Translation Cannot be "word for Word"

At first, you might think ithat translation only consists of translating one language, word for word, into another language, but in fact it’s more complicated than that.

For example, in French they say ‘Donnez un coup d’oeuil à ce fichier de données’, which means, if translated word for word ‘Give a blow of eye to this file of givens’. Of course, in reality it means ‘Have a look at this data file’.

So the idioms of the language have to be taken into account, in both directions, because there are phrases in English which, if translated word for word, would produce the same sort of ‘blow of eye’ nonsense as that shown in the previous paragraph.

You have probably seen the various instant computer translation systems which are available on the Internet. Those systems do produce some sort of translation and it is often enough to understand more or less what the original writer wanted to convey, but of course that sort of translation could never be used for any business or profession where clients are to read the translation concerned. This is because the computer does not know the context of the translation. One example of this is the headline “Nut Screws Washers and Bolts”. Does this refer to mechanical hardware or to a mentally deranged person entering a laundry, raping the laundresses and escaping? The context is all-important in translation.

The way that the subject is approached is also different in another language. In Latin languages, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc., actions and even solid objects are often alluded to in an abstract manner, whereas in English, the concrete word is preferred – we like to call a spade a spade.

When translating a website or a brochure which contains photos or drawings, it is often necessary to take the number of words into account. German uses less words than English, and Spanish uses more words than English, so the translator has often to rework the page-setting to produce a professional page.

All these questions and many more besides are dealt with by a professional translator.




John Hadfield

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4 Responses to Translation Cannot be "word for Word"

  1. 愛ン says:

    What is the english translation of the word, "琅琅"?
    I would like a word that has similar or equivalent meaning to the chinese adjective, "琅琅". If one word cannot describe it, please use as many as you would like to explain what this means.

  2. I♥Micael says:

    It means bang-bang?????
    References :

  3. what says:

    琅琅 is pronounced as lang lang! what bang bang???
    References :

  4. autumn_luv says:

    Yes, 琅琅 is pronounced as "lang2 lang2" in Chinese.

    It’s used to describe certain sounds, e.g. the sound of stones and golds hitting each other, recitation of texts, and birds chirping. One use of it can be 书声琅琅, an idiom used to describe the sound made by students when they are reading their texts aloud.

    Unfortunately, adjectives like this cannot be translated directly. Maybe you can provide the context here and see if other native speakers can help you interpret :)
    References :
    I’m Chinese :)

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