June 17, 2016

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.

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