Translating Successfully

Every translation activity has one or more specific purposes and whichever they may be, the main aim of translation is to serve as a cross-cultural bilingual communication vehicle among peoples.

CAT (Computer Assisted Translation)
AT (Automatic Translation)
Try AT on-line

In the past few decades, this activity has developed because of rising international trade, increased migration, globalization, the recognition of linguistic minorities, and the expansion of the mass media and technology. For this reason, the translator plays an important role as a bilingual or multi-lingual cross-cultural transmitter of culture and truths by attempting to interpret concepts and speech in a variety of texts as faithfully and accurately as possible.

Most translation theorists agree that translation is understood as a transfer process from a foreign language—or a second language—to the mother tongue. However, market requirements are increasingly demanding that translators transfer texts to a target language that is not their mother tongue, but a foreign language.

The first problem is related to reading and comprehension ability in the source language. Once the translator has coped with this obstacle, the most frequent translation difficulties are of a semantic and cultural nature (cognates, i.e. true and false friends, calque, and other forms of interference; institutional and standardized terms, neologisms, etc.), and "cultural untranslatability," (idioms, sayings, proverbs, jokes, etc.). One should adopt a very cautious attitude toward these words or expressions so as to avoid interference and/or language misuse.
Similarly, we quite often run into those painful "not found" terms, for which not even the best dictionary, an expert in the topic or a native speaker of the source language can provide us with a solution to convey an accurate meaning. We should always bear in mind that one of the greatest virtues of a good translator is what I have called "contextualized intuition," i.e. the ability to find the nearest common sense interpretation of the "not found" element within its context.

Whatever the difficulty in the translation process, procedures must aim at the essence of the message and faithfulness to the meaning of the source language text being transferred to the target language text. In the words of Nida and Taber (1974):
Translating consists of reproducing, in the target language, the nearest equivalent to the message in the source language, in the first place in the semantic aspect and, in the second place, in the stylistic aspect.
To a great extent, the quality of translation will depend on the quality of the translator, i.e. on her/his knowledge, skills, training, cultural background, expertise, and even mood! Newmark (1995b) distinguishes some essential characteristics that any good translator should have:
  • Reading comprehension ability in a foreign language
  • Knowledge of the subject
  • Sensitivity to language (both mother tongue and foreign language)
  • Competence to write the target language dexterously, clearly, economically and resourcefully

In addition, Mercedes Tricás refers to intuition, or common sense as the most common of all senses; in other words, making use of that sixth sense, a combination of intelligence, sensitivity and intuition.

Computer assisted Translation (CAT)
Computer-assisted translation, computer-aided translation, or CAT is a form of translation wherein a human translator translates texts using computer software designed to support and facilitate the translation process.

Automatic Translation
Also called Machine translation (MT), it is a sub-field of computational linguistics that investigates the use of computer software to translate text or speech from one natural language to another. At its basic level, MT performs simple substitution of words in one natural language for words in another.
There are now many software programs for translating natural language, several of them online, such as the SYSTRAN system which powers both Google translate and AltaVista's Babel Fish. Although no system provides the holy grail of "fully automatic high quality machine translation" (FAHQMT), many systems produce reasonable output.

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1. Try the automatic translator provided by Systran™ by clicking HERE.

2. Compare your translation with the one given by Systran™ and be ready to account for your choice as regards advantages and disadvantages.

Your translation

AT (Systran™ )


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