The process of translation may seem like a mere exchange of words and phrases from one language to another but as any quality freelance translator will tell you, there is a lot more to it than that. A good translator will use a variety of translation techniques and methods depending on the language it’s being translated into and the target market it’s aiming to reach.
In history, the translation of writing goes back as far as the Mesopotamian era and is believed to have started with the epic Sumerian poem, The Gilgamesh, which was translated into a variety of Asian languages around the second millennium BC. The need for translation began to increase with the development of religious texts and theories. The word translation is derived from a Latin term that means “to bring or carry across”. The word metaphrasis in Ancient Greek, which means “to speak across” created the word metaphrase which was the first term for a “word-to-word” translation. As translation and translation studies became more common, defined techniques and methods took form.
J.P. Vinay and J.Darbelnet were pioneers of translation studies as they created and published formalised translation procedures in 1958 with their book titled, Comparative Stylistics of French and English: A Methodology for Translation. It was one of the first times translation methods had been categorised and since it has become the basis of technique for modern multilingual translation services.
While a translation method can be applied to an entire translated text, translation techniques and types of translation vary based on what elements will be translated. Vinay and Darbelnet detailed seven different techniques within two methods of translation.
This method is used when similar concepts and structures of the source language can be used in the translated language. Languages need to be similar in a variety of ways for these techniques to work as these types of translation techniques are not able to capture a lot of nuances found in language.
Borrowing examples: sombrero, café, kimono, hamburger, kimchi
Calque examples: gratte-ciel in French is a calque of ‘skyscraper’. An ‘Adam’s apple’ is calque of the French phase pomme d’Adam. Beer garden is a calque of the German biergarten.
This method is most often used when languages and cultures are substantially different, such as English to Chinese translation. This method will usually change the structural or conceptual elements of the text to preserve its meaning.
Transposition example: Rendering a French noun with an English verb, Je l’ai vu avant la rentrée can be directly translated to English as “I saw her before school started”, this changes the noun la rentrée into a verb.
Modulation examples: Lebensgefahr in German means danger to life, whereas in English we would say “danger of death”. A literal translation of this phrase from English to German would sound odd and confusing to a German person. Another example is how French speakers refer to the top floor of a building as dernier étage which translates as “last stage” in English. A literal translation of this phrase from French to English would baffle many prospective English apartment buyers and renters.
Equivalence/reformulation examples: The English phrase “It’s pouring,” which refers to a downpour of rain doesn’t translate into German but the meaning can be altered to give the same effect, es regnet in Strömen (It rains in streams).
Adaptive examples: Baseball or NFL football in the US 🡪Football in England
Out of these basic and common techniques, how do you know what translation tools, translation techniques or methods are the best for your business or localization strategy? Every business, strategy and approach is different so the best way to get a return on your investment is to use certified translation services. Quality translators will assess your documents, software, website, eLearning platform or eCommerce software to ensure that your business successfully reaches your target market and audience.
Into23 offers high quality translation services in any language your business needs. Contact us today for a free quote so we can help your business enter new global markets and enterprises.