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How to Achieve the Golden Mean in Translation

by Jim Dulin

August 8, 2019

You may think that anyone who is bilingual can translate a document from one language into another. However, there are many differences between a professional translator and an amateur translator. A professional translator is going to have a lot more experience in the field, so they’ll know what kinds of things are likely to trip someone up in the process of translation. And they’ll know how to avoid them. An amateur translator, on the other hand, might make rookie mistakes because they haven’t worked long enough in the field of translation. Here are some of these mistakes:

  1. Focusing on Elegance of Language Instead of Meaning: An amateur translator might assume that you want the final document to read well and be elegant in its form. And although most people would be happy to have their translations read this way, they are obviously more concerned about the meaning of the document rather than how it sounds. A professional translator knows that it’s more important to convey the right meaning to avoid misunderstandings.
  2. Trying to Maintain the Original Grammatical Structure: Sometimes, it’s possible to maintain the original grammatical structure of a document in translation. It might come across as sounding a little stilted or archaic, but it won’t be completely incorrect. At other times, it’s not possible to maintain this type of structure because it doesn’t exist in the destination language. In both cases, however, it would be better to go with a structure which is more widely used in the destination language, and a professional translator would know that.
  3. Making Too Many Changes to the Original Grammatical Structure: On the other hand, there are amateur translators who think that the original document has to be completely slashed and changed. If you’ve put something at the beginning of the document, they might put it at the end. They might combine sentences which were not combined in the original or break up a compound/complex sentence into simple ones. The danger of this type of translation is that the document might lose all sense of meaning. But a professional translator would realize that this is not the way to go.

In general, it’s a fact that the simpler you keep your translation process, the better. Rather than aiming too high and wanting to achieve an elegant result or being too rigid and trying to maintain the exact meaning of the original, it’s better to go for the golden mean between these two extremes. Contact us for more information.

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