Four Things You Need To Know About Translations

Reference & EducationLanguage

  • Author Tim Peterson
  • Published June 25, 2016
  • Word count 686

You might’ve encountered a lot of interesting articles about what translation truly is, and different translators treat it differently while they master the art of proper translation. However, translation has a few common things that people tend to miss or never notice at all due to inexperience or paying not enough attention to the job at hand, so we’ll try to inform you about them right here, in this article. Follow it carefully, as the quality of your work might depend on it.

  1. Translation without losses is impossible.

There were many attempts to translate something to another language while trying to keep all of the information the original provided intact. In truth, this is impossible to do, since perfect knowledge of the language is close to impossible to achieve and there are always small rocks under the surface which are lost in the process.

However, another factor is the "rhythm" of the original information. Some things can be said with one word in one language, but in another it might require up to a few sentences. While in written form this kind of information can be translated and organically implemented into the text, when it comes to speech, especially synchronous translation, such moments might require quick consideration and optimization of the translated speech. It also requires proper understanding between the spokesman and the translator, so they operate without big issues to avoid breaking the pace.

In any case, it’s better to stick to the entrusted and professional translator so both parties develop understanding over time and deliver best possible results.

  1. Literal translation will always have issues.

Whether you’re translating literature or a simple technical note, you must have proper understanding of the subject at hand, and go over it before even trying to translate it. Translation is on par with rewriting the content while converting the information to another language as if you’re the original writer of the information. While you’re limited to the boundaries set by original content, you must understand your responsibilities, otherwise your work might be misinterpreted and overall reception of original work could be worse because of a poor translation.

In other words, when it comes to literature, literal translation is one of the poor ways which is used when translator doesn’t know the meaning of the original material (e.g. when trying to translate an idiom) and doesn’t bother or doesn’t have time to properly decipher the meaning (e.g. due to deadlines or lack of experience). However, literal translation can be the only way to properly translate a technical note.

  1. Liberties during translation can also cause problems.

As we know the drawbacks of literal translation, some might think that taking too many liberties can only be good in the process of translation, and unfortunately (or not), that is far from truth. Sometimes it might improve the literature or form the poetry into a coherent, consistent narrative, where literal translation will only result in unintelligible or uninspired gibberish.

However, at the same time too much liberty in translating text or speech that requires precise and proper meaning might cause the confusion and misinterpreting, which is not the desired intention.

  1. Context is everything.

Sometimes, an inexperienced and incompetent translator might say that "Translation is just a simple process of replacing the words in one language with words in another language and keeping your fingers crossed that the person on the other side will get the original meaning", and unfortunately, more and more people end up following this example. This applies mostly to people who don’t want to use the services of experienced translators and instead try to use automated translation or do it by themselves.

Usually it results in hilarious results, as context is usually lost in the process and there is no way to fix it or understand the resulting gibberish without a proper evaluation by a professional.

Now when you know more about translations, you can easily impress your new potential employers with better performance and more satisfying results. Subscribe to our newsletter for more useful articles about language-related work!

Tim is a professional freelance translator.

You can check his work on Polyglot

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