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Iranian addresses are given in the order of Country, City, Street, Lane, No., Postal code. Should I change this order to No., Street, Lane, City, Country, postal code, when I am translating a Persian address to English in an official agreement?

For example a typical Iranian address reads:

Tehran, Valiasr Ave., Zartosht St., No. 5555, 1234567891

Where the last one is the 10-digit Iranian postal code.

  • Just curious: What's with the two street names? Is that like, an intersection? Some sort of district or neighborhood? In the U.S. -- and at least several other countries that I've had occasion to send mail to -- addresses are given as number, street name, city, maybe a state or province, and country. Only one street name. – Jay Apr 16 '15 at 13:21
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Use the Iranian address format

If your story takes place in Iran, your characters eat Iranian food, watch Iranian tv, and receive letters with an Iranian address. It is what gives your story a sense of place, it is part of the setting.

Only if you want to transfer the whole story to another country (as sometimes happens, for example when movies get remade for a US audience), would you turn the Iranians in your story into, for example, Americans, who live in Los Angeles instead of Teheran, and of course receive letters with an address in the American format.

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    I took "in an official agreement" in the question to indicate nonfiction. For nonfiction the address should use the local conventions of the destination (whose postal service is oriented to handle that format more quickly and correctly). The goal would be to maximize the speed and reliability of contacting the addressee. As you noted, for fiction verisimilitude is often important so the same answer applies. – Paul A. Clayton Apr 13 '15 at 10:41
  • @PaulA.Clayton I never read the question body and only answer the question title ;-) – user5645 Apr 13 '15 at 12:41
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I understand What's reasoning, but I would say the opposite: I'd say that if you're translating the language, you should follow the conventions of the target language. To take a similar example: in the U.S. we use a period to separate whole numbers from fractions and commas to separate groups of digits, like "1,234.56". But in many countries they do the reverse, and would write the same number "1.234,56". If I was translating to English I would use the English convention of writing numbers, regardless of the original.

Need I say that I'm not saying to change meaning or content? If the original said that the hero ate dolma I wouldn't change that to hamburgers to "translate".

But I certainly would change little conventions like you describe.

The one big exception I can see to that is if it matters in the story. Like if there's a crucial scene where a character is telling someone his address over the phone, and is suddenly cut off, then the fact that addresses are conventionally given in a different order becomes crucially important. In the U.S., if someone was cut off trying to give an address, the hearer might know the street and number but not the city. In Iran, apparently, the hearer would know the city but not the street. In fact as I type this, I recall reading a mystery story years ago where just that happens (in the U.S.), and the hearer starts searching for cities that have streets with that name, and fortunately the name is uncommon enough that he is able to narrow it down and find the place. That whole episode just wouldn't work in an Iranian novel. (Which suddenly makes me think: what would you do if asked to translate that novel while transplanting it to Iran? You'd have to rework the scene somehow for it to make sense.)

As I say, I understand What's point about preserving the "flavor" of the original culture. So I think a translator has to make a judgment call: how much confusion does something add versus how much flavor does it preserve? I certainly would not change descriptions of how people dressed or what buildings look like. I would generally change conventions like this. I'm sure there are lots of gray areas. Like, sometimes translations transliterate titles, other times they translate to an English equivalent. Like Americans are used to hearing the former ruler of Iran called the "shah" rather than the "king", but English-language stories about France routinely call the ruler the "king" and not the "roi". Etc.

Well, long answer to a short question!

  • This answer notices subtly interesting and important translation tips. The reasoning for addressing order as used in the US format was one I had never thought of before. – codezombie Apr 15 '15 at 22:20

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