Translation, as the process of conveying messages across linguistics and cultural barriers, is an
eminently communicative activity, one whose use could well be considered in a wider range of teaching
situations than may currently be the case . ( Jan Tudor )

Translation is the action of interpretation of the meaning of a text, and subsequent production of an
equivalent text, also called a translation, that communicates the same message in another language. The
text to be translated is called the "source text," and the language it is to be translated into is called the
"target language"; the final product is sometimes called the "target text."

Translation must take into account constraints that include context, the rules of grammar of the two
languages, their writing conventions, and their idioms. A common misconception is that there exists a
simple "word-for-word" correspondence between any two languages, and that translation is a
straightforward mechanical process. A word-for-word translation does not take into account context,
grammar, conventions, and idioms.

Translation is fraught with the potential for "spilling over" of idioms and usages from one language
into the other, since both languages repose within the single brain of the translator. Such spilling-over easily
produces linguistic hybrids such as "Franglais" (French-English), "Spanglish" (Spanish-English), "Poglish"
(Polish-English) and "Portuñol" (Portuguese-Spanish).

The art of translation is as old as written literature. Parts of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh,
among the oldest known literary works, have been found in translations into several Asiatic languages of
the second millennium BCE. The Epic of Gilgamesh may have been read, in their own languages, by early
authors of the Bible and of the Iliad.

With the advent of computers, attempts have been made to computerize or otherwise automate the
translation of natural-language texts (machine translation) or to use computers as an aid to translation
(computer-assisted translation).

Translation is `Cinderella` in the family of language teaching techniques, though basic language
teaching methods throughout history have centered on translation and almost all language learning
developed out of translation. As Alan Marley said, translation has been put into methodological lumber
room along with such activities as dictation, reading aloud, etc. It is considered to be something `boring`,
`pointless`, `difficult`, `irrelevant` and at last, `uncommunicative`. Translation can be introduced,
purposefully, into the language learning programme.

In his book Alan Duff highlights at least 5 reasons for using translation in the classroom:

1. Influence of the mother tongue.

We all have mother tongue, or the 1st language, or the language of habitual use- in the
interpretation by Peter Newmark. It shapes our way of thinking and our use of the foreign language to some
extent. Translation helps us to understand better the influence of one language on the other. And, because
translation involves contrast, it enables us to explore the potential of both languages- their strengths and

2. Naturalness of the activity.

Translation is a natural and necessary activity. Outside the classroom- in airports, offices, banks,
etc.- translation is going on all the time .Why not inside the classroom?
3. The skill aspect.
Language competence is a two-way system. We need to be able to communicate both ways: into and from
the foreign language. Translation is a perfect means for practicing this vital skill.

4. The reality of language.
The proper material for translation is authentic and wide-ranging: the learner is being brought into touch
with the whole language, and not just the parts isolated by the textbooks.

5. Usefulness.
As a language learning activity, translation has a lot of merits:

 It invites speculation and discussion. In translation there is hardly any `right` answer, but
there are a lot of wrong ones. Doing all the work individually and in writing is not
necessary. Students can work in pairs or groups for oral discussion. You may choose short
texts for reading and discussion to save the time.
 Translation develops three essential qualities to all language learning: accuracy , clarity
and flexibility . `It trains the reader to search (flexibility) for the most appropriate words
(accuracy) to convey what is meant (clarity)`.
 Depending on the students` needs, and on the syllabus, the teacher can select material to
illustrate particular aspects of language and structures the students have difficulty with. By
working through these difficulties in the mother tongue, the students can see the link
between the language (grammar) and usage.
 Translators will always be needed. Without them, there would be no summit talks, no
Olympic Games, no international festivals and so on. And who is to do this work? – Either
the professionals, or the students of language.
Professional translation is a specialized skill that requires specialized training. And, actually, it is not the
goal we would like to achieve. The goal of translation is more like to provide learning opportunities in the
process of creating translations and examination of them as final products in order to develop language
awareness. Translation activities should be used in the English classroom, and they should be supported
by communicative, natural learning methods.

Material for translating:

Selecting the material for the work, I try to take into consideration the following criteria:

- it should reflect my students` needs and be appropriate to their level.
- it should be authentic (press, books, Internet)
- it should represent full range of styles and registers.
- it should illustrate the problems, challenges and strategies of translation in general.
- it should be interesting and translatable.
The length of the texts is also important: short texts for oral work in class, and longer ones for translation at
home (mostly in writing).

Here are some guidelines on how to help the students evaluate their own work. The principles are adapted
from Frederick Fuller: The Translator’s Handbook.

The translation should reflect accurately the meaning of the original text. Ask yourself:
meaning - is the meaning of the original text clear? if not, where does the uncertainty lie?
- are any words 'loaded', that is, are there any underlying implications?
- is the dictionary meaning of a particular word the most suitable one?

The ordering of words and ideas in the translation should match the original as closely
as possible. (This is particularly important in translating legal documents, guarantees,
contracts. etc.) But differences in language structure often require changes in the form
and order of words.

Languages often differ greatly in their levels of formality in a given context. Consider:
- would any expression in the original sound too formal / informal, cold/warm,
personal/impersonal . . . if translated literally?
- what is the intention of the speaker or writer? (to persuade/ dissuade,
apologize/criticize?) Does this come through in the translation?

source One of the most frequent criticisms of translation is that 'it doesn't sound natural'. A
language good way of shaking off the source language (SL) influence is to set the text aside and
influence translate a few sentences aloud, from memory. This will suggest natural patterns of
thought in the target language (TL), which may not come to mind when the eye is fixed
on the SL text.
The translator should not change the style of the original. But if the text is sloppily
style and
written, or full of tedious repetitions, the translator may, for the reader's sake, correct
the defects.

Idiomatic expressions are notoriously untranslatable. If the expressions cannot be
idiom directly translated, try any of the specific methods of transferring the meaning of the

The golden rule is: if the idiom does not work in the TL, do not force it into the

Rosetta Stone

Etymologically, "translation" is a "carrying across" or "bringing across." The Latin "translatio"
derives from the perfect passive participle, "translatum," of "transferre" ("to transfer" — from "trans,"
"across" + "ferre," "to carry" or "to bring"). The modern Romance, Germanic and Slavic European
languages have generally formed their own equivalent terms for this concept after the Latin model — after
"transferre" or after the kindred "traducere" ("to bring across" or "to lead across").

Additionally, the Greek term for "translation," "metaphrasis" ("a speaking across"), has supplied
English with "metaphrase" (a "literal translation," or "word-for-word" translation)—as contrasted with
"paraphrase" ("a saying in other words," from the Greek "paraphrasis")."Metaphrase" equates, in one of the
more recent terminologies, to "formal equivalence," and "paraphrase"—to "dynamic equivalence."

Interpreting, or "interpretation," is the intellectual activity that consists of facilitating oral or sign-
language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between two or among three or more
speakers who are not speaking, or signing, the same language.

The words "interpreting" and "interpretation" both can be used to refer to this activity; the word
"interpreting" is commonly used in the profession and in the translation-studies field to avoid confusion with
other meanings of the word "interpretation."

Not all languages employ, as English does, two separate words to denote the activities of written
and live-communication (oral or sign-language) translators.


Newcomers to translation sometimes proceed as if translation were an exact science — as if
consistent, one-to-one correlations existed between the words and phrases of different languages,
rendering translations fixed and identically-reproducible, much as in cryptography. Such novices may
assume that all that is needed to translate a text is to "encode" and "decode" equivalents between the two
languages, using a translation dictionary as the "codebook."[4] On the contrary, such a fixed relationship
would only exist, were a new language synthesized and simultaneously matched to a pre-existing
language's scopes of meaning, etymologies, and lexical ecological niches. If the new language were
subsequently to take on a life apart from such cryptographic use, each word would spontaneously begin to
assume new shades of meaning and cast off previous associations, thereby vitiating any such artificial
synchronization. Henceforth translation would require the disciplines described in this article.

Another common misconception is that anyone who can speak a second language will make a
good translator. In the translation community, it is generally accepted that the best translations are
produced by persons who are translating into their own native languages, as it is rare for someone who has
learned a second language to have total fluency in that language. A good translator understands the source
language well, has specific experience in the subject matter of the text, and is a good writer in the target

It has been debated whether translation is art or craft. Literary translators, such as Gregory
Rabassa in If This Be Treason, argue that translation is an art—a teachable one. Other translators, mostly
technical, commercial, and legal, regard their métier as a craft—again, a teachable one, subject to linguistic
analysis, that benefits from academic study.

As with other human activities, the distinction between art and craft may be largely a matter of
degree. Even a document which appears simple, e.g. a product brochure, requires a certain level of
linguistic skill that goes beyond mere technical terminology. Any material used for marketing purposes
reflects on the company that produces the product and the brochure. The best translations are obtained
through the combined application of good technical-terminology skills and good writing skills.

Translation has served as a writing school for many recognized writers. Translators, including the
early modern European translators of the Bible, in the course of their work have shaped the very languages
into which they have translated. They have acted as bridges for conveying knowledge and ideas between
cultures and civilizations. Along with ideas, they have imported into their own languages, calques of
grammatical structures and of vocabulary from the source languages.


If one text is a translation of another, a back-translation is a translation of the translated text back
into the language of the original text, made without reference to the original text. In the context of machine
translation, this is also called a "round-trip translation."

Comparison of a back-translation to the original text is sometimes used as a quality check on the
original translation, but it is certainly far from infallible and the reliability of this technique has been disputed.

Literary translation

Translation of literary works (novels, short stories, plays, poems, etc.) is considered a literary
pursuit in its own right. Notable in Canadian literature specifically as translators are figures such as Sheila
Fischman, Robert Dickson and Linda Gaboriau, and the Governor General's Awards present prizes for the
year's best English-to-French and French-to-English literary translations.

Other writers, among many who have made a name for themselves as literary translators, include
Vasily Zhukovsky, Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges and Robert Stiller.

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