Translation Techniques You Need To Know As A Beginner

When it comes to translation as a profession, there are different methods, techniques, and ways that the process can be done. When we talk of translation techniques, what we mean is that these are some ways in which translators have come up with in order for them to make the translation process, less technical and hard. We all know that every process has its technicalities and professionals always find techniques that will make their work less technical. This simply means these techniques make the translation process super-efficient and easy to deal with. Technically, they help in solving most of the translation problems that translators have to come across from time to time.

It is very important not to confuse them with translation methods. A method is a process while a technique in this case is what makes the process easy to deal with and take on.

Below are 9 of the most important translation techniques which will make your translation career really efficient.

1. Borrowing

As the name suggests, this is a technique where borrowing of phrases and words is done in its purest form. What this means is that a text is used in the target language the same where it is used in the source or original language. There is no particular way to say this, the words are usually not translated in any way.

A great example would be, if a word like gymnastic is used in the English language as the source language, it will remain the same way in any other language which is your target language. In most cases this happens for words or phrases which have no translation in the target language. This is a very common technique in translation and one that will come in handy in a lot of scenarios. A lot of words are usually not translatable in another language and that is where borrowing comes in play. Translators would commonly borrow the words or phrases when it makes more sense using them as they are or when they are planning on adding a scholarly flavor to their translation work. It’s important to note that borrowed words must be italicized when used in any target language.

2. Transliteration

Specific words sound a particular way when used in different languages and this is where the transliteration technique comes in. It is a technique where the way words sound is reproduced to fit a language where the writing system is different from the source language.

There are different writing systems in different languages. Some have the same system and others don’t. Some of these systems are Arabic, Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Indian languages. In the English language, it is commonly known that the Roman (Latin) alphabet is used. When you have to translate a text from other writing systems into the English language, that is referred to as transliteration.

Be sure to note that English borrowings from languages using non-Roman writing systems also require transliteration – perestroika, sampan, karaoke, tofu are examples from the above

3. Calque or Loan Translation

Loan translation is basically a technique where meaning is transferred from the source language into a target language. It is a translation technique where foreign words and phrases are translated into a target language with the same meaning while creating a totally new term.  

People like comparing the calque technique with the borrowing one. They like to say that it the same as borrowing with the slight difference where a new word is created that means the same thing but has more inclination to the target language. A great example would how in the English language, a skyscraper is calqued as graticule in French and fascicules in Spanish, literally ‘scratches sky’ in both languages.

4. Word-for-word translation

This is one technique that is commonly known vastly by both translators and non-translators. It is what non-translators think translation is in a nutshell. It is a form of literal translation where words and phrases are translated in their natural form with an aim of creating meaning in the target language. This is also referred to as literal translation or meta-phrasing. It is a natural translation technique.

Note: this technique is different to the translation method of the same name which does not produce correct and natural text and has a different purpose.

It is very important to note that the fact that this is a natural technique of translation and that not much is needed, it only happens for languages with same grammatical structure and even so not exclusively.

If word-to-word translation doesn’t work, translators always use other techniques that would work perfectly in any scenario.

5. Transposition

Different languages have different language structures and that’s just how it is, there is interesting or way fancy to say it. It is just a normal thing in linguistics. Transposition is a translation technique that is used to translate texts in languages with a different grammatical structure to the original language.

The most important thing in translation for translators, is to come up with words which have a natural flow and make sense while still being grammatically correct. Transposition makes this possible because it allows translators to create natural words and phrases that are grammatically correct when translated from one language with a totally different grammatical structure to the target language.

6. Modulation

Generally, translation is known as a process that translates meaning from one language into another, and from time to time this works perfectly but it is not always the case. In such a scenario, modulation is the technique to use for your texts. Modulation is a translation technique where the translation is done with a change of focus or point of view in the target language.

It is a technique that allows translators to translate certain words and phrases into how people in a specific language would say something that means the same thing in the target language. For example, if in the English language one says top floor of a building, the French will say “dernier érage which means the last floor. Normally one wouldn’t say the last floor in English but the two statements would make the same sense when perceived by people who are Native speakers.

7. Equivalence or Reformulation

As the word Equivalences states, it means coming up with words or phrases that are equivalent the ones in the source language for the target language. This is a technique that is used to translate the concept or meaning intended in the source language into a target language using a totally different word. The key word to note when using this technique is concept and meaning. These two are very important because they determine whether the technique has been used in the best way.

Reformulation is a technique that works best with idioms, proverbs, and expressions. If you decide to do a word-to-word translation for an idiom, you will end up with a totally different meaning and concept in the target language. That is why when translating expressions, idioms, or proverbs, translators prefer to translate the meanings. It is also commonly done for marketing and advertising phrases and keywords.

8. Adaptation

Adaptation is usually really vast and goes deeper than face value translation. When doing adaptations, there are specific aspects that you must consider and that is the linguistic, cultural, and technical aspects of a language. This is why the adaptation technique is a translation technique that substitutes a culturally specific reference to something that’s more relevant or meaningful in the target language.

It’s also referred to as cultural substitution or cultural equivalence. It is basically a way in which translators would take phrases and words that mean a specific thing in the source language and have them translated into a target language in a way that meets its cultural aspects.

It’s a useful technique when a reference wouldn’t be understood at all, or the associated nuances or connotations would be lost in the target language. This technique comes in handy when using Native translators because then they would create translations they know the Native speakers of the target language, will receive well, and not take offense. It is very easy to offend a language culture without intending with translation.

9. Compensation

Languages are very vast and vary from one to the other. You will come across nuances and meanings that can’t really be translated or those that won’t make sense when translated into other languages. This is where the compensation technique comes in. As the word stares, it is a technique that compensates for meaning and nuances when they are not clearly presented in another language. The technique allows the meaning and nuance that can’t be directly translated to make sense when expressed in a new text.

So, you can convey different levels of respect, politeness, humility, etc. simply by choosing different words or grammatical elements.

In languages where these nuances are not applicable, translators can use the compensation technique to come up with new texts with the same meaning to compensate for them.

These techniques will thoroughly help you in your translation career and if you are starting out, you should be able to research them and learn more about them.

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