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BURMESE TRANSLATION

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The Use of English Question Mark "?" in Burmese Translation

Posted on 6 February, 2013 at 23:11
The Use of English Question Mark "?" in Burmese Translation


Nowadays, I have proofread a few Burmese translations and come across the phenomenon of the use of English question mark in Burmese translation. Some translators use the English question mark but some don't. It has come to my attention that which practice whether the use of English question mark or not using it is a standard authentic translation.
 
When we look at the Myanmar Script, it includes 33 consonants, 12 vowels and a number of consonant combination symbols. Unfortunately, there is no English question mark in our Myanmar Script, but we have the equivalent, that is to say, a symbol representing the two tiny vertical lines called Poke-ma, which also represents an English full stop.  
 
I would like to look at the Ethics in Translation in the hope that it would resolve this issue. Ethics in Translation are as follows:
 
Ø  Translator shall not alter, make addition to or omit anything from their assigned work.  (AUSIT)
Ø  Translate original message faithfully to satisfy the needs of the end user. (ATA)
Ø  Render faithful translation of source text (meaning & register) [IOL]
Ø  Guarantee that translation is a faithful rendering of the original. (UN)
Ø  Refuse to give text an interpretation of which he/she does not approve.
Ø  Translation to be faithful and render exactly the idea and form of the original.
Ø  Faithful translation should not be confused with a literal translation, cultural adaptation may be needed.
 
Among the set of rules for translation, I choose the "translate original message faithfully to satisfy the needs of the end user, (ATA), to apply in this scenario. As long as we have the equivalent of the English question mark in Burmese Script, the equivalent would satisfy the translation of the English question mark and it would satisfy the needs of the end user as well. Some translators put both the equivalent and the English question mark at the same time so it makes the English question mark redundant in my view because it is not necessary, the equivalent is already there. However, the use of English question mark in Burmese writing can be accepted in casual writings such as Facebook, Twitters and etc, but it should be avoided in formal translation. Translation is regarded as one of the professional industries and it should be done professionally.
 
What is your thought?

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294 Comments

Reply Future assistant to Tony Latt
5:11 on 7 February, 2013 
In Burmese language, whatever sentence we write, it should end with "poke-ma", it represents both full-stop and question-mark. Even interrogative statement in Burmese should end with "poke-ma". One vertical line (not two) is equivalent to "comma" in English, it is pretty simple and straight forward.
Reply Aun
4:27 on 9 February, 2013 
If we are speaking from the Burmese literal point of view, 'Poke-ma' just shows the end of a sentence and nothing more. Only when we have a sentence ending with "lar" it can be assumed as a question mark. Therefore for me it is clear that 'Poke-ma' itself cannot be assumed as 100 % equivalent of the question mark.

If we shall think of this matter from general point of view, in Burmese we have only two punctuation marks - poke-ma (two vertical line) and poke-lay (one vertical line). For many cases they are not enough. For the people of Myanmar English is like a window glass to see the world. We are used to English punctuation marks from our schools and what we read in English. Therefore I think we should take some those familiar punctuation marks from English to enrich our Burmese way of expressions; using so will not harm our Burmese writing. I do not see any problem in using so.

There is one more point - what we translate is not only for a journal or official report, to be used in a literal way. I had translated a lot of things (more than half of my done jobs) which were for Burmese patients or users living abroad who have no proper knowledge of writing Burmese, they are under influence of English language. I feel that a lot of modern young men in Myanmar itself do not know how to write proper Burmese. I assume, using punctuation marks, which we have in English, may help understand better the text written in Burmese. Once it can help, why we shall not use them?

Reply Francis Kyaw
8:00 on 10 February, 2013 
Although many translators use English question mark, I don't use it in any of my writing.
Reply
23:21 on 10 February, 2013 
I am not recommend to use English Question mark in Burmese translation. But everybody have a own opinions.
Reply Ahmed Doo
4:21 on 13 February, 2013 
Aun says...
If we are speaking from the Burmese literal point of view, 'Poke-ma' just shows the end of a sentence and nothing more. Only when we have a sentence ending with "lar" it can be assumed as a question mark. Therefore for me it is clear that 'Poke-ma' itself cannot be assumed as 100 % equivalent of the question mark.

If we shall think of this matter from general point of view, in Burmese we have only two punctuation marks - poke-ma (two vertical line) and poke-lay (one vertical line). For many cases they are not enough. For the people of Myanmar English is like a window glass to see the world. We are used to English punctuation marks from our schools and what we read in English. Therefore I think we should take some those familiar punctuation marks from English to enrich our Burmese way of expressions; using so will not harm our Burmese writing. I do not see any problem in using so.

There is one more point - what we translate is not only for a journal or official report, to be used in a literal way. I had translated a lot of things (more than half of my done jobs) which were for Burmese patients or users living abroad who have no proper knowledge of writing Burmese, they are under influence of English language. I feel that a lot of modern young men in Myanmar itself do not know how to write proper Burmese. I assume, using punctuation marks, which we have in English, may help understand better the text written in Burmese. Once it can help, why we shall not use them?

I think Aun, in the Feb. 9/'13 comment, explained quite well on the subject of "?".

Since we do not have a symbol or character in Burmese language to use for a question mark (?), but to use the word "lar" at the end of a sentence indicating a question, the translator may use either way, ie., "lar" or "lar?", without violating any rules of translation! Of course, all Burmese sentences end with a 'poke-ma'.
Reply Tony Latt
20:39 on 16 February, 2013 
Aun says...
If we are speaking from the Burmese literal point of view, 'Poke-ma' just shows the end of a sentence and nothing more. Only when we have a sentence ending with "lar" it can be assumed as a question mark. Therefore for me it is clear that 'Poke-ma' itself cannot be assumed as 100 % equivalent of the question mark.

If we shall think of this matter from general point of view, in Burmese we have only two punctuation marks - poke-ma (two vertical line) and poke-lay (one vertical line). For many cases they are not enough. For the people of Myanmar English is like a window glass to see the world. We are used to English punctuation marks from our schools and what we read in English. Therefore I think we should take some those familiar punctuation marks from English to enrich our Burmese way of expressions; using so will not harm our Burmese writing. I do not see any problem in using so.

There is one more point - what we translate is not only for a journal or official report, to be used in a literal way. I had translated a lot of things (more than half of my done jobs) which were for Burmese patients or users living abroad who have no proper knowledge of writing Burmese, they are under influence of English language. I feel that a lot of modern young men in Myanmar itself do not know how to write proper Burmese. I assume, using punctuation marks, which we have in English, may help understand better the text written in Burmese. Once it can help, why we shall not use them?

If we allow the English question mark, which is not in our script, in Burmese translation, what about the other way round, using "Poke-ma" in English translation when we translate from Burmese into English? If not, why? This is the same scenario.

For both using English question mark in Burmese translation and using "Poke-ma" in English translation, is it culturally adaptable?

Please comment.
Reply Tony Latt
5:02 on 27 February, 2013 
Aun says...
If we are speaking from the Burmese literal point of view, 'Poke-ma' just shows the end of a sentence and nothing more. Only when we have a sentence ending with "lar" it can be assumed as a question mark. Therefore for me it is clear that 'Poke-ma' itself cannot be assumed as 100 % equivalent of the question mark.

If we shall think of this matter from general point of view, in Burmese we have only two punctuation marks - poke-ma (two vertical line) and poke-lay (one vertical line). For many cases they are not enough. For the people of Myanmar English is like a window glass to see the world. We are used to English punctuation marks from our schools and what we read in English. Therefore I think we should take some those familiar punctuation marks from English to enrich our Burmese way of expressions; using so will not harm our Burmese writing. I do not see any problem in using so.

There is one more point - what we translate is not only for a journal or official report, to be used in a literal way. I had translated a lot of things (more than half of my done jobs) which were for Burmese patients or users living abroad who have no proper knowledge of writing Burmese, they are under influence of English language. I feel that a lot of modern young men in Myanmar itself do not know how to write proper Burmese. I assume, using punctuation marks, which we have in English, may help understand better the text written in Burmese. Once it can help, why we shall not use them?

I am quite sure that "Poke-ma" cannot be used in English translation in whatever circumstances. Likewise, in my opinion whether it may be right or wrong, the use of English question mark in formal Burmese translation is not appropriate in whatever circumstances, even in the circumstances that Aun already commented.
Another way to look around is linguistic knowledge.
Linguistic knowledge is defined as;
• Know working languages in a translation appropriate way
• Ability to analyze some language for grammatical, syntactical, and contextual elements and transfer these appropriately.
Unfortunately, in my opinion the use of English question mark in Burmese translation does not fit in any of the above definitions.
Any comments?
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Reply RT
1:09 on 9 April, 2013 
During my schooling days back in Burma, we never used or taught to used "?" in Burmese writing. (BTW I believe mine was reasonably good educational institution. We were encouraged to listen to BBS broadcasts to pick up correct Burmese pronounciations and tones). Also I have never seen "?" was used in formal and standard publications like newspapers and textbooks etc.
I don't use "?" in Burmese translations, not even in social media comments, which obviously in not a Burmese script/symbol.
And no need to use it anyway.
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Francis Kyaw says...
Although many translators use English question mark, I don't use it in any of my writing.

I use English question mark in my writing. And think that it is useful in the writing of any content.