Four Things Great Writers Can Teach Us About Business Translations

by brenton

Different people have different opinions about translation.  Some believe in translations that stay faithful to the original while others prefer translations that make more sense in the destination language.  As such, the choice is between fidelity and transparency.  However, there are many other views about translation as well, as evidenced by the large number of writers who have something or the other to say about this art.  Here are a few quotes that might help elucidate exactly what one should look for when getting translation services:


  1. “Without translation, I would be limited to the borders of my own country. The translator is my most important ally. He introduces me to the world.”—Italo Calvino. Given that Calvino writes in Italian, it’s quite possible that English-speaking audiences might never even have heard of him if it weren’t for translation services. As a business, you can also feel free to move beyond the borders of your country. Take your product abroad and use translation services to introduce it to people who speak different languages.
  2. “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”—Robert Frost. This seems, at first glance, to be a negative quote about translation.  It talks about something that translation can’t do i.e., translate poetry.  Even when you’re translating slogans for a business, you often run up against this problem.  There are no effective French translations for Nike’s “Just do it” which is why the brand chose to leave the slogan in English. Sometimes, no translation is the best translation.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to translate something. Often, you can come up with something adequate or even better in the destination language, even if it might not mean the same thing.
  3. “The original is unfaithful to the translation.”—Jorge Luis Borges. Sometimes, we spend so much time worrying about whether we’ve done a faithful translation that we forget that we’re dealing with two separate languages.  A phrase from one language may never mean something exactly the same in a different language.  This doesn’t mean that the translator has done a poor job.  Rather than thinking of the translation as being unfaithful, you can think of the original as being unfaithful to the translation!
  4. “I read the Bible to myself; I’ll take any translation, any edition, and read it aloud, just to hear the language, hear the rhythm, and remind myself how beautiful English is.”—Maya Angelou. These words show that a work can be beautiful even after it has been translated.  Maya Angelou talks about the Bible. But have you ever read Madame Bovary by Flaubert in English? It’s still a masterpiece. Even Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey have survived their myriad translations and are still regarded as classics.  As long as your business translation reads well in the destination language and doesn’t come across as stilted, it will achieve its purpose.

Contact us for more great quotes about translation services.

Related Articles

Smart, Fun, and Fascinating Facts About the Use of Sign Language

Also known as ASL (or American Sign Language), this method of communicating with those who are either completely deaf or struggle with their hearing has been around for over two centuries. On the surface, watching those who silently speak, understand, and communicate with others using their hands may appear foreign to most, but it’s actually…

3 Traits for Healthier Meetings and Happier Employees

Have you ever sat in a meeting where you were suddenly jolted out of your daydream when someone asked for your opinion? Maybe you remember that meeting that seemed to drag on with no end in sight. Maybe you don’t remember the meeting at all. Did you ever leave a meeting wondering if you had…

Taking a Break to Manage Unsustainable Accelerated Growth

While growth is the ultimate reason people get into business, sometimes growing or expanding too quickly could lead to some unexpected complications. The challenge for any business owner is not to limit growth but to manage growth and capitalize on it if possible. The effects of unsustainable accelerated growth on your business could include: Having…

for you

We’d love to learn more about your translation and localization needs.