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Translation isn’t a natural process, so any languages that need to be translated should be undertaken by experienced translators who know both the source and targeted languages well. One of the common challenges in translation is having a deep understanding of not just the language but also the culture of the two languages that need to be translated. Translators need to be completely familiar with both language rules and the speaker’s habits in order to be able to do an effective translation between two languages.

What are the Problems of Translation?

Common challenges in translation include knowing about a variety of features such as the language structure which differs between languages. For example, a simple English sentence has a subject, a verb, and an object, such as ‘She eats chicken.’ However not all languages share this type of structure, so the Farsi language has the subject first, followed by a verb and then lastly the object. In Arabic, subject pronouns become a part of the verb. Because of these differences translators have to frequently add, rearrange or remove words to be able to communicate effectively in the targeted language.

Expressions and Idioms

These idiosyncrasies found in language present translation problems and difficulties. Idioms, for example: Explain something through using a unique grouping of words which only have that meaning when in that group. Machine translation tools are unable to cope with idioms as it’s not possible to use a word by word translation. The latest forecast is that machine translation tools will never be able to translate idioms correctly. Anyone who is trying to localize a product by translating its characteristics into other languages needs to avoid the use of idioms as the message when translated maybe distorted and even be offensive to other cultures.

Compound Words

Compound words frequently cause problems in translation of language. This is because when two words are joined together to create a new word the meaning of the two words may be quite different from the compound word. There are three different groups to consider. The first is when the compound word means what each word means. Examples include a crosswalk, an airport or seashore.

The 2nd group means only 50 percent of the 2 word’s literal meaning such as the compound word a “bookworm” the words book and worm have little relationship when separated but when put together mean someone who loves books.  This is very confusing indeed for a machine translation tool and may even present difficulties in translation process for the translator who needs to find equivalence in another language so that the translation means the same. The 3rd group of compound words present meanings that literally little to do with the individual words’ meanings.  For example, the English compound word “deadline” means the final time for receiving or delivering something. It doesn’t have a thing to do with either line or dead. Also, a “butterfly” is neither butter nor a fly. So, compound words are most certainly some of the many common challenges of translation.

The use of 2 Word Verbs

On occasions a preposition combined with a verb takes on a completely different meaning from the words taken individually.  These are called phrasal verbs and include such examples as fill out, look up, break down, shut up, break in and bring up. This brings about problems and challenges of translation for the translator.

Words with Multiple Meanings

Some words in English sound the same but are spelt differently, for example weigh the fish on the scales after the scales have been removed. One of the challenges in translation is trying to explain this in another language.

Sarcasm is Difficult to Translate

Sarcasm is a bitter, sharp or cutting expression that typically means the complete opposite of any literal meaning. Sarcasm usually loses its meaning once it has been translated word-for-word into a different language. The translation has been known to cause serious misunderstandings.  A publisher will try to eliminate sarcasm from a source text before it’s translated. This can’t always be done as the tone and style of the content may need to include the sarcasm in order to get the required message across. Sometimes a translator may suggest using a local idiom that may be more appropriate when used in the targeted language.

Problems and Challenges of Translation need Solutions

In the end the translator has to strike a deal with the client when translating text which is loaded with word combinations that aren’t easy to translate. If an idiom used in the source language isn’t easy to translate the client will need to negotiate with the translator an appropriate word or cluster of words best represents the message he or she wants to put across.  One of the chief problems that need to be ironed out before releasing a translation to another culture is that no offensive words are mistakenly used in the translation.

Problems in translation of language have been around for several centuries and sometimes a translation could become Chinese whispers as its meaning seems to change slightly as each translation of a text takes place. After several translations the meaning may not seem anything like the original message. This may not matter overall depending on who the translation is targeting. But if it was a translation for a court room hearing a mistranslation could result in the wrong outcome for a defendant. Witness reports may use idiomatic language that the interpreter or translator finds difficulty in find the precise translation.

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