By our words we continue to shape the world in which we live. Language is the only thing that holds us together. It’s what connects us and allows us to communicate our thoughts and ideas. Without it we are but islands.
Leveraging quality translated content will help establish even more connections and opportunities.
However, when crafting a translation from one language to another, there is so much more involved than substituting synonyms or re-codifying phrases. A language is a suspension of culture, heritage and experience. Translating into a particular language requires the translator to have a similar experience and understanding of that language as the audience (readers or listeners).
Producing fresh translation in a foreign language is hard. Sooner or later, someone translating into a foreign language will use a phrase out of place or write something unintentionally ambiguous, potentially distracting the readers from your intended message with a linguistic slip. This could be enough to undermine the quality of your product, service or cause.
Cultural understanding means a lot more than you might assume at first. By way of example, if you ask a Russian what he or she connotes with fireworks, you’ll most likely be told ‘Victory Day’. An American is more likely to say ‘Independence Day’, whereas a Brit is likely to mention ‘Guy Fawkes Night’, which is associated with the tradition of burning effigies of a political terrorist, Guy Fawkes – not quite a celebration in the typical sense. In short – we have one word and yet three different ‘experiences’.
Even for words that have ‘equivalents’ in different languages, there may be a different gradation of meaning. A Russian ‘friend’ is a lot closer than an English ‘friend’. You may have twenty British friends, but if you’re Russian, you’ll have only the one or two. If you go out with your Russian friend on a fine evening, then you may be surprised to learn that your Russian friend will still consider it ‘evening’ when you’re sure it’s ‘night’.
What’s acceptable in one language might not be acceptable in another. For instance, the Russian language is more direct and makes use of the imperative far more than English does. What would sound rude in English sounds fine in Russian.
In the West, people are more conscientious of political correctness. A translation for a British audience may choose to make use of more gender neutral language (e.g. pronouns) and avoid gender, racial and other ‘inappropriate’ stereotyping.
Stylistically, Russian is a lot more ‘blocky’, making use of strings of nouns, whereas English makes more use of gerunds and verb participles. English inherently lacks the logical cohesion that Russian has with its use of cases, meaning that English can naturally be more ambiguous at times. Russian has a more flexible word order too, and tends to stress words in final position in a sentence, whereas English (as is typical with most Germanic languages) puts stress on the first part of the sentence.
A professional translator should ideally have a deep intercultural and linguistic knowledge and understanding of the source and target languages. A translator should also be a native speaker of the language into which they are translating. The language you speak from childhood is the one that you have truly experienced, as opposed to having formally learned. You don’t strictly acquire it through formal study, but assimilate it over many years and formative experiences. The feel for your native language is intuitive and impossible to truly imitate.
If you aim to persuade or sell, to impress or entertain, then the skill of the best native speaker offers you the surest chance of success. A native speaker will craft a translation that resonates with the audience and has the maximum degree of salience.