So What Is This Translation Business All About?

Language is culture. In fact, the cultural backpack of every language is so vast that most people who know only one language are not even aware that they carry it around with every sentence they say.

A translator, therefore, must be an expert of at least two cultures, because the culture behind a language largely influences the meaning of each set of words. Translators must know the meaning of language not only with regard to the individual words that make up a sentence. They must read beyond the text and grasp the cultural message behind. What does the author want the reader to experience when the text is read? What effect shall it have on the minds of the audience? Who is the audience?

So, translating needs much more than the simple foreign language skills most of us acquire at school. Translators, depending on country, usually receive a training between three and five years of duration. What they learn, basically, is what I mentioned above: To read the meta message that accompanies every spoken or written language. The message that is deeply rooted in the culture in which the language is embedded. A good part of translation training therefore is to learn the cultural background of the studied language.

002_What_Is_TranslationThe logical conclusion is that it is fairly easy to translate a concept that is expressed similarly in both the source and the target language. Translation becomes more challenging when this is not the case. At that point a translator must become creative to get the meaning across. Similar concepts must be sought, so that the readers of the target text get the same experience from the text as the readers of the original text. This requires more intensive thinking on the translator’s part, which in turn means that difficult texts take more time to translate.

So much for now


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