Thoughts on “Translation”

Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. While interpreting—the facilitating of oral or sign-language communication between users of different languages—antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature. There exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (ca. 2000 BCE) into Southwest Asian languages of the second millennium BCE. Translation is the transmittal of written text from one language into another. Although the terms translation and interpretation are often used interchangeably, by strict definition, translation Refers to the written language, and interpretation to the spoken word. Translation is the action of interpretation of the meaning of a text, and subsequent production of an equivalent text, also called a translation, that communicates the same message in another language. The text to be translated is called the source text, and the language it is to be translated into is called the target language; the final product is sometimes called the “target text.”


The best translation is one that you don’t realize is a translation, because it sounds just like it would if it had been written in that language to begin with. Translators and interpreters nearly always work into their native language, because it’s too easy for a non-native speaker to write or speak in a way that just doesn’t sound quite right to native speakers. Using unqualified translators will leave you with poor-quality translations with mistakes ranging from poor grammar and awkward phrasing to nonsensical or inaccurate information.


What is the “localization”?

Language localization is the process of adapting a product that has been previously translated into multiple languages to a specific country or region (from Latin locus (place) and the English term locale, “a place where something happens or is set”).[1] It is the second phase of a larger process of product translation and cultural adaptation (for specific countries, regions or groups) to account for differences in distinct markets, a process known as internationalization and localization.


Translation vs. localization

Though it is sometimes difficult to draw the limits between translation and localisation, in general localisation addresses significant, non-textual components of products or services. In addition to translation (and, therefore, grammar and spelling issues that vary from place to place where the same language is spoken), the localisation process might include adapting graphics; adopting local currencies; using proper format for date and time, addresses, and phone numbers applicable to the location; the choices of colours; and many other details, including rethinking the physical structure of a product. All these changes aim to recognise local sensitivities, avoid conflict with local culture, customs, common habits, and enter the local market by merging into its needs and desires. For example, localisation aims to offer country-specific websites of the same company or different editions of a book depending on where it is published.


It’s often assumed that pretty much anyone who is well educated and speaks two languages will have the translation skills necessary to translate to a high standard. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, very few people have the combination of basic skills needed to be a professional translator. That is, the knowledge, attributes and abilities to consistently produce translations that are both accurate and read naturally and elegantly in the target language. Even bilingual individuals can rarely express themselves in a given subject equally well in both languages, and many excellent translators are not fully bilingual to begin with. Knowing this limitation, a good translator will only translate documents into his or her native language. This is why we at Language Scientific absolutely require our technical translators only translate into their native language, in addition to their subject matter expertise.


A good translator is someone who has a comprehensive knowledge of both source and target languages. Students should read different genres in both source and target languages including modern literature, contemporary prose, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, announcements, instructions, etc. Being familiar with all these genres is important, since they implicitly transfer culture-specific aspects of a language. Specialized readings are also suggested: reading recently published articles and journals on theoretical and practical aspects of translation. The articles will not only improve the students’ reading skill in general, but also give them insights which will subconsciously be applied when actually translating. A good translator should be familiar with the culture, customs, and social settings of the source and target language speakers. She should also be familiar with different registers, styles of speaking, and social stratification of both languages. This socio-cultural awareness, can improve the quality of the students’ translations to a great extent. According to Hatim and Mason (1990), the social context in translating a text is probably a more important variable than its genre. The act of translating takes place in the socio-cultural context. Consequently, it is important to judge translating activity only within a social context.





Some basic knowledge about the Chinese language:


The Chinese languages are the languages of the Han people, the major ethnic group of China, including both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China. The Chinese languages are spoken by over one billion people. Approximately 95 percent of the Chinese population speaks Chinese, as opposed to the non-Chinese languages such as Tibetan, Mongolian, Lolo, Miao, and Tai spoken by minorities. The vast majority of the Chinese-speaking population is in China (over 980 million), Hong Kong, and Taiwan (19 million), but substantial numbers are also found throughout the whole of southeast Asia, especially in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Important Chinese-speaking communities are also found in many other parts of the world, especially in Europe, North and South America, and the Hawaiian Islands.


Simplified Chinese & Traditional Chinese

In mainland China a simplified writing system is used, whereas in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas regions the traditional script is being used. Starting from the second half of the nineteenth century, there was a growing consensus that the writing system constituted an obstacle to the achievement of a higher literacy rate. The simplified writing system differs in two ways from the traditional writing system: (1) a reduction of the number of strokes per character and (2) the reduction of the number of characters in common use (two different characters are now written with the same character). A large-scale reform was continued after the founding of the PRC. In 1955 1,053 variant characters were eliminated. In 1956, the Scheme of Simplified Chinese Characters, known later as the First Scheme, was promulgated by the PRC government. It was composed of 525 simplified characters and 54 simplified basic components of characters. The Second Scheme of Simplified Chinese Characters was promulgated in 1977 but was repealed in 1986 amid general disapproval.


Mandarin vs. Cantonese


Mandarin is by far the largest of the seven or ten Chinese dialect groups, with 70 per cent of Chinese speakers and a huge area stretching from Yunnan in the southwest to Xinjiang in the northwest and Heilongjiang in the northeast. This is attributed to the greater ease of travel and communication in the North China Plain compared to the more mountainous south, combined with the relatively recent spread of Mandarin to frontier areas. Cantonese is spoken by the people of Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province, including Guangzhou (previously Canton in English). Most foreign Chinese communities, such as those in London and San Francisco, also speak Cantonese thanks to emigration from Guangdong.





About Translation

Here is the Wikipedia’s definition about “translation”:

What we call “translation” is a process to communicate the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas the interpretation undoubtedly antedates the writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature.

Due to the vast demands of business documentation consequent to the Industrial Revolution that began in the mid-18th century, some translation specialties have become formalized, with dedicated schools and professional associations.

Translators always risk inappropriate spill-over of source-language idioms and usage into the target-language translations. On the other hand, spill-over have imported useful source-language calques and loanwords that have enriched the target languages. Indeed, translators have helped remarkably to shape the languages into which they have localized.

As translation is an obvious work of laboriousness, since the 1940s some engineers have sought to automate the translation (“machine-translation” as we call) or to mechanically aid the human translators (computer-assisted translation). The growth of the Internet has fostered a global-wide market for translation services and has facilitated language localization / internationalization.


There are a number of suggested translation principles:

  1. The target-language-oriented principle: readers of the target language are the most important and the author should change his expressions to make it more acceptable.
  2. The source-language-oriented principle: the author is the most important and readers should stretch out to reach the author
  3. The aesthetic-oriented principle: artistic beauty is the most important.
  4. The author-and-reader-oriented principle: both the reader and the author should be equally respected.
  5. The function-oriented principle: the translation has to fulfill the new function according to the translation initiator


The theories / principles about translation are still evolving and translators shall always bear them in mind and make their choices based on specific projects.

Other concepts / theories related to translation:

CAT (Computer Aided Translation), CAT Tools, Machine Translation vs. Human Translation, Translation Memories, Translation Quality Assurance.


How should we define the “translation”? Some people think it’s a science, others take it as an art; and yet many would consider it a craft, or rather, a skill.

“Translation” is about reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the source-language message, firstly in terms of meaning, and secondly in terms of style / feel. Translating is a linguistic practice of employing one language to realize the thoughts expressed in another exactly and completely. We may also say, translation, essentially, is the faithful representation, in one language, of what is written or said in another language. Translation is not simply a matter of seeking other words with similar meaning, but of finding appropriate ways of saying things in another language. Translating is always meaning-based, i.e. it is the transfer of meaning instead of form from the source language to the target language.



Quite often you heard of several variations of the Chinese language – Mandarin, Cantonese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, etc.

Mandarin vs. Cantonese:

Mandarin and Cantonese are two “SPOKEN STYLE/DIALECTS” of Chinese language. As an official spoken “version”, “Mandarin” is widely used in Mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore. In translation industry, “Cantonese” is mainly targeted to Hong Kong audience only.

 Simplified Chinese vs. Traditional Chinese:

Two different written forms of Chinese text, the former with less strokes and the latter featuring more complex characters. Usually speaking, you need to choose Simplified Chinese for readers in Mainland China and Singapore, Traditional Chinese for people living in Hong Kong and Taiwan, although, in most cases, Chinese people in these regions can read the both.