Google translation’ of book into Turkish sparks debate

Google translation’ of book into Turkish sparks debate

Tuğba Öztürk - ISTANBUL
Google translation’ of book into Turkish sparks debate

A veteran translator has stirred controversy among literature experts by announcing that he has translated a biography of Milan Kundera from French into Turkish although he is not a francophone.

Osman Akınhay, co-founder of Istanbul-based publishing house Agora Kitaplığı, said in a tweet on April 27 that the book was ready to be published after eight months of “sentence-based work with the help of Google Translate,” though admitting that he does not have full command of French.

The translated text was edited by Halil Gökhan and revised by Şükrü Argın, he added.

After receiving a salvo of criticism on social media, Akınhay again took to Twitter to explain the translation process.

Akınhay said that when he faced difficulty finding a translator for that book, he started joking about translating it using the internet search giant’s translation application.

“As I said, I am not a French speaker. When the deadline approached, that went beyond a joke. I said, ‘Why not?’ and started looking into Google Translate carefully.”

Although Google Translate does not generally produce accurate results in translating a text from French into Turkish, the results of translation from French into English were “pretty satisfactory,” Akınhay said.

A “Google translation” sample of a chapter received “encouraging comments” from several experts, Akınhay added.

“For me, the mentioned translation work is a challenge - firstly to myself - and, as said in a previous tweet, an experimental attempt for our field,” he said.

Prominent literature expert and translator Nedim Gürsel said he was “astonished” to hear “how a literary translation could be done without having a full command of a language.”

“If you are translating a literary text that is different from the colloquial language, the skills of a translator should be involved in the process,” Gürsel said.

Barış Yıldırım, another translator, underlined the discrepancy between translating “with the help of Google Translate” and “by Google Translate.”

“In today’s world, it has no difference with using a dictionary. Probably, we will read a text far better than that of a presumptive translation by a translator with a perfect French but less command of Turkish,” he said.

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