Joel Spolsky - A Proposito del Software

Joel Spolsky è programmatore e scrittore, e tiene uno stupendo blog su www.joelonsoftware.com. Il suo libro più interessante è probabilmente Joel on Software, libro che nasce dalla rielaborazione del materiale del blog, e che consiglio vivamente a chiunque si interessi di prorgammazione.

Ora, voi penserete che il libro che mi accingo a recensire (Joel Spolsky - A Proposito del software) sia una traduzione di Joel on Software, e invece no. Questo libro è la traduzione di un altro volume curato da Spolsky, intitolato The Best Software Writing I. Dell'altro libro esiste una traduzione che in italiano si intitola Joel e il Software. Confusi? Anche io.

Il vero problema è che questo libro è tradotto da far schifo. La traduzione è così scadente che gli articoli sono praticamente incomprensibili, il che, per un libro che in teoria raccoglie "i migliori articoli che diversi professionisti del settore hanno scritto sulla programmazione", è particolarmente ironico.

C'è un vasto assortimento di errori di traduzione. Si parte da classici come editor che diventa editore, si incontrano ovviamente alcune trappole dovute alla incompetenza tecnica del traduttore come 68k memory (la memoria del la CPU Motorola 68000) che diventano 68 Kbyte di memoria; per poi arrivare a casi come score tradotto come 'punteggio' anche quando vuol dire 'spartito'.

Se state leggendo un articolo su un software musicale, leggere che c'è "file dei punteggi" è vagamente sconcertante. Insomma, assolutamente non comprate questo libro nella versione italiana, lo raccomando invece nella versione originale che - ricordo - si intitola The Best Software Writing I

Qui di seguito una parziale raccolta degli errori di traduzione, in inglese perché l'ho inviata a Joel Spolsky.

Some of the mistakes in the translation

Page 18 (and elsewhere)
Your footnote is marked “Ed.” to denote it’s a note from the editor, not a note of the original author. This “Ed” is left untranslated, so for an Italian it seems a guy called Ed is placing those notes. In Italian, those notes are usually denoted with NdC (Nota del curatore, Editor’s note)

Page 31
CD Player
translated as “Lettore C” (C Reader)
It’s just a typo, but in a book abut software it’s particularly confusing: I was thinking about something to read C code. I had to go to the original cartoon to get its meaning.

Page 81
Score file is translated in “file dei punteggi”, should have been “file dello spartito” Score is a word with a lot of meanings, and they have different translations in Italian.

Refer to http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/score
For meaning 6a we use “spartito”
For meaning 6b we use “punteggio”

Page 83
Talk to an editor at a large publishing house
Translated as “parlate a un editore di una grande case editrice”
Should have been “parlate a un redattore di una grande case editrice”

The English “editor” is a well known false friend. Editore is a publisher, and redattore is an editor.
See http://home.unilang.org/main/wiki2/index.php/English-Italian_false_friends

Page 83
Illustrator combo
Translated as “combo Illustrator”
Should have been “pacchetto Illustrator” or similar

In Italian, “combo” is not a word, and is used only in very specific jargons, such as “combo” for a combo move in video games or in “combo box” in programming. see http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combo

Page 88
Windowing interface
Translated as “interfaccia con finestre” (Google knows 144 occurrences)
Should have been “interfaccia a finestre” (Google knows 22.000 occurrences)

Page 96
This essay is derived from a talk at Oscon 2004
Translated as “questo saggio è tratto da un discorso chiave tenutosi a Oscon 2004”
Should have been “questo saggio è tratto da una relazione presentata al convegno Oscon 2004” or similar

The italian means something like “this essay is derived from a fundamental talk that took place in Oscon 2004” (btw, it looks as if Oscon is a place name)

Page 113
I just didn’t buy it
Translated as “semplicemente non l’ho acquistato” that back-translates to “I just didn’t purchase it”

The special meaning of “I just didn’t buy it” does not exist in Italian.

Page 115
In the footnote, your book “Joel on Software” is referenced in the English edition. It is customary to always quote the Italian translations of books, when they exist.

Page 122
Reconciliation reports
Translated as “rapporti di riconciliazione”
The Italian “riconciliazione” only has the meaning of “to restore to friendship or harmony”, not of “to check a financial account) against another for accuracy”

Page 130
bhé
beh is the correct spelling

Page 177
68K memory
Translated to “68k di memoria” (68k of memory)
The translator thought we have 68kb of memory

Page 188
You scan the channel list
Translated as “passare in elenco i nomi dei canali”
Should be “scorrere l’elenco dei nomi dei canali”
Google has 11 occurence of “passare in elenco”, 13.500 occurrences of “scorrere l’elenco”

Page 244
Extremely poor clone of Amazon
Translated as “povero clone di Amazon”
Should be “clone estremamente scadente di Amazon”
Italian “povero” is equivalent of “poor” but not in the meaning “of bad quality”

Also, why has “extremely” been deleted?

Page 265
Would let audience control order and pace
Translated “permetterebbero al pubblico di controllare l’ordine e la pace” that means “would let audience control order and peace”
(Italian “pace” is English “peace”, not English “pace”)

Page 267
Most of the humor in the Guide is destroyed by arbitrary substitution of terms that probably the translator did not understand.

call_a_quail
Translated as chiama_un_amico (call a (male) friend)

chunky bacon
Translated as “qualcosa” (something)

@only_the_chunkiest_cut_of_bacon_I_have_ever_seen
Translated as @qualcosa_è_caduto_dal_cielo (something fell from the sky)
Also, note the accented è.

@@i_will_take_your_chunky_bacon_and_raise_you_two
Translated as qualcosa_è_caduto_dal_cielo_ed_era_un_vaso (something fell from the sky and it was a vase)

coderspeak (pun with Orwellian reference)
translated as linguaggio dei programmatori (language of programmers)

Page 270
['toast', 'cheese', 'wine'].each { |food| print food.capitalize
}

Translated as:

[toast, formaggio, vino].each { |food| mangia cibi
}

which is:
1) excessive translation.
Should have been left in English. The point here is that ruby is similar to spoken language, if you translate just half of the words you destroy the effect

2) wrong translation
food.capitalize becomes “mangia cibi” (eat food)

3) broken code

Page 276
front_door.is_open?
Translated as porta_ingresso.è_aperta?
Again broken code, because of the accented è

To translate, or not to translate, that is the question

When translating IT books it’s quite difficoult to decide what should be translated and what stays in English. Many English IT words are use in Italian, some are translated, and quite a lot have both forms, translated and un-translated. Every publisher has its rules, and every writer has his style.

The problem is, in this book there is no uniformity, there must have been a mis-guided and mis-assorted team of translators working on it. There is plenty of examples, I will just quote a few ones.

On page 71, the comments in the Java code are left untranslated, and the proverb “if it walks like a duck..” is also left untranslated.

On page 81, speaking of a “for loop”, this is also left untranslated. In italian, we often say “ciclo for”.

On page 130 link (as in “link level compatibility”) is translated “collegamento”, while in this meaning (i.e. linking object code as opposed to web links) it’s far more frequent to leave it in english. See http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linking

On page 225, #ifdef apology is left untranslated, as if “apology” was a programming term

But the worst example is the title “Strong Typing vs. Strong Testing” that is half translated and half left in English (tipizzazione forte e strong testing, p. 68) There is just no logic!