WHAT IS TRANSLATION?
Some Ideas About the Profession of Translation
Arts of Language Conversion
Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. While interpreting—the facilitating of oral or sign-language communication between users of different languages—antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature. There exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (ca. 2000 BCE) into Southwest Asian languages of the second millennium BCE.
Translation must take into account constraints that include context, the rules of grammar of the two languages, their writing conventions, and their idioms. A common misconception is that there exists a simple word-for-word correspondence between any two languages, and that translation is a straightforward mechanical process. A word-for-word translation does not take into account context, grammar, conventions, and idioms.
Interpreting and translation are two closely related linguistic disciplines. Yet they are rarely performed by the same people. The difference in skills, training, aptitude and even language knowledge are so substantial that few people can do both successfully on a professional level.
An interpreter, on the other hand, must be able to translate in both directions on the spot, without using dictionaries or other supplemental reference materials. Interpreters must have extraordinary listening abilities, especially for simultaneous interpreting. Simultaneous interpreters need to process and memorize the words that the source-language speaker is saying now, while simultaneously outputting in the target language the translation of words the speaker said 5-10 seconds ago. Interpreters must also posess excellent public speaking skills and the intellectual capacity to instantly transform idioms, colloquialisms and other culturally-specific references into analogous statements the target audience will understand.
The demand in the translating and interpreting field is greater than ever before. Many translators work as freelancers and others are employed by international organizations as well as government agencies. Nonprofit and religious organizations also hire or contract the services of translators for document translation. Individuals who work as translators are highly intellectual.
The Localization process is most generally related to the cultural adaptation and translation of software, video games and websites, as well as audio/voiceover, video or other multimedia content, and less frequently to any written translation (which may also involve cultural adaptation processes). Localization can be done for regions or countries where people speak different languages or where the same language is spoken: for instance, different dialects of Spanish, with different idioms, are spoken in Spain and in Latin American countries.
Translation vs. Localization
Though it is sometimes difficult to draw the limits between translation and Localization, in general Localization addresses significant, non-textual components of products or services. In addition to translation (and, therefore, grammar and spelling issues that vary from place to place where the same language is spoken), the Localization process might include adapting graphics; adopting local currencies; using proper format for date and time, addresses, and phone numbers applicable to the location; the choices of colours; and many other details, including rethinking the physical structure of a product. All these changes aim to recognise local sensitivities, avoid conflict with local culture, customs, common habits, and enter the local market by merging into its needs and desires. For example, Localization aims to offer country-specific websites of the same company or different editions of a book depending on where it is published.
How to Find a Good Translator
It’s often assumed that pretty much anyone who is well educated and speaks two languages (such as Chinese and English) will have the translation skills necessary to translate to a high standard. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, very few people have the combination of basic skills needed to be a professional translator. That is, the knowledge, attributes and abilities to consistently produce translations that are both accurate and read naturally and elegantly in the target language.
A good translator is someone who has a comprehensive knowledge of both source and target languages. Students should read different genres in both source and target languages including modern literature, contemporary prose, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, announcements, instructions, etc. Being familiar with all these genres is important, since they implicitly transfer culture-specific aspects of a language. Specialized readings are also suggested: reading recently published articles and journals on theoretical and practical aspects of translation. The articles will not only improve the students' reading skill in general, but also give them insights which will subconsciously be applied when actually translating.