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Types of Translations

Two translators may be translating from the same source text and into the same receptor
language and yet the results may be very different. There is not one "correct" translation of a
given text. Reasons for this variation include:

• the purpose of the translation,

• the translation team itself,
• the receptor language audience for whom the translation is intended.

The results are translations that fall someplace on a continuum from literal translations to
idiomatic translations. Literal translations follow very closely the grammatical and lexical forms
of the source text language, whereas idiomatic translations are concerned with communicating
the meaning of the source text using the natural grammatical and lexical items of the receptor
language. Translations that add to the source text or change certain information for a specific
affect are called unduly free.

Choosing a translation type

There are various aspects of the communication situation that may determine the choice of type
of translation produced. One of the goals of the translation team is to produce a translation that
will be acceptable to the receptor language audience.

• The actual receptor language forms (grammar and lexicon) are chosen with the
educational level of the audience in mind, as well as their previous knowledge of the
subject matter.
• A newly literate audience will find it hard to read a translation intended for a highly
literate readership.
• Some audiences have a strong opinion as to the type of translation that is acceptable.
They may expect a close formal equivalence and will not accept a more idiomatic

The ideal of accurate, natural, and communicative is still the goal. But, in practice, this goal may
be carried out with differing result by different translation teams.

Due to the continuing evolvement of the translation industry there are now certain
terms used to define specialists translations that do not fall under a general
category. This brief guide offers an explanation of some of the more common
translation terms used.

Administrative translation

The translation of administrative texts. Although administrative has a very broad

meaning, in terms of translation it refers to commone texts used within businesses
and organisations that are used in day to day management. It can also be
stretched to cover texts with similar functions in government.

Commercial translation

Commercial translation or business translation covers any sort of document used in

the business world such as correspondence, company accounts, tender documents,
reports, etc. Commercial translations require speciliast translators with knowledge
of terminology used in the business world.

Computer translation

Not to be confused with CAT, computer assisted translations, which refer to

translations carried out by software. Computer translation is the translation of
anything to do with computers such as software, manuals, help files, etc.

Economic translation

Similar to commercial or business translation, economic translation is simply a

more specific term used for the translation of documents relating to the field of
economics. Such texts are usually a lot more academic in nature.

Financial translation

Financial translation is the translation of texts of a financial nature. Anything from

banking to asset management to stocks and bonds could be covered.

General translation

A general translation is the simplest of translations. A general text means that the
language used is not high level and to a certain extent could be in layman's terms.
There is no specific or technical terminology used. Most translations carried out fall
under this category.

Legal translation

Legal translations are one of the trickiest translations known. At its simplest level it
means the translation of legal documents such as statutes, contracts and treaties.

A legal translation will always need specialist attention. This is because law is
culture-dependent and requires a translator with an excellent understanding of both
the source and target cultures.

Most translation agencies would only ever use professional legal to undertake such
work. This is because there is no real margin for error; the mistranslation of a
passage in a contract could, for example, have disastrous consequences.

When translating a text within the field of law, the translator should keep the
following in mind. The legal system of the source text is structured in a way that
suits that culture and this is reflected in the legal language; similarly, the target
text is to be read by someone who is familiar with another legal system and its

Literary translation

A literay translation is the translation of literature such as novels, poems, plays and

The translation of literary works is considered by many one of the highest forms of
translation as it involves so much more than simply translating text. A literary
translator must be capable of also translating feelings, cultural nuances, humour
and other subtle elements of a piece of work.

Some go as far as to say that literary translations are not really possible. In 1959
the Russian-born linguist Roman Jakobson went as far as to declare that "poetry by

definition [was] untranslatable". In 1974 the American poet James Merrill wrote a
poem, "Lost in Translation," which in part explores this subject.

Medical translation

A medical translation will cover anything from the medical field from the packaging
of medicine to manuals for medical equipments to medical books.

Like legal translation, medical translation is specialisation where a mistranslation

can have grave consequences.

Technical translation

A technical translation has a broad meaning. It usually referes to certain fields such
as IT or manufacuring and deals with texts such as manuals and instructions.
Technical translations are usually more expensive than general translations as they
contain a high amount of terminology that only a specialist translator could deal

The study of proper principle of translation is termed as translation theory. This theory,
based on a solid foundation on understanding of how languages work, translation theory
recognizes that different languages encode meaning in differing forms, yet guides
translators to find appropriate ways of preserving meaning, while using the most
appropriate forms of each language. Translation theory includes principles for
translating figurative language, dealing with lexical mismatches, rhetorical questions,
inclusion of cohesion markers, and many other topics crucial to good translation.

Basically there are two competing theories of translation. In one, the predominant
purpose is to express as exactly as possible the full force and meaning of every word
and turn of phrase in the original, and in the other the predominant purpose is to
produce a result that does not read like a translation at all, but rather moves in its new
dress with the same ease as in its native rendering. In the hands of a good translator
neither of these two approaches can ever be entirely ignored.

Conventionally, it is suggested that in order to perform their job successfully, translators

should meet three important requirements; they should be familiar with:

• the source language

• the target language
• the subject matter

Based on this premise, the translator discovers the meaning behind the forms in the
source language and does his best to produce the same meaning in the target language -
using the forms and structures of the target language. Consequently, what is supposed to
change is the form and the code and what should remain unchanged is the meaning and
the message. (Larson, 1984)

One of the earliest attempts to establish a set of major rules or principles to be referred
to in literary translation was made by French translator and humanist Étienne Dolet,
who in 1540 formulated the following fundamental principles of translation ("La

Manière de Bien Traduire d’une Langue en Aultre"), usually regarded as providing rules
of thumb for the practicing translator:

The translator should understand perfectly the content and intention of the author whom
he is translating. The principal way to reach it is reading all the sentences or the text
completely so that you can give the idea that you want to say in the target language
because the most important characteristic of this technique is translating the message as
clearly and natural as possible. If the translation is for different countries besides
Mexico, the translator should use the cultural words of that country. For example if
he/she has to translate ”She is unloyal with her husband” in this country it can be
translated as “Ella le pone los cuernos” but in Peru it can be translated as “Ella le pone
los cachos”. In this case it is really important the cultural words because if the translator
does not use them correctly the translation will be misunderstood.

The translator should have a perfect knowledge of the language from which he is
translating and an equally excellent knowledge of the language into which he is
translating. At this point the translator must have a wide knowledge in both languages
for getting the equivalence in the target language, because the deficiency of the
knowledge of both languages will result in a translation without logic and sense. For
example if you translate the following sentence “Are you interested in sports?” as
“¿Estás interesado en deportes?” the translation is wrong since the idea of this question
in English is “¿Practicas algún deporte?”

The translator should avoid the tendency to translate word by word, because doing so is
to destroy the meaning of the original and to ruin the beauty of the expression. This
point is very important and one of which if it is translated literally it can
transmit another meaning or understanding in the translation.

For example in the sentence.- “In this war we have to do or die”, if we translate
literally “En esta guerra tenemos que hacer o morir” the message is unclear. The idea is,
(.) “En esta guerra tenemos que vencer o morir.”

The translator should employ the forms of speech in common usage. The translator
should bear in mind the people to whom the translation will be addressed and use words
that can be easily understood. Example. “They use a sling to lift the pipes” if the
translation is to be read by specialists we would translate it “Utilizan una eslinga para
levantar la tubería”. If the text is to be read by people who are not specialists we would
rather translate it “Utilizan una cadena de suspension para levantar los tubos”.