The Back Translation Slam

As readers of the ITI Bulletin will know, I recently set myself a little CPD exercise that was part back translation, part translation slam. The aim was to learn from others, to help overcome the independent freelancer’s default disconnect, and to ward off any incipient bad habits.

I took an Italian text and translated it; Miriam Hurley translated it independently; Anna George revised my translation (comparing it to the source); and Helen Oclee-Brown reviewed my translation (without the source). But the Italian was itself a translation, by Lucia Pettinati, so I added the English original into the mix, too, as this graphic (hopefully) explains.

OliverLawrenceBackTranslationSlamArticle-Diagramv2

Many thanks to all 4 of m’learned and charming colleagues.

The result: 5 texts to compare and contrast. In no particular order, here they are (plus the Italian, for any Italianists in the vicinity). The texts were about 640 words long. These versions have been abridged to save space; the first and last paragraphs have been removed.

I’ve said what I think in my article in the ITI Bulletin (Sept-Oct 2015), so now it’s your turn. It all shows, though, with a bit of imagination, how you can create your own CPD projects to learn from your colleagues and put your skills to the test – all at modest cost. CPD doesn’t have to be expensive.

So which text do you think is the best written? Or the most faithful?

Is there any phrasing you especially like (or loathe)?

And can you spot which of the English texts is the original?

Have your say in the comments.

Text a)

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

BV Pour Homme, the BV fragrance for men and the brand’s signature product, is inspired by an imaginary escape to the Dolomites. Evocative  of pinewood, Canada balsam and aged leather, this characteristic scent entwines raw sensuality and subtle genius to create  a fragrance that is discreet yet enticing and enduring like a memory. BV has now extended and further enhanced the unmistakeable Pour Homme range with an exuberant new variation: BV Pour Homme Extreme.

PURE DARING: BV PRESENTS POUR HOMME EXTREME

BV Pour Homme Extreme unleashes BV Pour Homme’s most intense, sensual side. Crafted by master perfumers Antoine Maisondieu and Daniela Andrier, Pour Homme Extreme is a union of unique and rare ingredients woven together to create a fragrance that brims with contrasts while still remaining true to its essential nature. The scent combines broad notes of labdanum and allspice, which bring out a new richness and renewed character. . And at its heart, the fragrance continues to exude its characteristic woody and aromatic harmony, accentuated by more pronounced notes of leather. Magnetic, captivating and deeply intriguing, the result is a refined but long-lasting eau de toilette, an unforgettable expression of masculinity.

SIMPLICITY, LUCIDITY, STRENGTH

The bottle reprises the rounded curves and clean lines of BV Pour Homme, with an opaque black intrecciato base. Inspired by the work of  Venetian master glassmakers and the traditional Italian carafe, the bottle is an authentic piece of fine craftsmanship. It is an absolute delight to hold in your hands, while the crisp  black-and-platinum label fully reflects the proud but restrained masculinity of BV’s collections for men.

INTENSELY ALLURING

Pour Homme Extreme will be launched with an advertising campaign starring Zak Steiner and directed by Axel Lindahl – the same model and director from the BV Pour Homme campaign filmed outdoors in New York. This portrait, centred on Steiner’s face, neck and shoulders, captures a moment that is impossible to pin down in time and space, evoking the fragrance’s pure yet sophisticated sensuality to perfection.

Text b)

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

BV Pour Homme, the BV fragrance for men and the brand’s signature product, draws inspiration from an imaginary escape to the Dolomites. With notes of pinewood, Canada balsam and aged leather, this characteristic scent interweaves raw sensuality and subtle genius to fashion a fragrance that is discreet yet enticing and evocative. BV has now extended and further enhanced the unmistakeable Pour Homme range with an exuberant new variation: BV Pour Homme Extreme.

PURE DARING: BV PRESENTS POUR HOMME EXTREME

BV Pour Homme Extreme unleashes BV Pour Homme’s most intense, sensual side. Crafted by master perfumers Antoine Maisondieu and Daniela Andrier, Pour Homme Extreme is a marriage of remarkable and rare ingredients woven together to create a fragrance brimming with contrasts while still remaining true to its essence. The scent combines broad notes of labdanum and allspice, which bring out a new richness and renewed character. And at its heart, the fragrance continues to exude its distinctive woody and aromatic accord, accentuated by more pronounced notes of leather. Magnetic, captivating and deeply intriguing, the result is a refined but long-lasting eau de toilette, an unforgettable expression of masculinity.

SIMPLICITY, CLARITY, STRENGTH

The bottle echoes the soft curves and clean lines of BV Pour Homme, with an opaque black intrecciato base. Inspired by the work of the Venetian master glassmakers and the traditional Italian carafe, the bottle is an authentic piece of fine craftsmanship. It is an absolute delight to hold in your hands, while the sharp black-and-platinum label fully reflects the proud but understated masculinity of BV’s collections for men.

INTENSELY ALLURING

Pour Homme Extreme will be launched with an advertising campaign starring Zak Steiner and directed by Axel Lindahl – the same model and director from the BV Pour Homme campaign shot on location in New York. This portrait, centred on Steiner’s face, neck and shoulders, captures a timeless moment in an indecipherable location, evoking the fragrance’s pure yet sophisticated sensuality to perfection.

Text c)

WHERE IT ALL STARTED

BV’s men’s fragrance, BV Pour Homme, the brand’s signature fragrance, takes inspiration from a dream-like journey through the Dolomites. With scents of pine wood, fir balsam and aged leather, the distinctive fragrance weaves raw sensuality with subtle inspiration into a discreet fragrance as insinuating and lingering as a memory. Joining and complementing its distinctive Pour Homme line, BV is introducing a new, vibrant version: BV Pour Homme Extreme.

A BOLD MOVE: BV INTRODUCES POUR HOMME EXTREME

BV Pour Homme Extreme lets loose the more intense, sensual side of BV Pour Homme. Composed by master perfumiers, Antoine Maisondieu and Daniela Andrier, Pour Homme Extreme is a unique blend of rare ingredients, woven together for a fragrance full of contrasts that stays true to its essential nature. The scent blends broad notes of labdanum and pimento, revealing new richness and a reinvigorated character, with its heart releasing continuously through its woody, aromatic accord, accentuated by more decisive notes of leather. The magnetic, enticing and deeply intriguing result is an eau de toilette that is sophisticated, lingering, and an unforgettable expression of masculinity.

SIMPLICITY, CLARITY, STRENGTH

A fine object of authentic craftsmanship, the bottle uses the same the rounded curves and sleek lines as BV Pour Homme, with a matte black intrecciato bottom. It was inspired by Venetian master glassblowers and the traditional Italian carafe. Remarkably pleasant to hold, the incisive black and platinum label perfectly reflects the confident, discreet masculinity of BV’s men’s collections.

INTENSELY ALLURING

Pour Homme Extreme’s launch will be supported by an advertising campaign starring Zak Steiner and directed by Axel Lindahl, the same model-and-director pair as the BV Pour Homme campaign, filmed in New York interiors. This portrait focuses on Steiner’s face, shoulders and neck, capturing a moment, unplaceable in time or space, perfectly mirroring the fragrance’s pure, sophisticated sensuality.

Text d)

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

BV Pour Homme, the BV fragrance for men and the brand’s signature product, is inspired by an imaginary escape to the Dolomites. Redolent of pinewood, Canada balsam and aged leather, this characteristic scent entwines raw sensuality and subtle genius to fashion a fragrance that is discreet yet enticing and enduring like a memory. BV has now extended and further enhanced the unmistakeable Pour Homme range with an exuberant new variation: BV Pour Homme Extreme.

PURE DARING: BV PRESENTS POUR HOMME EXTREME

BV Pour Homme Extreme unleashes BV Pour Homme’s most intense, sensual side. Crafted by master perfumers Antoine Maisondieu and Daniela Andrier, Pour Homme Extreme is a union of unique and rare ingredients woven together to create a fragrance that brims with contrasts while still remaining true to its essential nature. The scent combines broad notes of labdanum and allspice, which bring out a new richness and renewed personality. And at its heart, the fragrance continues to exude its characteristic woody and aromatic harmony, accentuated by more pronounced notes of leather. Magnetic, captivating and deeply intriguing, the result is a refined but long-lasting eau de toilette, an unforgettable expression of masculinity.

SIMPLICITY, LUCIDITY, STRENGTH

The bottle reprises the rounded curves and clean lines of BV Pour Homme, with an opaque black intrecciato base. Inspired by the work of the Venetian master glassmakers and the traditional Italian carafe, the bottle is an authentic piece of fine craftsmanship. It is an absolute delight to hold in your hands, while the sharp black-and-platinum label fully reflects the proud but restrained masculinity of BV’s collections for men.

INTENSELY ALLURING

Pour Homme Extreme will be launched with an advertising campaign starring Zak Steiner and directed by Axel Lindahl – the same model and director from the BV Pour Homme campaign filmed outdoors in New York. This portrait, centred on Steiner’s face, neck and shoulders, captures a moment that is impossible to pin down in time and space, evoking the fragrance’s pure yet sophisticated sensuality to perfection.

Text e)

WHERE IT BEGAN

BV’s signature men’s scent, BV Pour Homme, is inspired by a vision of a rustic respite in the Dolomite mountains. Redolent of pinewood, fir balsam and aged leather, the distinctive fragrance fuses rugged sensuality and subtle intellect for a fresh and understated scent that lingers in the mind like a memory. Now, BV complements and enhances the Pour Homme signature with the introduction of a vibrant new interpretation, BV Pour Homme Extreme.

A STRIKING TAKE: INTRODUCING BV POUR HOMME EXTREME

BV Pour Homme Extreme is an expression of the more intense, sensual facets of BV Pour Homme. Composed by master perfumers Antoine Maisondieu and Daniela Andrier, Pour Homme Extreme is a combination of rare and unique ingredients woven together to create a fragrance full of contrasts, while preserving its essential nature. The fragrance features amplified labdanum and pimento notes, revealing a new richness and character, while the soul of the scent continues to radiate through its woody aromatic accord, heightened by intensified notes of leather.  Magnetic, compelling and deeply intriguing, the result is a refined yet lasting Eau de Toilette, an unforgettable expression of masculinity.

SIMPLICITY, CLARITY, STRENGTH

The BV Pour Homme Extreme bottle mirrors the soft curves and powerful shapes of BV Pour Homme, with a matte black intrecciato base. Inspired by Venetian glasswork and the traditional Italian carafe, it is a finely crafted object in its own right, and a pleasure to hold in the hand. The crisp black and platinum label echoes the confident, understated masculinity of BV menswear.

INTENSELY CAPTIVATING

Pour Homme Extreme will be launched with an advertising campaign featuring Zak Steiner as captured by Axel Lindahl, the same model and film-maker behind the BV Pour Homme campaign, shot on location in New York City. The image has been shot at an intimate range. Centered on Steiner’s face, shoulders and neck, the portrait captures a moment unfixed by time or space, reflecting the raw yet sophisticated sensuality of the fragrance.

The Italian text

DOVE TUTTO È INIZIATO

La fragranza maschile di BV, BV Pour Homme, firma del brand, trae ispirazione da un’onirica fuga sulle Dolomiti. Odorosa di legno di pino, balsamo d’abete e pelle invecchiata, questa caratteristica fragranza intreccia rude sensualità e genio sottile, dando vita a una profumazione discreta, ma insinuante e persistente come un ricordo. Oggi, BV completa e valorizza ulteriormente l’inconfondibile linea Pour Homme introducendo una nuova, vivace interpretazione: BV Pour Homme Extreme.

UNA MOSSA AUDACE: BV PRESENTA POUR HOMME EXTREME

BV Pour Homme Extreme sprigiona il lato più sensuale e intenso di BV Pour Homme. Composta dai maestri profumieri Antoine Maisondieu e Daniela Andrier, Pour Homme Extreme è una combinazione di ingredienti unici e rari, tessuti insieme per creare una fragranza ricca di contrasti, ma che mantiene inalterata la sua natura essenziale. La profumazione fonde ampie note di ladano e pimento, che svelano una nuova ricchezza e un rinnovato carattere, mentre il cuore della fragranza continua a sprigionarsi attraverso il suo accordo legnoso e aromatico, accentuato da più decise note di pelle. Magnetica, coinvolgente e profondamente intrigante, il risultato è un’Eau de Toilette raffinata ma persistente, un’indimenticabile espressione di mascolinità.

SEMPLICITÀ, LUCIDITÀ, FORZA

Il flacone riprende le curve arrotondate e le forme pulite di BV Pour Homme, con una base in intrecciato nero opaco. Ispirato al lavoro dei mastri vetrai veneziani e alla tradizionale caraffa italiana, il flacone è un fine oggetto di autentico artigianato, incredibilmente piacevole da tenere tra le mani, mentre l’incisiva etichetta in nero e platino riflette appieno la mascolinità fiera ma discreta delle collezioni maschili di BV.

INTENSAMENTE ACCATTIVANTE

Il lancio di Pour Homme Extreme sarà accompagnato da una campagna pubblicitaria che vedrà come protagonista Zak Steiner diretto da Axel Lindahl. Stesso modello e stesso regista della campagna di BV Pour Homme, girata in esterni a New York. Questo ritratto, incentrato sul volto, sulle spalle e sul collo di Steiner, cattura un momento impossibile da collocare nel tempo e nello spazio, in grado di riflettere alla perfezione la pura, ma sofisticata, sensualità della fragranza.

 

9 thoughts on “The Back Translation Slam

  1. Miriam Hurley

    “A striking take”? What does that mean?
    I realize that I made a mistake based on the Italian with “New York interiors” when it said “esterni”, the translation of “shot on location”. Now having watched the ad, my mistake was actually factually correct and it’s quite odd that they would say “shot on location” for an ad almost all inside.

    Reply
    1. Oliver Lawrence Post author

      Your first line sounds a bit abrupt, but that was because of my edit, not to give the game away with the very first post :). But yes, it sounded a bit odd to me, too. Naturally, I couldn’t look at the English original before I did my translation, to avoid interference; if I could have, I might have had second thoughts.
      Just goes to show 2 wrongs can make a right :).

      Reply
  2. Isabelle Weiss

    An interesting experiment that shows just how differently the same text can be translated, or should I say, transcreated. It opens up the whole discussion about how “free” one should be with marketing texts, and how much subjectivity is involved in the evaluation.

    All the EN texts have a number of flaws: rather clumsy expressions like “enticing and enduring like a memory”; “union of unique …”, “still remaining true to its essential nature”; “unplaceable in time and space”. “essential nature” seems to me to be tautological, and I think one could safely leave out the “in your hands” when using the verb “hold”.
    Overall, I prefer text b), mainly because it has “evocative” which is a really good solution, simply “essence” instead of “essential nature”. Also: “timeless moment” (though I am less keen on the “undecipherable location”. It also has a fairly good rhythm (which is lacking somewhat in Text a). In text d) I don’t like “entwines raw sensuality and subtle genius” (seems rather far-fetched) and does not have good rhythm.
    Only text c) makes it clear that both the model and the director/photographer are the same, while the other texts leave a doubt in one’s mind. I don’t like “lets loose” instead of “unleashes”.

    My bet is on VERSION c) being the ORIGINAL, as I can see most resemblance of that with Lucia’s Italian, and because of the “model-and-director pair”. a) and d) are obviously derived from each other (“unique union” – so cannot be the original). e) has “unfixed in time and space” which I cannot believe a copywriter would have written.
    Best,
    Isabelle

    Reply
  3. Miriam Hurley

    Are you going to reveal the original at the end, Oliver?
    Though some of the phrases that Isabelle didn’t like I do like (“essential nature”), I agree that nothing sounds right for “impossibile da collocare nel tempo e nello spazio.” It’s an odd phrase in the original too, especially since it mentions that it’s in New York. If you watch the video of the ad you can see what they meant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IJyXBPu6V4. I don’t like “timeless” personally as it lacks the specificity of the original.
    If you were writing the original copy about that ad and they wanted you to say something along the lines of “impossibile da collocare nel tempo e nello spazio,” what would write?

    Reply
  4. Miriam Hurley

    I guess we need the original copywriter to find out what s/he meant by “striking take.” As in a new, striking version of the first Pour Homme? I’m also curious about the difference between allspice and pimento.

    Reply
  5. Helen Oclee-Brown

    Well, now the cat’s out of the bag!

    This was a tricky little text but one that made for an interesting study.

    I have to agree that ‘impossibile da collocare nel tempo e nello spazio’ is a bit of a thorny phrase. I was quite pleased with my ‘timeless moment’ but less so with ‘indecipherable location’ – it’s still a bit clunky to my ears. Does the Italian phrase sound any good? Oliver, you called it ‘odd-ish’ in your Bulletin article. I’m afraid my holiday Italian isn’t good enough to judge that one.

    It’s very interesting to see the advert. As Miriam says, the ‘shot on location’ phrase is a bit peculiar because we only see brief glimpses of the city. But the city is clearly New York. I don’t know where that leaves the ‘impossibile’ phrase… Moreover, I find the text’s emphasis on craftsmanship at odds with the model-centric ad. But then we’re dealing with different media.

    Back to the exercise.

    As Oliver mentioned in his Bulletin article, I didn’t hold back when reviewing the English text. Unshackled from the Italian source – albeit safe in the knowledge that my Italian-speaking ‘client’ would rein me in if/when I went too far – I pushed and pulled the text in an attempt to make it sing, with varying degrees of success.

    The main message I’ve drawn from various revision workshops in the past was to always justify your changes. And that’s what I did here when reviewing, adding comments to most of my changes on the marked-up copy I delivered. In my imagined scenario, I figured that if the client cared about their product, they’d be willing to discuss the text, right? Ever the optimist!

    In any case, I’d be very interested to hear how Anna approached her revision exercise.

    One final thought, to me there is much more than a mere ‘hint of suspicion’ that the English original might have been a translation. Perhaps it’s time our Italian colleagues took on the mantle by translating it back into Italian. Any volunteers for the back translation slam part 2?

    Reply
    1. Miriam Hurley

      I wondered about it having been originally a translation too, since the company is Italian. Or perhaps the Italian client had phrases they were stuck on using. Though in this kind of ethereal copy one often says sort of odd things. I’m curious too about “pimento.” I translated it as “pimento,” but when I saw all spice (which I hadn’t previously known was related to pimento), I thought it must be right, but the original had pimento. But if that were a translation too, perhaps that was an error. Oh dear, my head is starting to spin. Maybe “striking take” was “interpretazione suggestiva” or something

      Reply

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