On the surface many people will believe that providing you can speak a language, you will be able to translate it – this is not the case, the art of translation requires a much deeper understanding of the language and multiple different factors come into play. For instance, when presented with a written document to translate, the writer may have used multiple synonyms to great effect, but the translator may not have those options in the language the text is being translated too, and will therefore be unable to create the same effect. Other problems that are prevalent with written translations are grammatical issues, it is not simply enough to translate the words, each language has its own unique set of grammatical rules that must be adhered to for a complete and professional translation.
Compound words often cause confusion and difficulties in translation, as they are words that are formed by combining two completely unrelated words. One example is “butterfly”, which is of course made up of the two words “butter” and “fly”, and have nothing to do with each other. If care is not taken words like this can very easily be mistranslated and alter the entire point or message.
Differences in Culture
There are many different issues that might arise when translating across different cultures, for example tone may not always come across correctly, the subject may use sarcasm which is completely lost in translation and could result in offence being caused. Another, less dramatic example, is simply the date. In England it is commonly known that the day of the month precedes the month, for instance 01/02/2018 will be instantly recognised as the First of February 2018, however in America the month precedes the day, meaning the date would read as the Second of January 2018. Although this may seem like a small issue – when it comes to professional usage, such as company reports or financial documents, the former mistranslation could result in a multitude of issues.
Another potential area that is difficult to translate across cultures is idioms and expressions, which are very often unique to their original language. Machine translators will often struggle with these turns of phrase and will be unable to translate their meaning as they will translate literally. This gives more credence to using a professional translating company, rather than relying on the push of a button, which will only take the user so far.
Structure of Language
As mentioned earlier, languages have many different rules that make them unique, and another of these is simply the structure that creates a sentence. For instance a sentence in English might have a subject, verb and object such as, “he drinks water”, but not every language will follow this format and translators have the difficult job of adding and removing words, rearranging sentences and words to correctly translate the piece. This example showcases a simple sentence, and more complex structures can be viewed here, which prove that translation is much more than simply translating words. Translation involves showcasing feelings and emotions whilst staying true to the original intentions of the subject – a truly difficult task.