Rules of translation
Thread poster: LLL LL
LLL LL
Hong Kong
Local time: 01:10
English to Chinese
+ ...
Jun 14, 2008

Rules of translation
In my view, translation rules basically include the following three:
1) Knowledge of the subject field
2) Accuracy
3) Fluency/ proficiency in the source and target language

To say "knowledge of the subject field" is actually half-correct, since nobody in the world knows every subject. Yet, a competent translator can do all kinds of translation with specialisation in one or two fields. Why? This is because a competent translator is usually one with strong research skill.

Accuracy means one has to use a target text language as close as possible to the source text language. Deviation from the source text language is impossible in general context.

Proficiency in the source and target language is the basic tool for a translator to become a translator.

Hope the above information helps.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 14:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Rules? Jun 14, 2008

While I applaud your temerity as you attempt to set out the 'Rules of translation' in this place, I am sure that if you did a thorough review of relevant posts in the Proz.com forum you would find that many - perhaps most - of your 'rules' differ significantly from the principles applied by many other freelance translators.

On the basis of my 32 years in this business, I would take issue with all three of your rules.

1) Knowledge of the subject field

No. Mere 'knowledge' is not enough. Deep understanding is necessary, especially in 'non-literary' translation. The best technical translators (where I use 'technical' to cover not only engineering and science but also 'technical' fields such as medicine, law, etc.) are those who would be intellectually and academically capable of actually authoring the source texts rather than 'merely' translating source texts authored by their peers. I firmly believe that the best 'legal' translators are practicing lawyers, the best 'nuclear power' translators are practicing nuclear power engineers, and so on...

You went on to write: "a competent translator can do all kinds of translation with specialisation in one or two fields. Why? This is because a competent translator is usually one with strong research skill."

While it's probably fair to say that many professionals in the translation business can do excellent work across a small range of fields, I would most certainly take issue with the view that we can do 'all kinds of translation' simply because we supposedly have good research skills. Leaving aside the fact that many members/users of this site clearly have very poor research skills (a quick look at their KudoZ questions is sufficient proof of that), there is absolutely no justification for saying that a translator specializing, for example, in genealogy and mediaeval history (two extremely research-intensive fields) will be able to translate a post mortem report competently, adequately - or even at all.

2) Accuracy

Of course, accuracy is important. But your definition: "Accuracy means one has to use a target text language as close as possible to the source text language." leaves much to be desired.

In many circumstances, a top-quality translation will diverge significantly from the source text in terms of both structure and style with a view to faithfully conveying 'meaning' as opposed to merely conveying 'words'. This will be all the more true as the quality of the source text falls; an accurate translation (in your terms) of a sloppy source text will be ... a sloppy target text; in contrast, an excellent translation will convey what the author would have liked to express if (s)he had a better command of his/her mother tongue (or the language in which (s)he was writing, which may of course be a second of third language...).

3) Fluency/ proficiency in the source and target language

Fluency is largely irrelevant in translation since the word 'fluent' refers to spoken language. I say that from personal experience - I can write 'proficient' Spanish (when I put my mind to it) but I have difficulty making myself understood in conversation, partly owing to my partial deafness). I am a proficient writer/translator of Spanish, but not a fluent speaker. And in any case 'proficiency' is not sufficient to make a good translator (or a good translation); a better rule would be that which demands 'proficiency' (at worst) in the source language and 'excellence' (or better) in the target language. And of course this correlates well with the widely-recognised norm whereby translators should (ideally) translate only into their mother tongue.

You ended with "Hope the above information helps."

Well, yes it did! It reinforced my belief that the best professionals - in any field - are those with understanding, experience and modesty - and not just theory.

MediaMatrix


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