Canadian scholar says there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ translation

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:26
Russian to English
+ ...
Well translation can get as perfect as things get, Jun 16, 2016

at least we should be aiming at perfection of some sort. As to pleasing clients—well an accurate translation does not necessarily please the clients, at least pleasing should never be the aim of a well done translation—it may be the outcome, at times.


Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:26
German to English
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not a new idea Jun 16, 2016

Perhaps this person, who is a writer rather than a trained translator, who has now translated some material, thinks this is a new idea. Our translation professors were stating this in the 1970's and they were quoting their own professors decades before that.

When she says that perhaps only emotion can be transmitted: a bid to tender with description of automotive parts, a birth certificate, or a scientific study - these do not contain any emotion to be transmitted. But a poem or literature, which she translates, does. The whole thing in translation is that we have to weigh several different factors and give greater value to one or the other depending on the nature of the work and its purpose. A legal or scientific text must first of all be accurate, and second of all try to be elegant, but above all be comprehensible. A piece of literature may sacrifice precise detail for the sake of conveying emotion and mood, and in order to preserve the elegance or flavour of the language. Anyone who tries for absolute "perfection" on all fronts is likely to end up with a translation that is odd one way or the other. It is an important notion which is probably why our profs stressed it.


English to Russian
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Aha Jun 17, 2016

So much for 'perfect' theorizing, yet much is not there.
If there's allegedly no 'perfect' translation, then how about 'standard' translation? Just 'translation'? Would 'just' translation do? Shall we use some other term or definition, say 'localization'? 'Perfect' or 'ideal', or just 'mere', perhaps? What is the purpose and use--both 'perfect' and 'not'?

Isn't something like telepathy the key? Is it relatively 'perfect' or 'absolutely'? Just? Yet won't it render all translation useless? Perfectly or not?

Oh, my)

[Edited at 2016-06-17 06:24 GMT]


Anne Schulz
Local time: 11:26
English to German
No surprise Jun 17, 2016

As long as there is no perfect text, there is no perfect translation.


English to Russian
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Establishing it a little more clearly: Jun 17, 2016

I believe that 'perfect' in translation still has very little to do with even 'text vs translation', rather it's the difference between 'perfect' as a direction vs 'imperfect' (enough) as a destination.

Upon this Earth one can travel almost any direction--be it the Sun, a star, an image, or something/somebody else--as far and long as it's ok--almost endlessly, if it’s the real goal. Yet where one would arrive? Imperfect.

Funny translation theories go that far to say there's no such thing as 'right' translation, then how it could be 'perfect' or not?
Why care?


Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:26
English to Polish
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Of course there isn't Jun 17, 2016

And that doesn't take a scholar to know.

It takes a high degree of intellectual laziness to think perfect translation exists. Any person of average intelligence should know better.


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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There is no such thing as perfect communication... Jun 17, 2016

...and therefore there is no such thing as a perfect translation.

When you read this sentence, you are reading what you think and feel you are reading, but not what I want you to read. The only perfect communication could -- at least potentially -- exist between you and yourself, but when two people communicate, there are so many components involved that it is a miracle that we manage to get our message across (or at least something that resembles our message to a certain extent).


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Canadian scholar says there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ translation

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