HOMEOUR BLOGThe Road to Professional Translation: Translation Methods

The Road to Professional Translation: Translation Methods

What is The Most Accurate Definition of Translation? (Best Definition)

Translation is a mental activity that involves translating the meaning of a given linguistic discourse from one language to another. It is the act of converting linguistic entities from one language to their equivalents in another. The translation is both a process and a finished product.

When reading something in a foreign language, your first instinct for translation methods might be to use Google Translate. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that! Google Translate and similar machine translation tools have come a long way and can now accurately translate portions of a certain text.

That is until you get it horribly wrong and the words “they fall under the same umbrella” in English become as funny as “يقعون تحت نفس المظلة” in Arabic. A professional translator would recognize the importance of using context cues rather than attempting a word-for-word translation.

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  • Have you ever used Google Translate? Of course, you did!

  • Have you ever seen funny Google Translate fails? Of course, you have!

Long sentences can be difficult to translate, especially if you want to translate them instantly, as Google Translate does. As a result, you get very funny stories. Perhaps confusing? Certainly funny.

But what are the methods of translation? In a professional setting, translators use accurate methods of translation or ways of translation that we will list later on in our blog…

It is important to learn about what are the methods of translation because they produce drastically different results in terms of translation quality, turnaround time, and cost.

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Translation methods


What is The Process of Translation?

Before we jump into what are the methods of translation, we will go through the translation process to better understand what are the methods of translation.

Almost all types of translations can be handled with a 5-step best practice! Steps that will ensure that the translation is one of the highest qualities!

1- Overview

As a first step, you will scope out your source text. Investigating mode on… You will identify the type of the text(scientific text, technical text…), the subject, the context, the style, the length, 

Before beginning a translation, you should see the bigger picture. Translators may conduct research and decide how they will translate key terms. They may make a list of key concepts or terminology to research and decide whether any preliminary background reading is required.

Typically, the translator will read or skim-read portions of the text to get a sense of the content.

This step is basically a research step. No translations…

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2- Translation 

Now it is translation time! Translators translate the document systematically, usually in chunks of 1 phrase (5 - 10 words) at a time.

It is critical to select the appropriate length of individual text chunks to deal with. Each chunk should ideally be a distinct and complete unit of meaning.

Each chunk must also be brief enough to be retained in short-term memory. Anything more than 10 words can be difficult to translate into one 1 phrase. Even, working with chunks that are too long to easily remember, increases the risk of some meaning being lost in translation.

Paragraphs are frequently longer than this, so they must be divided into shorter phrases.

However, it should be noted that working with chunks that are way too short or do not contain discrete meaning units results in an unnatural and potentially ambiguous translation and sometimes meaningless translations!

In this step, it is best to read the entire paragraph and fully grasp its context so that you can accurately translate each phrase. You will use one of the translation methods to translate your text.

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3- Review

After completing the first draft of the translation, the translator will work methodically through the translation, comparing each chunk of (target) text with the original (source) text, and verifying the match of the meaning of the overall context, according to the translation method he used.

The primary goal in this proofreading and editing phase is to ensure that they haven't missed any information or misinterpreted any meaning. In this step, most translators will also spot and improve any slightly awkward wording and review their translations to have the most accurate version matching the original text.

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4- Break

The next step is very simple, straightforward, and fun! Set aside the translation, put it away in a safe place, and take a break.

This should ideally be done for a few hours or overnight. Take your pet for a walk, or sleep. Refresh your mind.

The goal here is to clear the mind in order to perform a more efficient and effective fifth and final step!

5- Refine

The translator then re-reads and re-edits his translation, this time without comparing the (target) text to the (source) text. No reference to the source document, solely focusing on expression quality.

This is a quality assurance step. Final edits will be made to refine and "polish" the translated text.

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Why is a translation process required?

Translation is a surprisingly difficult task that requires complex mental processing, after all,

 it is a mental activity and everything mental should be organized. A translation should never be considered done after a single pass.

There are a few reasons why a strict process is required in translation. One reason is that a consistent process helps to maintain consistency across translations, ensuring that the meaning is just perfect.

Accuracy is key when translating, as even the slightest mistake can change the meaning of the text entirely.  This means that the translator needs to follow the best practices to produce a translation of quality while avoiding non-sense and tragedic mistakes.

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Do all translators adhere to this translation process?

In a nutshell, no.

This 5-step methodology is taught to professional translators as part of their tertiary translation studies. However, the same cannot be said for untrained translators.

Because it has been drilled into them and they understand the importance of it, they should automatically follow it and avoid taking shortcuts.

This is just what a professional translator does; it's the way translations are done.

Types and Methods of Translation

What are the methods of translation?

There are 5 main translation methods that fall under the umbrella of “human translation” and you must be aware of them all!

This is due to the fact that they produce very different results in terms of translation quality, turnaround time, and cost. If you choose the wrong translation methods for your translations, you may not get the best translation that is suitable for your needs because you need to take into account the numerous differences in culture, and more,  before translating your materials. 

We can divide translation methods into several ones based on how we decide to approach them.

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1. Word-for-word Translation

Linguists translate individual words by their most literal meaning, with little or no regard for context. 

Because the word-for-word translation method does not account for grammatical, semantic, or cultural differences between languages, the original word order is preserved. There should be no stylistic or linguistic changes. The original's morphology, syntax, and/or meaning should be strictly followed.

Generally, word-for-word translation methods do not produce high-quality translations (think machine translation), though the reader should keep in mind that word-for-word translation methods work well on documents such as medical research reports, or technical keywords.

2. Literal Translation

Linguists translate grammatical structures in the source text into close equivalents in the target language in literal translation. Words are translated without regard for their connotations in this case. The literal translation method focuses on context and seeks metaphorical equivalents in the target language.

The main difference between word-to-word translation and literal translation is that the former aims to preserve and retain the original meaning of the text while the latter attempts to produce a translation that is as close to the original text as possible sticking as closely as possible to the original words.

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3. Communicative Translation (Interpretative Translation)

Interpretative communicative translation also referred to as faithful translation, is defined as transferring the exact contextual meaning of the source text and source language into the target text and target language. 

Many specialists use communicative translation methods because it takes into account the context, culture, grammar, and semantics. Although it is not always the most technically accurate option, it conveys meaning in a natural manner and is frequently used when translating text that contains culturally specific idioms, proverbs, or wordplay.

This method focuses on comprehending and recreating the original text without making radical changes; it is commonly used in simultaneous and consecutive translation. It maintains the original's purpose while achieving the desired effect. 

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4. Semantic Translation

In the scenario of a semantic translation, the goal is to convey the source language's syntactic and semantic structures in the target language. 

This method accurately reproduces the original text in a foreign language while preserving context and culture. Simultaneously, the semantic translation method emphasizes the aesthetic value of the source text, is more flexible, and allows the translator more creative freedom.

The main difference between semantic translation and communicative translation is that semantic translation focuses on the meaning of the text, whereas communicative translation focuses on how the text will be understood by the target audience.

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5. Adaptation

Adaptation involves modifying or even completely rewriting the source text language in order to find equivalents in the target language that convey the same message as the original content. 

Specialized linguists can help when presenting messaging or ideas to the intended audience in ways that are completely different from the source content. This is known as transcreation.

This doesn’t mean that it’s an inaccurate translation method, but rather that translators don’t focus on the syntax and style of the source language. Instead, they reproduce a very accurate target translation but not exactly one that mirrors the original’s structure.

It is also known as idiomatic translation because it reproduces the message of the original text by using idioms and colloquialisms from the target language. This results in segments that look different and cannot be translated directly, but have very similar meanings.

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For instance, when translators translate English movies or series to Arabic countries’ audiences, they need to adapt. Uncultured Western street people's vulgar vocabulary (curses and cusses) can, in some cases, be problematic for Easterners- and a total shock! 

This is where such translation methods play a role in coming up with alternatives, completely perceptible and understandable by the target audience.

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What is The Best Method of Translation?

Now after you knew the answer to what are the methods of translation, you might be asking: ”What are the best translation methods?”

There is no one "best" method of translation, as the best approach for a given text depends on its content and purpose. A translator must consider the purpose of the text, the audience, the author's intent, and other factors when deciding on a translation method. 

Some people prefer to use translations that are as close to the original text as possible, while others opt for free translations, that are easier to understand by their target audience. 

Even though there are numerous translation methods, no single method can produce a high-quality translation. 

Depending on the source and target languages, audiences, culture, and semantics, different strategies must be employed to produce a satisfying translation that will resonate with global audiences everywhere.- Of course, as long as the end result remains intact!

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What are The Differences Between Methods and Techniques of Translations?

It's simple: a translation method is applied to the entire text to be translated, whereas a translation technique may vary on a case-by-case basis within the same text depending on the specific elements to be translated.

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