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Who Needs A Translation?
The most common request would be for documents. Students that are applying to a foreign University often require their transcripts or letters of recommendation translated. Another common request is for Certificates, this can include but not limited to Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Death Certificates and Divorce Certificates.
People that are looking to buy property abroad may also require their paperwork translated if they do not fully understand the contract or if they just want a professional to translate it to be 100% sure of it’s content.
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.
Translators always risk inappropriate spill-over of source-language idiom and usage into the target-language translation. On the other hand, spill-overs have imported useful source-language calques and loanwords that have enriched the target languages. Indeed, translators have helped substantially to shape the languages into which they have translated.
Owing to the demands of business documentation consequent to the Industrial Revolution that began in the mid-18th century, some translation specialities have become formalised, with dedicated schools and professional associations.
Because of the laboriousness of translation, since the 1940s engineers have sought to automate translation or to mechanically aid the human translator. The rise of the Internet has fostered a world-wide market for translation services and has facilitated language localisation.
The English word “translation” derives from the Latin translatio (which itself comes from trans- and from fero, the supine form of which is latum—together meaning “a carrying across” or “a bringing across”). The modern Romance languages use equivalents of the English term “translation” that are derived from that same Latin source or from the alternative Latin traducere (“to lead across” or “to bring across”). The Slavic and Germanic languages (except in the case of the Dutch equivalent, “vertaling”—a “re-language-ing”) likewise use calques of these Latin sources.
The Ancient Greek term for “translation”, μετάφρασις (metaphrasis, “a speaking across”), has supplied English with “metaphrase” (a “literal,” or “word-for-word,” translation) — as contrasted with “paraphrase” (“a saying in other words”, from παράφρασις, paraphrasis). “Metaphrase” corresponds, in one of the more recent terminologies, to “formal equivalence”; and “paraphrase”, to “dynamic equivalence.”
Strictly speaking, the concept of metaphrase — of “word-for-word translation” — is an imperfect concept, because a given word in a given language often carries more than one meaning; and because a similar given meaning may often be represented in a given language by more than one word. Nevertheless, “metaphrase” and “paraphrase” may be useful as ideal concepts that mark the extremes in the spectrum of possible approaches to translation.
Discussions of the theory and practice of translation reach back into antiquity and show remarkable continuities. The ancient Greeks distinguished between metaphrase (literal translation) and paraphrase. This distinction was adopted by English poet and translator John Dryden (1631–1700), who described translation as the judicious blending of these two modes of phrasing when selecting, in the target language, “counterparts,” or equivalents, for the expressions used in the source language:
Once the untranslatables have been set aside, the problems for a translator, especially of Chinese poetry, are two: What does the translator think the poetic line says? And once he thinks he understands it, how can he render it into the target language? Most of the difficulties, according to Link, arise in addressing the second problem, “where the impossibility of perfect answers spawns endless debate.” Almost always at the center is the letter-versus-spirit dilemma. At the literalist extreme, efforts are made to dissect every conceivable detail about the language of the original Chinese poem. “The dissection, though,” writes Link, “normally does to the art of a poem approximately what the scalpel of an anatomy instructor does to the life of a frog.”
Chinese characters, in avoiding grammatical specificity, offer advantages to poets (and, simultaneously, challenges to poetry translators) that are associated primarily with absences of subject, number, and tense.
It is the norm in classical Chinese poetry, and common even in modern Chinese prose, to omit subjects; the reader or listener infers a subject. Western languages, however, ask by grammatical rule that subjects always be stated. Most of the translators cited in Eliot Weinberger’s 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei supply a subject. Weinberger points out, however, that when an “I” as a subject is inserted, a “controlling individual mind of the poet” enters and destroys the effect of the Chinese line. Without a subject, he writes, “the experience becomes both universal and immediate to the reader.” Another approach to the subjectlessness is to use the target language’s passive voice; but this again particularizes the experience too much.
Nouns have no number in Chinese. “If,” writes Link, “you want to talk in Chinese about one rose, you may, but then you use a “measure word” to say “one blossom-of roseness.”
Chinese verbs are tense-less: there are several ways to specify when something happened or will happen, but verb tense is not one of them. For poets, this creates the great advantage of ambiguity. According to Link, Weinberger’s insight about subjectlessness—that it produces an effect “both universal and immediate”—applies to timelessness as well.
Fidelity (or faithfulness) and transparency, dual ideals in translation, are often at odds. A 17th-century French critic coined the phrase “les belles infidèles” to suggest that translations, like women, can be either faithful or beautiful, but not both.
Faithfulness is the extent to which a translation accurately renders the meaning of the source text, without distortion.
Transparency is the extent to which a translation appears to a native speaker of the target language to have originally been written in that language, and conforms to its grammar, syntax and idiom.
A translation that meets the first criterion is said to be “faithful”; a translation that meets the second, “idiomatic”. The two qualities are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
The criteria for judging the fidelity of a translation vary according to the subject, type and use of the text, its literary qualities, its social or historical context, etc.
The criteria for judging the transparency of a translation appear more straightforward: an unidiomatic translation “sounds wrong”; and, in the extreme case of word-for-word translations generated by many machine-translation systems, often results in patent nonsense.
Nevertheless, in certain contexts a translator may consciously seek to produce a literal translation. Translators of literary, religious or historic texts often adhere as closely as possible to the source text, stretching the limits of the target language to produce an unidiomatic text. A translator may adopt expressions from the source language in order to provide “local color”.