30 October, 2010

Good Translation

Good Translation!
Human life is tasteless without interpersonal communication. Yet, we do not speak all languages. This leads to the possibility of coming across documents written in unknown languages. And in such circumstances, no solution is any better than translation.
For many centuries, translation has rendered important services to humankind, namely in facilitating interpersonal communication. To play such precious a role, translation requires to be carried out in a certain way. Otherwise problems, sometimes serious ones, do occur instead. In other words, for translation to serve as a bridge rather than a pit of trouble, it has to be done in a particular way. It is why translators must try to acquire some particular knowledge, skills and tools that enable them to become not trouble makers, but solution providers - agents who facilitate a smooth flow of ideas from languages to languages.
Fortunately enough, this book, penned on the basis of experience, provides with some useful guidelines, which tell what keys to press for one to turn a good or better translator. Specifically, a substantial amount of material describes the features of a good translator and, of course, how to acquire them. Besides, some pages, describe helpful techniques that stand as a breakthrough for high quality translation services. Moreover, a hintis laid on the translation of religious documents, which demand consideration and special handling.
Before digging deeper into the material, it is essential that we take a look at some basics on translation, whattranslation is all about.
1. What is translation?
The word "translation" is used to talk about the process of expressing some idea(s) from a language to another in written form. It is noteworthy that in the translation process, ideas remain intact; only the languages in which they are expressed change.
For easy understanding, you should compare translation to the action of transferring water from a red mug into a green mug. Actually, in such a transfer, the material - water - remains unchanged; what has changed is only the recipient that is supposed to contain the unchanged liquid. Similarly, to translate a text written in a given language - commonly called "source language" - is simply to express the same ideas in the text, but using a different language -commonly called "target language".
2. Translation and Interpretation
It is essential to distinguish between translation and interpretation. The confusion of these terms is due to the fact that translators almost always serve also as interpreters and vice versa.
In fact, in both processes, it is a question of expressing one same idea in another language than the original language. But the difference is that translation is related to written language whereas interpretation is related to oral language.
We will specifically concentrate on translation, though much of what is going to be developed also applies to interpretation.
3. The Golden Principle
In translation, nothing is more important than KEEPING IDEAS INTACT AND CLEAR. The unforgivable mistake in translation is the alteration of ideas.
Of course, there is no perfect translation. Still, a good translator does keep the ideas of the source language as intact as possible while expressing it in the clearest and simplest manner possible.
4. Translation Errors
Making mistakes is common to all humans. But this cannot prevent us from achieving some degree of excellence, which might even look like perfection! Actually, there is a way to achieve excellence, namely by making the least errors possible.
In fact, various mistakes may, for some reasons, occur duringtranslation. On the one hand, some are related to the form, namely spelling, grammatical and syntactic mistakes. On the other hand, there are mistakes that have to do with the content, namely the alteration of ideas (by adding, omitting or transforming ideas). However, it is noteworthy that the unforgivable mistake in translation is to alter the idea of the source text, even though the target language text appears admirable in spelling, grammar and syntax.
Generally speaking, translation errors are due to:
· inadvertence,
· haste,
· neglect,
· vocabulary limitations,
· misunderstanding the original text,
· excess endeavor to refine the target language text,
· etc.
But when considering the great troubles that translation errors might lead to, it is worth paying the most attention possible to avoid errors, mostly semantic ones. For instance, a conflict may arise between two partner corporations simply because of translation errors in the document defining the partnership. Sometimes, such conflicts even reach courts of justice. In the spiritual area, the consequences are even more dreadful. A soul's destiny may be compromised because of failure to comply with some divine laws due to translation errors.
Thereby, it is obvious that translation is a task which demands extreme seriousness. And the following sectionswill provide the essential knowledge that helps you to reduce errors, and thus carry out top quality translations.
Remember that the most important thing in translation isto keep the idea of the original text as intact as possible, andexpress it the clearest and simplest possible. The following sections explain what to do in order to secure the intactness of theideas of the source text.
In fact, it is aberrant to try to conserve something you do nothave. Likewise, it is useless to pretend to conserve an ideathat your mind has not grasped yet, that is, an idea that youhave not comprehended. In this regard, good comprehensionof the original text is the foundation for keeping ideas intact.
Text comprehension depends on your knowledge background. The greater your knowledge is, the easier your comprehensionwill be.
As matter of fact, comprehending a text begins byunderstanding the words that make the text. It is in this viewwe can see how useful a tool the dictionary is. Besides, it isimportant to understand the logic of various ideas in the text, which are harmoniously connected to convey a main idea - the subject matter of the document.
As we will see in a later section, word-for-word translation is not appropriate in some cases. But it is easier, when the text is well comprehended, to select a better translation procedure in order to express exactly the same idea in crystal-clear terms.
Misunderstanding certainly leads to semantic translation errors - which, in some cases lead to annoying inconvenience. Hence, translators should endeavor to fully understand the original text so as to assure the intactness of ideas.
Rich vocabulary in both the source language and target languages is one of the key attributes of a good translator. The richer your vocabulary baggage is, the easier your comprehension is. The more you are affluent in vocabulary, the less you use the dictionary.
Note that vocabulary limitations may cause you to select words which do not properly express the idea their supposed to, and therefore give place to ambiguity.
Remember that some words have more than one meaning. In this respect, poor vocabulary background may cause you to translate the text according to the one meaning you know,which might not be the appropriate one. This usually leads to the alteration of ideas.
Standing on the above, translators should continuously enrich their vocabulary through reading various documents, namely books, magazines, newspapers, articles, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.
It is important, before you start translation, to first read the original text. This helps your mind be permeated with the subject matter of the text. Grasping the main idea of the document makes it possible to select appropriate words that best express the various ideas. And for a document that comprises subdivisions, it will be easier to find appropriate titles and subtitles.
It is advantageous to carry out at least two or three readings.
The first reading should be achieved throughout the text. If the text is too long, at least go through the introduction, the conclusion and the main titles as well as some paragraphs you might find relevant.
The second reading applies to each paragraph and/or sentence. Note that it is not advisable to translate word after word without having read the whole sentence first, and preferably the whole paragraph.
Thus, global reading, followed by paragraph and/or sentence reading, enables translator to complete fast and good translation, which certainly keeps ideas as intact as possible.
Good translation dose not only mean understanding the words of the text, but it goes much further. In fact, a good translator should also seek to be one with the author of the text. I would maybe sound too emphatic - but it is quite necessary for me to - by saying that translator should strive to penetrate the author's mind in order to express ideas exactly as the author meant them.
No doubt, if translators reach such an extent, they will easily find good expressions that intactly express the one same idea in the target language.
For translators to best achieve their task, they ought to have some particular qualities, most of which are described in the following sections:
1. Rich Vocabulary Background
As said above, rich vocabulary background is of extreme importance. The more you are affluent in vocabulary, the easier you understand texts, and the less you make use of the dictionary. Besides, you will not waste time thinking or seeking what word to use while translating, but will easily and quickly find the appropriate words.
It is advantageous for translators to acquire technical terms in a wide range of fields: Business, Administration, Law, Media, Politics, Computer Science, Bible, Sciences of Nature (Medicine, Botany, Zoology, Geography, Anatomy, etc.), farming, engineering, and many more.
Good translators must have curiosity, which should attract them to keep on learning new words.
2. Good at keeping Ideas Intact
The most important thing - which must translator's main focus - is to conserve the idea of the source text as intact as possible, and express it the simplest and clearest possible.
3. Clarity
A good translator ought to make sure the product of translation expresses the idea of the source text without ambiguity, but clearly. A translator who has really grasped the author's mind can even express the idea more clearly than it was in the source text. So translator should work in such a way that readers do not happen to read a sentence twice or more for them to understand. Rather, the meaning of the translated material must be easily and quickly understood at first reading.
4. Concision
Concision is another important quality of a good translator. Of course, concision does not imply omitting some ideas - which is a big translation error! Rather, concision must bring translator to avoid encumbering the translated text with unnecessary words. A good translator will avoid using too
complicated structures where he or she can use simple and clear ones. This is because concision is meant to make comprehension easy.
5. Sense of Simplicity
Language is designed for communication. In the scope of this view, translators must regard communication as the priority. Therefore, too cumbersome structures, unnecessary words and uncommon terms should be avoided. Instead, it is advisable make use of simple - of course not poor - expressions to convey the ideas of the original text.
6. Subtlety
Subtle translators are good at dodging language difficulties. Subtlety involves wisdom and intelligence. The next section will describe the commonest translation strategies  which help you carry out translation with the sharpest subtlety you can.
7. Eloquence
Translator should also cultivate eloquence - a capability that enables them to find the best expression which present ideas with liveliness and authenticity in the target language. Besides, translator should endeavor to process the document so that the reader cannot feel at all that the text handy is a product of translation. This should be a motto for every translator.
In the previous section, we have seen the key qualities that enable translators to render high quality services. In addition to the qualities described above, it is advantageous to resort to the useful STRATEGIES, discussed below, in order to complete even admirable translations.
Borrowing is to leave an expression untranslated. This strategy is sometimes useful, especially when there is no appropriate equivalent for the considered expression in the target language, or when it sounds more elegant to keep the expression untranslated.
2. Word-for-word
We talk about word-for-word when every word in the source text is translated by its synonym in the target language, no matter whether the order of words is changed.
Literal translation is spoken of when each word of a text is translated by its synonym in the target language. Literal translation differs from word-for-word in that the order of words is unchanged. In this respect, it is correct to affirm that all literal translations are word-for-word translations, but the opposite is not always true. In other words, literal translation is a particular type of word-for-word in which the order of words in the target language is the same as in the source language.
Transposition is to change the part of speech of some word(s) while translating. For instance, a word that was a verb in the source language is translated by a noun in the target language.
This strategy  is sometimes the best to use, namely in cases where word-for-word is not appropriate.
Equivalence is spoken of when you translate an expression by the corresponding expression that is normally used in the target language for the same circumstance described in the original text. This strategy  is namely appropriate for the translation of proverbs, idioms, interjections, and so on.
Modulation is a strategy whereby you change the point of view used in the original text in order to solve a semantic problem. For instance, it is used when you want to avoid using a word or a group of words that will sound odd in the target language; when you find it fit to use the negative form rather than the affirmative (and vice versa); when you think it is suitable to use the concrete instead of the abstract; when you want to translate some figures of speech, and so on.
This strategy is much similar to equivalence. But the difference is only that collocation is to use a group of words that form an indivisible expression commonly used as such in the target language. To put it more clearly, equivalence is related to a whole sentence whereas collocation concerns a portion of the sentence to be translated.
Expansion is a strategy whereby you express or restore some word(s) that were omitted in the source text. Expansion is used when you feel that ambiguity will occur if you keep the considered words omitted. Usually, the omitted words are prepositions, verbs, pronouns or question words.
Sometimes, it is best to explain a word rather than translating it by its synonym. This strategy, simply called "explanation", is used when ambiguity will occur by having translated a word by its synonym.
Lightening consists in omitting some words you find unnecessary to translate. Still, see to it that that you do not alter the ideas in the original text.
Adaptation consists in taking into account the difference of realities between the source language speakers and the target language speakers. This is because language goes along with the culture or habits of the native speakers. Therefore it may sometimes happen that you come across a text that describes an aspect of culture typical to source language speakers, while target language speakers use a different cultural approach for the same reality. This technique is sometimes appropriate when you translate unit measures, people's titles, names of some offices or organizations, names of items, brand names, etc.
Transyntax is a strategy whereby you translate a source text by even changing the syntax. For example, you may reverse the order of the main clause and subordinate clause. This is sometimes useful for the sake of clarity, namely if preserving the syntax of the source text will result in ambiguity.
Coalescence consists in joining two or more sentences to make one.
Bisection is spoken of when youfractionize a long sentence in two so as to avoid having a long sentence that would sound ambiguous.
To provide with high quality services, translators ought to have some specific tools at their disposal. The following sections describes the most important.
1. Knowledge background
Once again, let me point out that translator's knowledge background plays a key role in the success of translation career. This is because translators' performance greatly depends on their knowledge. The less you are knowledgeable, the poor your performance will be.
It is beneficial for translator's knowledge to be diversified. A good translator should first prove mastery in the grammatical rules that govern the source language, and target language. They should also acquire technical words in various fields of life namely religion, business, administration, law, politics,
media, technologies, education, sciences of nature, and so on.
Besides, it is a great advantage for translator to be knowledgeable of idioms and proverbs in both the source language and the target language in order to produce texts characterized by great authenticity.
Still, it is expedient for every translator to update their knowledge by getting in touch with other translators so as to exchange their experiences and achieve better.
2. Dictionaries
Dictionaries are essential tools for good translation. On the one hand, dictionaries fill the blank in translator's knowledge (because no one knows all words). On the other hand, they provide with more light in case of doubt.
To achieve excellence, it is advisable to own at least 3 dictionaries:
- Two monolingual dictionaries - one in the source language and the other in the target language,
- One bilingual dictionary
Most probably, you will use the bilingual dictionary more than the monolingual.
For the bilingual dictionary to be of significant help, it should be rich enough to contain even technical terms. Of course, the same applies to monolingual dictionaries.
The bilingual dictionary has the disadvantage of not always giving details on the meaning of words. Yet, in some cases, it is essential to know the deep meaning of the word or expression in hand so as to decide on whether it is appropriate for the considered context. That is why it is helpful, in addition to the bilingual dictionary, to make use of monolingual dictionaries.
For the precise case of religious documents, it is good to have an old dictionary which contains even old words - some of which are no more used in casual conversations nor found in modern dictionaries. Yet, such words are still present, and you are called to translate them.
3. Encyclopedias
Encyclopedia is also an important tool. It provides with further details on words or phrases than the dictionaries do. It is therefore a helpful tool to be equipped with.
4. Internet and Software
The computer has played and is still playing a key role in professional fields. For instance, instead of encumbering yourself with so many documents -namely dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc. - you can simply use a single computer (desktop or laptop) connected to the internet whereby you can access as many of the tools mentioned above as you wish. If not connected on the Internet, you can still install the abovementioned tools onto your computer and use them fruitfully.
Only few people, or maybe no one, will disagree that we are living in the "Computer Age". I mean the computer has never been so used as tool as in this era, to the point it makes great part of human life.
In the professional field, computer has worked wonders, namely by the force of internet and software. Translation, in particular, still owes many thanks to computer.
We will see in this part how to use the computer in order to carry out better translation.
1. Man and Computer
Computer is a man-made tool. It has been designed not to replace man, but help him to do great amounts of work in record time. Still, computer is meaningless without man. It always needs man's presence to generate meaningful output.
This is a relevant concept every translator should bear in mind when using computer tools to complete translation. It is true that computer can help you translate, but your brain is supposed to judge the computer's output. So the use of computer must be combined with the use of intelligence, wisdom and the basic knowledge on translation techniques and strategies.
2. Internet
The Internet is a significantly useful tool, which offers the option of having access to a wide range of translation tools.
On the net, you can access free or payable online dictionaries, encyclopedias, translation software, books, articles, and several other useful materials. Anyone who has learned the basics on computer usage can easily access such tools.
3. Translation software
Translation software is also called "automatic translation". It helps to achieve translation faster. Another advantage is that it often suggests good equivalents, which sometimes are even more appropriate than the ones you were thinking of. But the biggest weakness of translation software is that it sometimes unable to implement some of the translation techniques in some particular cases. To overcome this weakness and achieve better translation, you ought to:
- first, read the source text to understand it deeply,
- second, complete a proofreading while referring to the source text,
- third, complete another proofreading without referring to the original text.
Note that in case of doubt on a word or phrase, you should use the dictionary.
To close this part, let us point out that when a translator is equipped with good tools, and uses them properly, he or she cannot but present admirable work - good translation!
Translators play a useful role in society; they solve communication problem due to diversity of languages in the world. To play such an important part, translators must have some special knowledge, skills and tools.
By highlighting the dreadful consequences of translation errors, it has been shown how delicately translation process needs to be achieved. The reason, why useful insights have been have been provided,is to show what must be done to avoid translation errors - most of all altering the ideas of the original text.
Specifically, substantial material has been devoted on translation strategies, on translator's essential qualities and tools, and on how to cope with related documents.
Every beginner has to put them into practice to carry out their career appreciably to the extent that the benefactors find no other option than exclaim: "Good translation!"
Cape Town, South Africa 

Good Translation!
By Michael I. Shukrani
2008 Edition
All rights reserved.

Edited and printed by:
PowerBooks Production