In today’s globalized world, the crucial role of communication has never been more critical. Modern technology, like the internet, is helping break geographical barriers by connecting people. With countries and cultures coming together, it is necessitating smoother communication.
However, with over 7,000 languages spoken in the world, communication in a globalized society is translating into a big problem. This is where translation comes in handy.
In simple terms, translation is the conversion of a text, video, or any other work from one language to the other. The word translation is from a Latin word meaning to “to bring or carry across”. At a glance, this looks like a simple process that a multi-linguist can do.
Over the years, translators have received a lot of flak for failing to replicate the actual message contained in original texts. The rise of digital translation technology has not helped the case for translators, as most of these tools don’t give accurate translations. This has necessitated a more scientific approach to the conversion of words from one language to another.
It is these attempts for more accurate translations that have necessitated linguistic translation. Linguistic translation helps to decode and decipher every aspect of the original language then convert it into the translated text.
A linguist usually understands most facets and functions of a language. They will come in handy in giving a precise translation of any work into the new language.
If you are a translator or a translation student, it is imperative to understand this trend in the industry.
This guide delves into the world of linguistic translation to highlight the vital role it plays in the industry.
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This post has been updated in October 2021.
The Rise of Linguistic Translation
Translation dates back to the Mesopotamian era. Other instances of earlier translation services include translation of Indian documents into Chinese by Buddhist monks. Roman poets and scholars translated Ancient Greek texts, which formed the basis for learning.
Arabic scholars were also influential in the translation of Greek texts and applying the knowledge in philosophical writing, scientific works, and other areas. It is these Arabic texts that were translated to Latin in the middle ages and formed the basis of the renaissance.
Moreover, during the spread of Christianity and other religions, there was a need to translate early scripts, boosting translation into other languages. For example, the Hebrew Bible was first translated into Greek in a painstaking process done by over 70 scholars.
It was a process that not only covered more than just a change of words but it also looked at nuances of the original language, including the history and culture of the Jews. So influential were translations in the development of the early church that there was the need for a patron saint of translation; Saint Jerome.
It was Saint Jerome who came up with the Latin Bible in 4th century AD. St. Jerome argued that translation should not be word-for-word, but the translator must work sensibly. Cicero, the Roman writer and philosopher in his work “De Oratore” was of the same view regarding translation and argued that the process should not be word-for-word or ‘verbum pro verbo.’
Cicero was a renowned Greek-Latin translator and was of the view that translated works should be counted in coins rather than in weight. These early translations planted the seed of linguistic translation.
The scholars delved deeper into the cultures of the people who had written the original texts to come up with more precise translations.
Roger Bacon, a linguist, living around the 13th century, posited that a good translator should have full knowledge of the source and target languages. This would help them produce an accurate translation.
In 1534, Martin Luther, a Theology professor, made a German translation of the Bible. He argued that the best interpretation was in the translator’s language.
Technology has given a lot of boost in linguistic translation: it is now easier to access information about the culture of people from across the world. Modern tools and practices are allowing translators to understand the culture of the region and its language better. They can also research and understand the culture of the people intended to read the translated text.
The Linguistic Approach to Translation
While translation is as old as the written text, it is relatively new as a discipline of study. In a world that keeps getting smaller owing to modern technology, translation services are in higher demand than ever before.
For most people, all one needs to translate is an understanding of two languages. However, this can lead to embarrassing errors in the translated texts.
As a translator, you need to appreciate that a word in language may or may not have a corresponding word in language B. This is where linguistics becomes crucial for better translations.
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is an essential component in modern translations: it improves the quality of translated works.
Some of the essential components of linguistics include:
- Grammar: This is the study of the structure and the system of language and the rules it uses.
- Morphology: This entails studying how words are formed in a language.
- Syntax: This is a close analysis of the process of words and phrases formation and their composition
- Phonology: A study of sound systems which comes handy in translating spoken works.
- Sociolinguistics: This is a study of how people use a language in society.
- Neurolinguistics: An analytical study of how encoding of communication in the brain.
- Historical linguistics: This is the study focusing on how a language has evolved.
Meaning and Equivalence in Linguistic Translation
A linguistic approach to translation focus on purpose and equivalence. For instance, many words and phrases in language have the same meaning conveyed. However, the same definitions are representable by different expressions.
A linguistic translator plays a vital role in analyzing the original text and discovering ‘the real meaning.
· The ‘How’ And ‘What’ Of A Text
An ordinary word-for-word translation is at the risk of losing the meaning if any unique construction is used in the original language. Linguistic translation thus eliminates such errors.
Through a scientific approach to translation, a translator can decipher the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of a text. They examine unique features, including speech acts, meaning, reference, truth, logical necessity, and verification, to mention a few.
Unlike in ordinary translation, the linguistic interpretation will go more in-depth and look at signifiers in a language. These signs and symbols convey meaning. When a translator identifies them, it is easier to get an accurate translation.
By looking at these signifiers, a translator using a linguistic approach can distinguish between similar words with different meanings in different contexts. For instance, while the word ‘yellow’ in Literature might convey different meanings depending on the context and culture. In America, ‘yellow’ depicts weakness, while the same name in Japanese signifies courage.
Hence, linguistic translation helps the translator understand what the writer wanted to convey. In a world where multiple cultures interact, such interpretations can help promote better communication by eliminating misunderstandings.
· Sociolinguistics in Translation
As a linguistic translator, your duty goes beyond understanding what a single word means. You have to follow the sociolinguistic component of language because language is used in a particular social and cultural context. By understanding the context in which the original text was written, you can make a more accurate translation.
The linguistic methodology in translation also focuses on syntax. A translator focuses on how words are used to construct meaning in a specific language. Any interpretation that doesn’t emphasize this functional aspect of communication will most likely miss the mark. A translator should, therefore, understand how words work in the original language to get a precise translation for any work.
· Historical Considerations In Linguistic Translations
Linguistic translation also goes back in time to analyze how a particular language has evolved. For instance, translation of ancient works requires a close examination of the evolution of dialects used to give a more precise depiction in translations. Language is dynamic, and translators have to consider any changes that have taken place over time in their interpretations.
Benefits of Holistic Language Translation
By incorporating all aspects of linguistics in translation, a translator can become more accurate in their work. Linguistic translation will not only look at a word’s meaning but also the context of its usage, its evolution in the language, the formation of the name and how it is used to form phrases and sentences.
This is a more scientific approach to translation; it eliminates errors in translation projects. Some of the oldest translations that have gone through linguistic translation have conveyed more meaning than through word-for-word interpretation.
As a translator, it is easier to meet your clients’ needs if you integrate this holistic approach in your work. To do this, you need to understand the grammar, idioms, rules, and conventions of the original language in a text.
Moreover, you have to analyze the social, political, economic and cultural context in which the original writer wrote a text. From legal to medical translation, linguistic translation guarantees a more accurate result.
Here are some other reasons why this linguistic approach to translation matters more than ever before:
- Facilitating the global economy: The world has become a global village where people from all cultures interact freely. It is now more critical than ever before to translate languages for meaningful interactions accurately.
- Enhancing online communication: With over 4.54 billion people now online, translation services are in high demand. As a translator, you have a crucial role in strengthening seamless communication on digital platforms.
- Promote language learning: There are a few dominant languages in the world, but this shouldn’t be reason enough to let smaller dialects die. Linguistic translation can promote more in-depth learning and understanding of these languages and help in their survival.
- Complementing language tools: While translation software is all the rage today, these tools still miss a lot in their translations. Linguistic translation can help refine these translated works.
The idea of a global village has become a reality today. The internet now brings over half of the worldwide population together.
In this backdrop, language translation is becoming ever more vital. Linguistic translators play a crucial role in enhancing communication in this interconnected world. By going beyond the superficial, this scientific approach to translation boosts the work of translators by improving accuracy. Linguistic translation goes beyond word-for-word translation to convey a more vibrant and deeper meaning.
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