Translation is not a straightforward task and can take years to master. Most translators even specialise in a certain subject area to ensure they can provide work of the highest quality. Nonetheless, even work completed by these professionals can encounter query. This week, eSense Translations explains why this can be the case and what solutions can be offered to ensure your translations are completed in the way you envisage.
Language can be a very subjective entity. Consider the many different ways a statement can be written in English. Here are a number of examples:
Different words can be interchanged within a sentence without the sentence becoming incorrect or inaccurate, but just with a different slant on its interpretation.
Consider the verb ‘to speak’. This could be replaced with the synonyms ‘to discuss’, ‘to talk’, ‘to whisper’, to shout’, ‘to utter’, ‘to voice’, ‘to articulate’ and many more. Some of these synonyms are more similar than others and some are more descriptive in the way in which the verb is being carried out.
A writer will decide on which word is the most appropriate by considering the context and how they want to portray this to the reader. None of the above verbs are wrong. Each one describes the action of a person speaking, nonetheless the writer needs to decide on their preference and what they want to convey.
The above illustrates the many options a writer has when choosing just one word in a sentence and how the choice of that word leads to different interpretations. This principle applies to translation. A professional translator will look to replicate the work of the original writer as closely as possible and in order to do this will aim to gain a full understanding of the aim of the writing, the ethos and the context.
Sentences can be constructed in a few different ways without the meaning being altered hugely and the sentence still remaining correct. Often this can be a stylistic preference.
The baseball cap is available in sizes small, medium and large, in a variety of colours.
The baseball cap is available in a variety of colours, in small, medium and large sizes.
This is quite a straightforward example; however it illustrates how two different translators can come up with alternative ways of structuring a sentence, both being equally correct.
In other languages, different pronouns are used for when addressing people formally or informally. For example, in French, the pronoun ‘vous’ is the formal version of ‘you’, ‘tu’ being the informal version.
Pronoun use in English is not as complex as many other languages and therefore if you do not speak a second language, you may not appreciate how important it is to state the purpose of your content before it is translated.
eSense Translations has shared three ways in which a translation can have different interpretations, but there are many other reasons why translators’ opinions may differ. As a client ordering a translation, in order to ensure your translated is created in the manner you require, always provide a full briefing for your project. The details for this could include:
- Your target audience and where they are based
- The tone required (formal/informal)
- The ethos of your company, i.e. what message are you trying to portray to your audience
- Context of the text (if you only require a few sentences, this may seem like a simple task, but if you have taken them out of their context, it can be difficult for the translator to understand what you are referring to).
From a translator’s perspective, if you are allocated a translation project, it is best to check the above details with your client. Making assumptions can lead to unhappy clients and sometimes work needing to be redone, so always ensure you are clear from the outset.
If you are a professional translator in any language, and are looking for more projects to work on, get in contact with eSense Translations and we would be happy to discuss our registration process with you.
By Lorna Paice