The subject of my research is “Style in letters and its maintenance in translation”. I am interested in this topic as letters are often used to communicate to individuals outside an organization, especially in formal and semi-formal contexts. Letters are essential in all spheres of our life, such as: business, politics, economics, etc. In spite of the fact that modern technology is developing so quickly, people still prefer letter to electronic mail as letter is more formal and reliable than electronic mail, more precise and permanent than telephone or face-to-face communication.
Consequently, I decided that such work will help to develop not only my skills of writing, but my real life skills as well. For example, after my graduation from Vilnius Law and Business College I will have to apply for a job. So, by this time I will have learnt how to write a letter of application and CV. Furthermore, I will be able to write to the editor of a local newspaper or any authorities in case I am dissatisfied with anything in my life, for instance, with the fact of building a skyscraper just in front of my house. So, how can I do it? I have to study the style, language, structure and layout of letter, both in English and Lithuanian languages.
The aims and objectives of the work are the following ones:
• To analyze and to compare the English and Lithuanian styles and rules of letter writing;
• To become an independent learner;
• To improve my knowledge of English;
• To learn how to express my opinion and summarize my ideas;
• To be able to look up and find the information in different sources;
• To master my real skills.
II. THEORETICAL PART
1. TYPES OF LETTERS
There are various types of letters, such as:
a) letters of request; b) information letters; c) letters of advice; d) letters of suggestion/recommendations; e) letters of complaint; f) letters of apology; g) letters of application; h) letters to the editor/authority (expressing an opinion and/or providing solutions/suggestions); i) transactional letters, etc.
A successful letter should consist of:
a) an appropriate greeting: e.g. Dear Ms. Crawley, Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Tony;
b) an introductory paragraph, which clearly states your reason for writing;
c) a main body in which you develop the subject, and deal with the additional objective(s) of the letter if necessary;
d) a conclusion in which you summarize the subject;
e) an appropriate ending: e.g. Yours Faithfully/Sincerely + full name, Best Wishes + first name.
2. STYLES OF LETTERS
Formal letters are normally sent to people in an official position or people you don’t know well (e.g. Director of Studies, Personnel Manager, etc.). They are written in a formal style with a polite, impersonal tone.
• You can write a formal letter to apply for a job/course, make a complaint, give/request official information, etc.
• A formal letter should consist of:
a) a formal greeting ( e.g. Dear Sir/Madam – when you do not know the person’s name; Dear Ms Green – when you know the person’s name);
b) an introduction in which you write your opening remarks and mention your reason(s) for writing ( e.g. I am writing to apply for the position of …);
c) a main body in which you write about the main subject(s) of the letter in detail, starting a new paragraph for each topic;
d) a conclusion in which you write your closing remarks
e.g. I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible … ;
e) a formal ending (Yours Faithfully – when you do not know the person’s name; Yours Sincerely – when you know the person’s name; + your full name ).
Semi-formal letters are sent to people you do not know very well or when you want to be more polite and respectful (e.g. a pen friend’s parents, a person you do not know very well, a schoolteacher, etc). For this reason they are written in a more polite tone than informal letters. Some formal language can be used. Compare the following:
Informal: Thanks a lot for the invitation. I’d love to come to your party.
Formal: I would be delighted to attend your birthday celebration.
Semi-formal: Thank you for your kind invitation. I would love to join you on your birthday.
• A semi-formal letter should consist of:
a) a formal greeting: e.g. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Baker;
b) an introduction in which you write your opening remarks and clearly state the reason(s) for writing:
e.g. Thank you very much indeed for your kind offer … ;
c) a main body in which you write the main subject(s) of the letter in detail, Starting a new paragraph for each topic;
d) a conclusion in which you write your closing remarks: e.g. I am looking forward to seeing you next month … ;
e) a semi-formal ending ( Regards/ Best wishes, etc. and your full name).
Informal letters are sent to people you know well (e.g. friends, relatives, etc) about your recent news, personal problems, information you need, etc. They are written in an informal style with a chatty, personal tone.
• An informal letter should consist of:
a) an informal greeting (Dear Ken/Aunt Joan/etc);
b) an introduction in which you write your opening remarks ( i.e. asking about your friend’s health, etc) and mention your reasons for writing:
e.g. Hi! How are you? I thought I’d write and let you know that…;
c) a main body in which you write the main subject(s) of the letter in detail, starting a
new paragraph for each topic;
d) a conclusion in which you write your closing remarks:
e.g. That’s all my news for now. Write back soon …;
e) an informal ending (e.g. Lots of love/ Best wishes/etc + your first name).
Translating from English to Lithuanian and vice versa often causes a lot of problems, because the structure of these languages is rather different. In spite of this fact, in both these languages letters are written in a more or less similar way. As Lithuania does not have any particular way of writing the letters, the last ones are translated and written according to the English standard. To be more exact, according to the European Standard (since Lithuania is a member of European Union, where English is the international language).
So, let us consider the differences and similarities of writing and translating formal, semi-formal and personal letters both in English and Lithuanian languages.
2.1 Structure of formal/semiformal letters
Position: in the top right corner
The full address (number of the house, street, place, zip code, COUNTRY (in capital letters) while in Lithuania (street, number of the house, zip code, place, COUNTRY).
17 Orchard Rise Street Taikos st. 5-82
London NW 12 2022 Vilnius
Position: on the right, one line below the sender’s address.
In English there are several possible ways of date writing:
• Date, month, year (British):
a) 2nd February, 1994
b) 2 February, 1994
• Month, date, year (American):
a) February 2nd, 1994
b) February 2, 1994
However, in Great Britain the most common is the first one (i.e. 2nd February, 1994). It is also necessary to know that we should put a comma before the year, but not after it.
Some names of months can be abbreviated:
The names of such months as March, May, June, July cannot be shortened. The date can be also written by using numbers only. The most common are the following variants: 5-10-04 or 5/10/04.
However, 5/10/04 usually means 5 October 2004 in Britain and May 10, 2004 in America. To avoid any possibility to confuse your addressee, you should spell out the month or use its abbreviation.
There are 2 possible ways of date writing in Lithuanian:
a) it is written with Arabic numerals with gaps between year, month and day. The months and days (till 10) are always written using 2 numerals (i.e. insert “0” zero)
e.g. 1997 05 27; 2004 01 09
The date’s order in Lithuanian is following: year, month, day.
b) this way is called compound, because year and days are written in numbers with letters “m”-metai (year); “d”-diena (day). Months are written in words without any abbreviation.