Misinterpreted: the underestimated value of translations

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Human translators, as opposed to translation software, generally have a broad knowledge of the subject matter relevant to the translation assignment.

The term “lost in translation” is rather overused. It is a hot topic that harkens back to the real essence of what is lost when a text is translated from one language to another, as some of the original meaning, intentions or puns can only be understood in the context of the original language of the play.

Unfortunately, some might say that translation is an art form and a dying career because of translation software – the most obvious advantages of digital translation are its efficiency and low cost.

While human translators can translate approximately 2000 words per day (and charge a reasonable fee for it), translation software is almost instantaneous and widely available for free. The Internet has revolutionized the ability to access, translate and understand texts and documents from around the world.

The vast majority of people use Google Translate or DeepL to quickly translate a few words or phrases into another language. However, if they don’t speak the language or know the proper method of expressing a given term or probing the software’s work, they might end up with a statement that doesn’t make sense.

While machine translation is often a good solution for translating individual words or short sentences, such as when reading a traffic sign or communicating with a taxi driver in a foreign country, it struggles with it. complex sentences and is often unable to translate idioms and colloquialisms, among other more difficult concepts.

Human translators, as opposed to translation software, generally have a deep knowledge of the subject matter relevant to the translation assignment given to them, as well as the ability to conduct in-depth research on a specific term or topic in order to understand the subject matter. ensure that it is translated using exactly the correct terminology in the target language.

Julián Zapata Rojas, part-time teacher and internship coordinator at the U of O School of Translation and Interpretation, had the privilege of teaching 12 different courses, including general and specialized translation from and to English, Spanish and French. In addition, he has taught “transfer-free” courses, such as professional aspects of translation, lexicology and documentation, terminology and translation technologies (undergraduate and graduate).

Rojas says he uses human resources, such as experts in the field, and material resources, such as dictionaries and computer tools, to teach his students the most effective strategies to use in translating the literature of one language to another.

“Human translators have always used technology as aids – since the invention of writing systems and writing tools,” Rojas said in an interview.

“The idea of ​​using computers to translate (automatically) or as a tool to assist translators is as old as the idea of ​​computers itself. But other types of technologies are also useful in different ways: translation memories, parallel electronic corpora and speech recognition systems are just some of the many technologies that help translators, for example, to speed up the process, to produce better quality texts. ”

When translating, Jordan Gagné’s teachers (fourth year French-English-Spanish translation student) advise her to use TERMIUM Plus because it is an official government database, as well as The Grand Dictionary of Terminology, Linguee, DeepL, and the bilingual and monolingual online dictionaries. “[We] should never use Google Translate. Technology is a great tool. It helps fill in the gaps, helps us justify our choices, and find better ways of saying things idiomatically. Machine translation is not 100% accurate, but that doesn’t make it a less useful tool, ”she said.

Rojas argued that when properly learned and used, no technological application should prevent the translator from understanding text in one language and translating it into another.

In addition, Rojas elucidates the ways in which the meaning of a word changes when translated. “Words that appear to be ‘the same’ in two closely related languages ​​can have different meanings – also known as false relatives or false friends. Sometimes they mean the opposite. Sometimes they mean the same thing too, but one of them also means something else. There are inevitably, almost always,[thing] loss of translation.

In addition, some people rely heavily on the subtitles of their favorite shows to learn the language; Rojas explains how this is an acceptable approach to learning the language.

“Read the subtitles as one [watches] a [program] in the same language was suggested as a good way to familiarize yourself with that language, to learn vocabulary and to become familiar with a particular accent. Henceforth, subtitles in another language should be used with caution when learning foreign languages.

As globalization is a continuous process, new content is always translated. This should be done both linguistically and in accordance with the cultural expectations of the target audience.

Salah Basalamah, associate professor and president of the School of Translation and Interpretation at the University of Ottawa, believes that “translating is almost always an approximation, especially if one wishes to preserve the idiomaticity of the target language. , that is, not to imitate the form of the source language.

“Certainly, emotions are as difficult to transfer as ideas, because in the process feelings and meanings change slightly. ”

Basalamah also believes that there is no other way to translate than to understand the cultures and languages ​​in contact – both as a source and as a target – as a prerequisite.

“You don’t really know its value or its challenges until you get your hands on it and face the challenges of the process,” Basalamah said.

“It is also a question of perception from the outside, but also a question of presentation and representation of what translation is from the translators’ point of view. I believe that despite their ability to use the mysteries of the languages ​​they master, their ability to communicate about their practice and its value still needs to be improved and perfected.

Rojas expresses his disappointment at the underestimation of the translations. “Translators have enabled communications between humans of different tribes, communities, countries and continents for millennia. And yet, even today, the translation is only ‘visible’ when there is a translation error here and a funny translation there, ”he said.

Sarah May, a fourth year French-English-Spanish translation student chose this program because she loves that there are so many different fields in translation, which allows her to deepen her knowledge of the world and ” understand different perspectives.

“It’s a career where you learn something new every day by translating texts on different subjects. I also enjoy translation because there are so many translation errors in our daily life that can have consequences in people’s lives. These mistakes should be avoided in the future with skilled translators who pay attention to the small details, ”she said.

May plans to become a subtitle translator after graduating. It also explains the importance of understanding the culture of the source language in order to understand idioms and nuances, and to be able to find equivalents or similar expressions in the target language. “If the differences between the cultures of the target audiences are not taken into account, the translations may not be as idiomatic or geared towards certain aspects of the right culture. ”

“Personally, I watch Spanish telenovelas to improve my Spanish. I listen to the characters speak in Spanish while using Spanish subtitles (not English) so I can read it too. It helped me, but I can’t just rely on TV shows because the subtitles aren’t always accurate. I try to read, write and speak in spanish too.

However, May says technology can prevent us from properly learning a language because people rely too much on it without learning basic grammar rules, as well as learning different communication skills.

“The true meaning of words gets lost in translation because there are many interpretations of the ‘true’ meaning of a single word,” May said. “A translator may have a different interpretation of one text from another depending on their knowledge, background, culture, gender, education, age, sexual orientation, experience, etc.

For example, sometimes people who have to fill out immigration papers to flee their country do not speak English. Therefore, it is crucial to provide accurate translations to everyone in order to encourage diversity and equality all over the world.

Gagné chose to study translation because she has always loved languages ​​and dialects and the way they shape our cultures and communities.

“I think a big challenge we face in the world today is poor communication and misunderstanding, not only between languages, but also between people who speak the same language,” she said. declared. “This idea of ​​misunderstanding has always interested me, and translation really leads me to learn how to clearly express what you want to communicate. “

Gagné believes that culture plays a huge role in translation. “If you don’t understand the culture of the audience you’re translating for, then that audience might not be able to fully identify with or understand the text they’re reading. Cultural elements like idioms, religions, etiquette, among others, could be completely ignored in the translation if the translator does not have adequate knowledge of the culture of the target audience, ”she said.

“If a translation is poorly done, you could confuse people at best and endanger them at worst, like poor translation of heavy machinery instruction manuals. The translation is often inseparable from the source text, so the translator is inseparable from the author, at least in the eyes of most readers.

“I think translation is more of a silent hero because people can’t know what they don’t know. If the information is not available for a certain linguistic community because there is no translation for it, then they have no possibility of appreciating the translation. [itself]”Declared Gagné.


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