada pelos quatro melhores classificados na play-off night (noite de play-off) em sistema de eliminatória.

First held in 2005, the Premier League is played over two round-robin stages. The bottom two in the table will leave the competition at the end of the first, while the top four players at the end of the second stage will advance to the Play-Offs, a mini knock-out tournament staged on the final night of the event to determine the overall winner.

There is no logical reason why this section of the Portuguese version has been divided into two separate paragraphs, since they discuss the exact same concept, so I have decided to merge these two paragraphs into a single paragraph in the English version.

«Em primeiro lugar, nunca me passou pela cabeça que algum dia pudesse jogar a Premier League. Agora é tentar ganhar o máximo de jogos e confrontos possíveis. Se conseguir, quem sabe se poderemos voltar a falar de um novo título», admitiu o jogador português.

Firstly, I must admit that I’ve never even thought about playing in the Premier League one day. I will just try to win as many games as possible. If I manage to win a few, who’s to say that I won’t win another title,” de Sousa said.

“Agora é tentar ganhar o máximo de jogos e confrontos possíveis” (literally, “Now is try to win as many games and encounters as possible”) is a phrase that cannot be translated into English using the same structure, because it’s totally ungrammatical. In Portuguese, it’s common for people to talk about themselves using a general construction such as this or constructions starting with “a gente” (“people”) in the third person singular, for example, but we can’t do that in English, so I decided to create an equivalent phrase using the typical English sentence structure of subject (I) + verb (try) + object (games), with relevant prepositions and other words in between, to formulate a naturally sounding sentence that made perfect sense.

Meanwhile, although I personally prefer “said de Sousa,” “de Sousa said” follows the conventions of other Guardian articles I’ve read where quotations are used. An example of this can be seen in the tennis article I referred to earlier. I must also note that I continued to use “said” and other derivative forms of the verb to “say” when quotations were used throughout my translation, because English very rarely employs additional words for this particular usage and has a much higher tolerance to repetition than Latin languages. This is reflected in the Portuguese version, which used “admitir” (“to admit”) in this particular paragraph to avoid repeating “dizer” (“to say”).

The Guardian style guide also states that the punctuation mark (comma or full stop) should be placed inside the closing quotation mark when quoting spoken language.

Em novembro de 2020, José de Sousa tornou-se no primeiro estreante a vencer o Grand Slam da Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), ao bater o inglês James Wade, na final, por 16-12.

In November 2020, the Portuguese became the first ever debutant to claim the Grand Slam title, defeating James Wade 16-12 in the final.

There was no need to mention the fact that the Grand Slam is a PDC tournament in my translation because that’s common knowledge amongst the target audience (the people who will read the translation).

Foi o melhor resultado de sempre de um jogador de dardos português no circuito profissional, a juntar aos triunfos no European Darts Grand Prix, em outubro, e aos Players Championships de Barnsley e Dublin, em 2019.

This was the greatest achievement ever recorded by a Portuguese darts player on the professional circuit, along with his triumphs at the European Darts Grand Prix in October, and at the Players Championship events in Barnsley and Dublin in 2019.

Nothing of note here.

José de Sousa, de 46 anos, natural da Azambuja, ganhou o cartão de jogador do ProTour em 2019, ano em que deixou de lado a sua profissão de carpinteiro e passou a dedicar-se a tempo inteiro aos dardos.

The 46-year-old was awarded a PDC ProTour Card in 2019, the same year that he left his job as a carpenter to pursue a career in professional darts.

Once again, there was no need to mention where de Sousa is from in Portugal in the translation for the same reasons mentioned above. Likewise, I didn’t need to repeat his name again, so I used “the 46-year-old” as a synonym for “de Sousa,” which you would very often see in other sports articles written in English.

Os resultados obtidos ao longo do último ano valeram-lhe o quinto lugar na Ordem de Mérito do Pro Tour, com um total de 63.500 libras em prémios (cerca de 70 mil euros), de acordo com o site da Professional Darts Corporation.

Nos últimos dois anos, José de Sousa acumulou 314.250 libras (perto de 350 mil euros), que representam o 15.º lugar na Ordem de Mérito da PDC.

De Sousa’s excellent form in 2020 catapulted him up to fifth place in the ProTour Order of Merit, having earned a total of £63,500 from Players Championship and European Tour events over the course of the year, according to the PDC’s official website.

Over the last two years, the Portuguese has also earned £314,250 through his exploits in ranking events, propelling him up to 15th place in the PDC Order of Merit.

There are several things to look at in these final two paragraphs of the text and translation. The first is the omission of the equivalent amount in euros in the English translation. As the UK uses pounds as its currency anyway, and thus, will already be able to gauge exactly how much de Sousa has earned on both tours, the equivalent amount in euros holds no relevance to them at all.

It’s also surprising that the Portuguese version has left so much information implicit; it has mentioned both the Order of Merit and the ProTour Order of Merit without explaining what they are. Unless you are a true darts geek like myself, you wouldn’t know the difference between the two, or would mostly likely forget it if you did know. I therefore felt that this information should be made explicit and provided for the readers of my translation, so I explained that the ProTour Order of Merit takes into account prize money earned from Players Championship and European Tour Events, while the Order of Merit is based on earnings from ranking events, such as the World Matchplay and the Grand Slam.

Conclusion: There are multiple factors at play in the translation process which must all be considered to ensure an optimal end product.

As my analysis of the translation above has shown, the following must always be considered to ensure a high-quality translation:

  • Cultural knowledge: A thorough understanding of both cultures involved – the culture in which the original text was written and the culture in which the translation will be used – is essential to determine which information needs to be omitted, kept or added in a translation to facilitate the understanding of its readers.

  • Understanding of the text type at play: Conventions must be adhered to, that is, the translation must read, look and feel like it were written in that particular language in the first place. In this case, my aim was to produce a translation resembling a typical Guardian-style article that its readers would expect to see. This also meant implementing the Guardian style guide where appropriate to ensure consistency with its other publications.

  • An in-depth understanding of how both languages work: Understanding grammar, tenses, punctuation use, etc. in both languages avoids the literal transfer of ungainly and unnatural constructions and phrases to the translated text. It’s also needless to say that an in-depth understanding of the source language (the language of the original text) is also required to accurately convey the intended meaning in the target language (the language of the translated text).

  • Excellent writing skills in one’s native language: Translators always aim to create texts that can exist in their native language in their own right, independent from the original, so they must have excellent writing skills in their mother tongue.

  • Creativity and confidence: You only need to look at how different some of my translation is to the original in terms of phrasing, grammar, punctuation, paraphrasing, etc. to see that creativity and confidence are required to distance yourself from the original to produce a translation that works in the target language.

  • In-depth subject knowledge: To use the right terms and fully understand the intended readers of a particular translation and the concepts discussed in a particular text, translators must have an in-depth understanding of the subject matter at hand. In this case, if the translator knew nothing about darts, they would have really struggled to do a good job.

  • Excellent research skills: Research is just as important to translators as their linguistic knowledge. Checking dictionaries, thesauri, bilingual corpora (collections of texts and their translations side by side), parallel texts (other texts written about the same subject matter in one of the two languages involved), terminology databases, etc. is something that all translators do every single day. For this text, for instance, I also read match reports, checked tournament results, and even, watched match highlights to make sense of certain references in the Portuguese text.

  • Time: Many people believe that translations can be churned out in bulk like products manufactured in a factory. But in actual fact, due to all the reasons I’ve mentioned above, the average translator can typically translate just 2,000-3,000 words a day, so we also need time to produce the level of quality you’re expecting, even in our specialist areas. This also means giving us enough time to self-revise (check our translation against the original for omissions, mistranslations, etc.) and proofread (check the translated text in isolation from the original for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, stylistic problems, etc.) our work before delivery.

I hope this post has taught you a great deal about the translation process and everything that goes into producing an optimal translation, but if you still have any questions, please feel free to get in touch:


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