Have you ever tried to translate something for someone? If so, you might have found that the translation comes out awkward -sounding at the first try. Initially, our brain always goes for a word-for-word translation but since languages have different grammars and idioms, this usually results in something broken-sounding. Some phrases might come out accurate but others are trickier. What can a translator do to smooth over these sticky spots?
Sometimes, when providing translation services, it seems like a better idea to use the phrase exactly as it is in the source language. As a result of this, many phrases from other languages have made their way over into English. Sometimes, we get so used to using them that we don’t even realize that they’re not in English.
When we go for interviews, we take our CVs along. That’s a curriculum vitae, a phrase that is borrowed from Latin. When we want to check the authenticity of something, we ask if it is bona fide, using yet another Latin phrase. And when there is a fiasco of epic proportions, we may not even realize that the word “fiasco” is really Italian.
When you’re walking around in New York City, you’re likely to hear many different languages, from English and Spanish to French, Chinese and Hindi. Some of the people speaking these languages are tourists from different countries. They come to New York to visit the Statute of Liberty and the Empire State building. Others are immigrants who live here or second-generation immigrants who were born here but learnt the language from their parents and their parents’ friends.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s Writings About Second-Generation Immigrants
In her novel, The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri, a popular Indian-American writer, tells the story of Gogol Ganguli, a second-generation immigrant whose parents moved to the U.S. from India. Lahiri obviously draws on her own experiences because she is also a second-generation immigrant who nonetheless retains strong ties with her home country. She visits India often, either to stay in touch with extended family or for inspiration for her work.
First Languages, Second Languages et al
The works of a writer such as Lahiri don’t require translation services because she writes in English even though she has admitted that it is, technically her second language. The language she learnt first at home was Bengali. Still, it is a fact that for many people around the world, the language they first learnt at home doesn’t remain the language that they are most comfortable in. Being educated in English and exposed to mostly English speakers throughout their lives, many of those from former British colonies become more comfortable in English.
Yet, the English they speak is different from the English spoken in the U.S. or even in the U.K. They use British spellings such as “colour” and “realise” but, as time goes on and Hollywood becomes ever-present, they find it easier to understand the American accent. Plus, they also have their own slang and often include words from their native languages into English.
Translating from English into English
If you’re trying to sell products in countries such as these, you might need translation from English to English! Translating American English into English English is no mean feat. Similarly, you might need to translate into Indian English, Australian English and English spoken in various African countries. Not every writer is as easy to read as Jhumpa Lahiri whose works require no explanation. For others, you will need to take into consideration the nuances of the English spoken in that part of the world. Contact us for translations that take into account the particularities of languages spoken around the world.
Different languages have different rules. Whereas in English, non-living things are referred to as “it,” in languages such as French, they are referred to as “he” or “she” (“il” and “elle”). To someone who speaks English, it sounds odd to refer to a book as “he” but in French, this is de rigueur. A book is masculine but a television is feminine. A nail is masculine but a person’s skin is feminine.
Maybe you started out your business as a tiny mom-and-pop venture and grew it into something much bigger as time went on. Often, when a business is small, you make do with whatever means are at your disposal, from cheaper menus for your restaurant to a smaller office space for your growing NGO. However, as time goes on, you might find that your business has grown enough to warrant spending some more money on things that were initially unnecessary, such as translation services. Here are a few signs that you might need translation services for your company:
It is interesting how phrases from a different language have come to be used a great deal in English. Consider, for example, the Latin phrase “carpe diem,” generally translated as “seize the day.” Perhaps if this phrase had originated in English, it may have sounded a little odd. How do you “seize” a day? “Seizing” often strikes one as a physical activity which involves reaching out with your arms to grab something. It’s often used as a military term to refer to the capture of a certain place or person. So “seize the day” almost sounds like a negative thing.
There are certain languages that borrow freely from other languages. English, for example, has many words which originated in other languages. “Pajamas” comes from the Hindi word “pyjama” meaning a loose pair of drawstring pants. “Déjà vu” is a phrase obviously borrowed from the French. We also use words such as “zeitgeist” which comes from German and means the spirit of the age. Another word that doesn’t originate in English but has become quite popular is “chutzpah” which comes from the Yiddish. Originally a negative term referring to effrontery or shameless audacity, it now refers to someone who is bold and gutsy. For example, “It took a lot of chutzpah for her, as the only woman, to stand in front of hundreds of men and deliver her lecture.”