The nature of translation

The theory of translation is subdivided into general theory, dealing with the general characteristics of translation, regardless of its type, and special branches, concerned with various types of translation, such as the translation of scientific literature. The scientific translation is important branch because progress depends on the communication of information, while transfer of information from one language to another is bound by many restrictions since each language has its own characteristics such as grammatical and lexical properties and cultural aspects which create barriers to readers of those texts. Hence, we communicate to transfer information and it is a translation which helps people communicate if they speak different languages.

So, what is a translation? Etymologically, ‘translate’ means to carry across, which is in the case of translation, could mean carrying across a message or a text. So, the simplest definition of the translation is rendering the meaning of a text into another language. The source text is the text to be translated and the target text is the end-product, the translated text. For the translation to be adequate and effective, the target text should be equivalent to the source text. Accordingly, translation may be viewed as an interlingual communicative act consisting in producing a text (message) in the target language, equivalent to the original text (message) in the source-language.

Whenever we want to translate any text we are not going to translate grammar, words, style or sounds. What do we translate then? We always translate only one thing – the meaning. But translating meaning literally, the translation will not convey the exact effect of the original text. Hence, in producing the target-language text the translator changes its plan of expression (linguistic form) while its plan of content (meaning) should remain unchanged. In fact, an equivalent (target-language) message should match the original in the plan of content and should be understood in the same way by both the source-language user and by the target-language user. The translator’s duty, therefore, is to make available to the target-language receptor the maximum amount of information.

However, the information, conveyed by linguistic signs alone, i.e. the meanings expressed in the text, would not be sufficient for adequate translation. Some linguists distinguish between what they call translation, based solely on the meanings expressed by linguistic signs, and interpretation, involving recourse to extralinguistic information. Accordingly, knowledge of the subject is one of the prerequisites of an adequate translation especially in case of scientific translation.

One of the distinctive features of scientific style is preciseness, which is a basic property of a scientific text and should be strictly maintained in translation. A translator must be fully aware of what s/he is translating to render precisely the content of the text. Special attention must be paid to terms. To translate precisely, it is not enough to know an equivalent of the term. It is crucial to know the exact place of the concept, denoted by the term, in relation to other concepts. Therefore, translators in science have to specialize in a particular subject field.

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