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Guest Post By Jessica Wright

Translation needs a lot of creativeness when adapting what it is said in one language to another. If you speak more than one language it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can translate. Also, the lack of creativity of machines makes them unable to be real translators.

Here are some common delusions concerning translation.

“I was raised bilingually, so that makes me a translator”

A common misconception is that people who are bilingual are commonly great translators. However, this is not always the case. There is more to translating than knowing two languages equally. In order to become a translator you should be able to convert one language into another in such a way that the meaning is kept and the translation reads like the original and its context. There is indeed a big difference between being able to use two languages, and being able to translate between then, keeping the meaning and the general feeling of the text.

“I speak a foreign language, so I can be a translator”

Again, knowing a language does not automatically make you a translator. Even though people might be fluent in a language and feel comfortable speaking it, spoken and written languages are slightly different.

“Modern translation tools are so advanced that they can replace human translators”

We all have experience with Google Translate. Such translation tools are only able to translate a sentence word for word without taking into consideration the context, and more importantly-the feeling that the sentence should bring. And since such tools cannot understand context, they cannot distinguish between different meanings of the same word. In addition, they simply translate the sentence using its original word order, which in another language might sound weird or can totally lose the meaning. This generally is the reason why such translation tools don’t have advantage over human translators who can identify the context and the desired feeling of the text, bringing nuances and vivid meaning into the translation. However, translation tools can be useful to find out what a text in another language is (roughly) about.

“Translation can’t be that difficult, there’s only one possible translation for every text”

Having met a large number of language agencies offering translation services in UK, I can assure translation isn’t an exact science: there never is just one correct answer. Translation depends on context, feeling, target audience, etc. All these details give specific nuances to the translation. This is the reason why it is wrong to believe that there might be only one translation to a text. Ask five different translators to translate the same sentence and chances are that you will get five different translations to the same text, which are all correct. The importance of which translation is more suitable for a given occasion comes from the context and the desired audience- some translations could be more appropriate for the context and the intended target audience than others (however the rest of the translations are still correct).

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Comments on: "Common delusions about translation" (1)

  1. It appals us what some companies (many big ones too) put up as translations. Translation is paid poorly but some people are too mean to pay that pittance. It reflects very badly on them.

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