The term “translation” has its origin in the Latin word traductio, which means the action of guiding from one side to the other. On the other hand, according to the Oxford Dictionary, translation is: “a written or spoken rendering of the meaning of a word or text in another language”. However, translation is not only the product but also the process by means of which that rendering of meaning is carried out.
In other words, translation is the process to understand the meaning of a text in a certain language (source text/language), so then that meaning can be transferred to another text in a different language (target text/language). Even though this is, in general terms, the agreed-upon concept of translation as a process, still it is necessary to remark the differences between translation as a profession and interpretation.
Translation can also refer to a genetic process that takes place during the second phase of protein synthesis. The genetic translation allows a messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid) to turn into an amino acids chain that will later form a protein. Of course, this is not the kind of translation we want to talk about in this article.
In spite of what a lot of people think, translation goes beyond the word-for-word transfer of meaning. A good translator is capable of translating the message in a natural way by means of not only the transfer of meaning but also the transfer of a whole culture.
The input for a translation can be a written or oral text, and the translator can render likewise a written or oral text. However, if the input is an oral text, the target text has to be in written form. On the other hand, if the input is a written text, the target text can be in written or oral form. Let´s see some examples to illustrate these facts.
We call here ¨conventional translation¨ to what we all know as ¨translation¨ (from written to written text). The translator receives a written text in a certain language and he/she has to be able to transfer the meaning of that text to another text in a different language. It sounds easy but it is not. Further in this article, we will talk more about this process.
Not a lot of people know about this type of translation since it is not that common. In fact, many would say it is rather a type of interpretation but it is not. Nonetheless, sight translation is often used in some contexts in which interpretation is involved. We can assure it is a type of translation and it even was one of the core subjects during my BA at university. It consists of having a written text as input and then read out loud the same text but in a different language. Translators have to be able to read a text, let´s say in Spanish, and almost at the same time utter that same text but in another language, let´s say English.
Subtitling is a kind of special translation. Many people do not take some time to even think it is also translation. In fact, subtitling is one of the contemporary ways of translating and the professionals who carry out this activity are translators. In this case, the source text is an audiovisual one, and the translator has to render a written text which is going to be shown on the screen. Hence, several aspects have to be taken into account in order for the spectators to fully enjoy the audiovisual in their mother tongue.
Of course, translation appears after the invention of writing. That is why, its twin profession, interpretation, appears early in history since oral communication appears way before than written language. In an article in this category, we will deepen in the history of translation and interpretation.
It is thought that the first translation ever was the Epic of Gilgamesh (approximately 2.000 B.C.). It was translated from the Sumerian language into other ancient Middle East languages. Besides, we have the discovery of the Rosetta stone (169 A.C.) in 1799 which became a landmark in history and conspicuous evidence of the use of translation during those times. On the Rosetta stone, researchers found several versions of the same text in different languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics, demotic scripture, and ancient Greek.
The different translations of the Bible are also good evidence of the use of translation since the beginning of the Christian religion. The first example is the translation of the Old Testament carried out under the orders of Ptolomeo during the III century B.C. into Hebrew, which is known as the Alexandrian version. Later, in the II century A.C., we find the Vetus Latina which already included the New Testament. And we get to the most relevant translation of the Bible to us: Vulgata. This version was translated by Saint Jerome during the IV century and it was extremely important because it was the first time the Bible was translated into the language the commoners spoke (hence the name that comes from ¨vulgar¨). That is why, nowadays, Saint Jerome is considered the patron of all translators, and we found inspiration in his great work to name our agency.
During contemporary times, we see a new era with the computerization of the work. Since the ´40s, we can see efforts intended to modernize and facilitate the translation process due to its complexity and the time it takes. Besides, we must never forget how relevant translation is in this more and more globalized world and the role it has played in the progress of humanity.
There are different types of translation that can be classified according to a whole set of criteria such as the translator´s mother tongue, the different situations present during the translation process, the audience, the demands of the client, etc. Therefore, we have several classifications and types of translation.
Direct translation refers to the type of translation in which the translator´s mother tongue corresponds to the target language. For example, if we refer to a project in which the two languages involved are English and Spanish, English being the source language and Spanish the target language, the translator must have Spanish as his/her mother tongue. On the other hand, if the translator´s mother tongue is English, then we are before an inverse translation. It is advised always to translate into your mother tongue in order to ensure the best quality. That is why, in Divulgata, we prefer to offer our services into Spanish, since our team is composed by Spanish natives. In the cases in which the translator has none of the languages involved as his/her mother tongue, he/she should have a native-like command of both languages to render a good translation.
Literal translation refers to the word-for-word transfer of meaning. Although this cannot be the aim of any translator, in some cases, without intending to do so, we have some fragments in our translations that can be considered literal translation. Most people who are not involved in the profession think that translation is all about being literal, I mean, just transferring the meaning of every word; however, they are so wrong. Literal translation, although may be faithful to the source text, it is not always the best way to transfer the meaning. A very good example may be sayings among different cultures. These phrases cannot be translated literally, since they convey a huge cultural load. For example, if we say in English ¨It is raining cats and dogs¨, the literal translation of it into Spanish will have no meaning for a Spanish speaker (Está lloviendo gatos y perros). The correct translation would be: Está lloviendo a cántaros. In this case, we as translators should use a free or literary translation. It is called literary because it is mainly used in the translation of books such as novels or poetry. Translators in charge of projects like this have more freedom to change what is said in the source text (not the overall meaning) in order to render a more natural reading to the reader.
In this category, we find a whole new array of types of translation. There are scientific papers or documents which have their are own jargon depending on the field they treat. Hence, the translator must be familiar with the corresponding field to be able to ensure a high-quality translation. On the other hand, the language used in this type of documents is very direct, lacking metaphors and other literary resources. Therefore, the translator usually uses a literal translation to convey the meaning in the other language. This type of translation is called scientific translation or specialized-language translation. We also have the translation of literary documents such as novels and poetry. In this case, as we said before, it is more advisable to use the literary translation and this is precisely the name of this type of translation taking into account the type of document. On the other hand, it is also necessary the translation of legal documents (legal translation) because all the parties involved have to be aware of the content of these documents to make important decisions. These documents usually have a standard official language quite different from the ones used in our daily lives. In the end, we would like to mention the medical translation. Even though it could be included within the scientific translation, due to its importance, and the need for this type of translation, it is usually classified apart from the rest.
This is a very controversial issue and it takes us to another type of translation called Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT). It consists of the use of different software to assist translators during the translation process. These software can be digital dictionaries, machine translation (MT) programs, glossaries, translation memories, and translation platforms. The last CAT tool mentioned is the one most translators prefer since they combine in just one site all the others previously mentioned. Personally, I prefer to translate the old fashion. However, I have to admit that MT has advanced a lot during the last years and it has impressed me a lot what artificial intelligence (AI) has achieved in programs such as Google Translate. It is true that the use of CAT tools accelerates the process and, in some way, ensures a quality translation because of the correctors; nonetheless, the incorrect use of MT may lead to carry out a biased transfer of meaning and to make mistakes.
In an article included in this category, we will discuss this topic with thoroughness. As said before, AI has advanced a lot and these programs have the ability to ¨learn¨. They work with a huge corpus and analyze a big number of different contexts. However, they are not able ―personally, I think they will never be able― to cover and understand all contexts and situations. That is why, I would recommend the use of MT in the cases in which the translation needed is not a legal or important document and one just wants to know the gist of the information. In other cases, I would always recommend at least the mediation of a human translator.
The translation process is divided into four different stages which cannot be skipped if the translator wants to achieve a good result. The first stage is ¨comprehension¨. Here, the translator must read the source text and understand the meaning of what is said in the source language. Then we have the transfer of meaning. This is the most important stage of the whole process: this is the actual translation process. In this stage, the goal is to find a correct equivalent but not for a single word, but rather to a whole idea. The confrontation stage is the control of the transfer of meaning. The translator, with both, the source and the target text, check if there was any omission, some translation mistake, if there is something that needs to be added to complement any ideas, etc. In the end, there is the final revision. It is carried out only facing the target text. In this case, the translator must check the spelling and the authenticity of the document in the target language, meaning that the reader must not notice that what he/she is reading is not a translation.
Traductology is the science that focuses on the study of translation and interpretation. And I know many would argue about what can people research so much about translation. Actually, a lot. Traductology involves a lot of different topics related to linguistics, literature, and philology. Besides, it studies the different translation methods and the several steps to follow, as well as the issues that could come up when translating and interpreting. Likewise, this science is extremely helpful for the development of MT.
We all know that marketing is an extremely important aspect that all companies must take into account if they want to succeed. It englobes all the activities that take the customer from knowing about the product to the purchase of it. In these activities, translation plays a relevant role, since the more people you reach with your message, the more people will buy your product. Within translation, there is a special type called ¨localization¨ which is the one in charge of ¨localizing¨ your product in the desired market. Therefore, even if the core task of localization is translation, a multi-disciplinary team is needed to achieve the goal set.
To sum up, translation is a complex process that demands a lot from the professional that decides to pursue this career. It is a fundamental tool that has facilitated communication among different cultures throughout history. By doing so, it has boosted the progress of humanity due to the spread of relevant knowledge around the world. Nowadays, businesses and companies are also using translation to expand and reach other markets.
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