Comparing Translations – with Juxta, CollateX and human expertise

We had the pleasure of working with the Czech translations of Emelie Flygare Carlén’s Ett köpmanshus i skärgården (The Merchant’s House on the Cliffs, original edition 1859) with Ursula Stohler at a workshop i Gothenburg last week. Ursula is currently working on a project on the Czech translations and reception of some female 19th-century writers, among them Flygare Carlén and Marie-Sophie Schwartz.

The aim of the workshop was to compare the first two translations to Czech, and to investigate how close they, and the German edition which was used as the base for the Czech, came to the Swedish original.

The Czech National Library generously gave us access to plain text files of the first translation from 1872, the second – from 1910 – was ordered from the Swedish National Library as an image file. We experienced some trouble both with the OCR of the 1910 edition, and with the collation tools. Juxta, which is normally a really useful collation tool had trouble dealing with all the different signs in Czech. CollateX dealt better with this, but doesn’t offer any good visualizations for longer parts of text. Abbyy FineReader was used for the OCR, but it seems the pdf had an embedded encoding which the program didn’t agree with.

Even though the digital methods weren’t so successful this time, we luckily had our human expertise to guide us and we found some really interesting differences between the Swedish original and German translation, but also some evidence that the translators took pains to present the “Swedishness” of the author in both the Czech and German translations.

badOCRbild-5 juxta1910Collatex


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