Crafting a Translation

A translator’s aim is that their text should not be identifiable as having been translated (unless an explicitly literal translation is requested). In addition to the self-explanatory avoidance of unusual collocations and unwanted nuance, the translator must prioritise clarity as it is expressed in the target language, and must equally consider the cohesive elements of the text, ensuring that the translation conforms to the target language’s norms for style and textual structure. The new readership must be considered at every turn, and the intention for the translation is paramount, as the text must be shaped according to these parameters; such is the case for subtitling, for example, where sentence length is critical.

Beyond these key points, the translation of a text involves transferring the essence of a text from its author’s language into another language. Each language brings its own priorities, its own culture and individual nuances to every text. The translator’s task is to understand these deeper levels of textual nuance within the text, and transfer its vital elements across into the target language. Above all, the translator must hold in mind the client’s priorities for the new text: in the majority of cases, the effect on the new readership should replicate the effect the original text has its own readership, although this is not always the case. However, the translator is crafting a text which now needs to fit seamlessly into a new culture, and as such, they must be perceptive to any potential language pitfalls that may arise due to differing cultural backgrounds.

Consideration of these factors illustrates the value of using a human translator. Automated machine translation is (at present) unable to comprehend the effect of a text on its human reader, and cannot grasp the weight of culture and life experience that informs the reader’s understanding of a text. The nuances and the emotion connection of the reader are especially important factors for literary translations, where the crafting of the language, its subtleties and sub-texts offers as much to the reader as the meaning of the words themselves.