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January 18, 2016

The Case of the Feminine Blue Dress: Considering Vocabulary and Grammar in Translation Services

by brenton

If you’re bilingual, you’ve probably been practicing translation on an informal basis for a while.  Maybe you’ve been in social situations where you were surrounded by two people speaking different languages, and you had to make sure they understood each other.  Or maybe you went to see a French film with an American friend and wanted her to grasp certain nuances that didn’t come through in the subtitles.

Getting It Right

Translating on the spot in this manner has probably shown you how certain phrases defy translation.  No matter how hard you try to convey a certain thing in a different language, you feel like you never really get it right.  Often, you need to try out several different combinations of words until you feel satisfied.  In such cases, speed is of less importance than accuracy.  This is something that professional translators have to deal with everyday when providing translation services.

Vocabulary vs. Grammar

We’ve all heard some fairly odd if not downright funny translations of things.  These are usually caused by rushing through a translation and not stopping to think about those little nuances that make all the difference.  Sometimes, the mistranslation is caused by using the wrong word while at other times, it’s the difference in grammar between two languages that leads to the mistake.

For example, in French, all nouns have a gender, something that might seem rather strange to an English speaker.  A book, i.e., “un livre” is masculine while a dress i.e., “une robe” is feminine.  In French, one might say, “Elle a une robe bleue.  Elle l’aime beaucoup.”  If you weren’t to consider the difference between English and French when it comes to gender, you would translate this as , “She has a blue dress.  She loves her a lot.”  In fact, many French speakers who have just started to speak English find it difficult to remember the English convention of referring to things as “it” and continue to use “he” and “she” instead.

Ancient and Modern Languages

So in order to accurately translate something, you have be conversant with the vocabulary as well as the grammatical structure of both languages.  In some cases, the grammatical structure of one language is more complicated than that of another.  Ancient languages like Greek and Sanskrit tend to have more complicated grammatical rules.  However, modern languages are simplified versions of these.

Contact us at Keylingo for translations that are accurate from the point of view of vocabulary as well as grammar.

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