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Language Features And Their Effects On The Steps Of Translation

Jan 2019

Translation ,

Language translation is never a straightforward word-for-word conversion. The steps of translation must account for a variety of literary and cultural influences.

It is necessary for a translator to have a thorough understanding of language structure and language features and their effects in order to translate texts effectively. They need to have a strong command of both of the languages involved in the translation, as well as great insight into the culture of the countries the languages originate in.

To give you a bit more insight into what we do here at Global Language Services, and to give you some guidance for your own language translation practice, we’ve compiled this tutorial outlining the steps of translation, taking into account language features and their effects on the process.

language features and their effects

Review The Entire Text

To set yourself up for a smoother translation process, you should read the text in its entirety.

By doing this, you can see how the text flows, what the purpose of the text is, what audience it is written for, and whether it contains anything that you don’t understand and need to do a little extra research for.

Determining the style and register of the text is essential too – is it a piece of marketing copy, a personal letter, a novel? Is it written informally or formally?

Having a general gist of the text will focus your mind better when it comes to actually translating it.

language features and their effects

Forget The Structure

Ignore the way the sentence has been structured in the source text. If you attempt to structure your translation in an identical manner, then it may not make sense in the target language.

For example, in French, if you were to say, “Je le lui ai donné”, you would be saying “I gave it to him.”

Try and translate this directly in the same structure into English and it would read “I it to him have given.” This clearly makes no sense!

Moreover, in some languages, they have particular rules about where certain components can and cannot go – in English, prepositions cannot go at the end of the sentence, so this would need to be addressed in the translation.

Read sentences as a whole and determine whether the target language sentence structure matches the source language, and if not, rearrange the words in a sensical manner.

language features and their effects

Cultural Expressions and Vocabulary

Language features and their effects on translations are important to bear in mind when it comes to vocabulary use.

Cultural differences between the countries of the two languages involved in the translation may massively affect how certain words and phrases are translated.

Similes, metaphors, connotations, and idioms do not always translate well because the expression may be tied in with the culture of that country, never used outwith the borders.

For example, in Britain, we like to use the expression “kick the bucket” to describe someone dying. If this was to be translated into another language, it would be completely meaningless because this expression is not used abroad!

Similarly, in French, to say “He stood me up”, you would say “Il m’a posé un lapin”, which literally translates as “to put down a rabbit.” The translator would need to be aware of this expression when translating to ensure a smooth and accurate translation of meaning, not just a sequence of words.

language features and their effects


Non-Existent Vocabulary

Another issue with direct translations is that the word in the source text does not always exist in another language, so there is no way of translating it directly.

In German, “Schadenfreude” is used to describe when you enjoy hearing about the troubles someone else is facing – in English, there’s no direct word to describe this precise scenario, so the English translation is much longer to set the context.

language features and their effects

No Need For Translations!

There are instances where you won’t actually need to translate a phrase or sentence because the target language has it in common with the source language.

Words like “delicatessen” are German, “patio” is Spanish, and “karaoke” is Japanese.

Brand names and people’s names also do not always get translated. iPhone pioneers Apple remain as Apple globally. There are some exceptions, like when a brand name goes under a different identity in a different country. For example, what’s Vauxhall in the UK, is Opel in mainland Europe.

language features and their effects

Carry It Out Systematically

The easiest way to translate something is to do it in small, manageable chunks.

Doing it in 5-10 word chunks at a time will streamline the process, allowing your brain to process it with greater concentration, rather than trying to remember reams of words and their translations simultaneously.

language features and their effects

Make Sure It’s Accurate!

When you have finished your first draft of translation, go through it again and preen it for any mistakes. Anything that does not appear to make sense should be cross-referenced and amended.

It might help to take a little break from the translation to freshen your mind before returning to it. Have someone else proficient in both languages check the translation too, making sure that it is all correct.

language features and their effects

Looking For Professional Translation Services?

Global Language Services specialise in translation services for clients in a variety of industries, translating documents of all kinds into numerous languages.

If you are in need of translation services, contact us today or request a quote directly.

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