Translation – What is it and How is it Done?

There are many misunderstandings tying in to the question of what translation is, the types of translation that be, and also the processes involved. We will not be addressing the analyzable issues of translation theory here, but will render an overview to those not acquainted with the profession


The crowning aim of translation is to furnish an avant-garde text from one language (source) to another (target), in much a way that the meaning of the avant-garde is fully understood by the audience, while keeping on – as far as is accomplishable – sure aspects of the avant-garde

Some of these aspects admit the tone, any being existent and social elements and humor, to name a few. Sometimes these are achievable, other times (unfortunately) they are not. The key to a superior translation, as fought back to a merely adequate to or even acceptable translation, is to unite the meaning with the supreme number of other immaterial subtleties. This will insure that a reader of the translation undergoes almost the same experience as a reader of the  avant-garde. Will the individual readers smile, laugh, cry or nod their heads in appreciation at the same moments? If so, then you have a winner!

Those unfamiliar with the onerous task of the translator often feel that every word needs to be translated in order for equivalency of meaning to be achieved – a so-called “literal” translation. Often, this is far from the case; at times one word can supplant up to a dozen, depending on the languages involved. By the same minimal, a denotative translation can, and often does, pass on totally digressive and even cryptical social nuances that make no sense in the target language

As an example of the above, the author once witnessed a definite “miss” in a subtitled Russian film broadcast on Australian television on the multicultural channel SBS (a most excellent institution!). Two characters in this movie were depicted as being very alike –the denotative translation from Russian to English is “like two drops of water”, whereas in English the equal would be “like two peas in a pod”. Like two drops of water is an expression that does not convey the intending properly in English – it could intend that the characters are very little, soaked maybe?

Specific challenges arise when translating historical materials from eras long past. It is for this very reason that the most widely scan book on Earth – the Christian bible – comes in so many flavors. The most contemporary versions are composed in easy-to-read styles, whereas blimpish scholars often asseverate that only a Greco-Roman King James’ version will do. There have even been versions of the bible written in SMS shorthand style and street patios. All of these versions have balanced standing up, in my view, as they each target an ad hoc audience and carry through antithetic roles


Normally, a translator will read a text from start to finish before translating a single word. This is not always an option, depending on the urgency of a careful task, but it is definitely coveted from the point of view of setting up context

Next, the translator will assess any formatting requirements. Perhaps the source text contains a multitude of ambitious and fiddly charts and tables, each necessitating translation of captions, legends and other elements of the avant-garde. This can devour many hours of a translator’s time, and issues environing non-standard text translation must be discoursed and cleared up with the client very aboriginal on in the process

In the modern era, industry specific software is used widely by many translators – depending on the volume of their work and the technical subject matter of translated materials. The use of this software is a realistic guarantee that consistency of terminology will be conserved throughout a careful text. According to the manufacturers of the massively democratic software Trados “not utilizing a translation memory can … reduce the quality of localised content…”

The use of translation memory software should not be confused in any way with machine translation, which often produces laughable results. Anyone who thinks imitating and gluing text into a box and clicking “interpret” will bring forth anything even nearing adequate to is gravely misidentified. Human translation is and will stay the only option when it comes to accomplishing quality results that are fit for use in the scholarly and commercialised worlds

There are many other systems that professional translators employ, including quality assurance and quality control. Usually this means that there could be several people involved in the process

Whomever you engage to conduct your translation jobs, it is essential that you only source people who have the appropriate accreditation from government or other acknowledged agencies. In Australia, for example, this is the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters. Professional translators also necessitate to bide by a code of ethics, and instances of chicanery and inappropriate behavior in the translation and construing industry are few and far between. Practitioners generally do their utmost to hand over you a nonrecreational service and a high-quality product

Blair Denholm is a NAATI Professional Accredited Translator with a wealth of experience as a translator of the Russian language. He has a honors degree in Russian language and literature from the University of Queensland, and a diploma from the A.S. Pushkin Institute in Moscow.  Blair Denholm offers a full range of Russian-English translation services

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