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Academic Writing: "Nature of Translation" - Sample Essay

Many people think that any educated person, who knows more than one language, can translate and interpret. But the reality is that it is far from the truth. The point here is that any language that exists on earth is not only an interesting and unique unit but also a complex aspect that requires meticulous exploration. Taking into account the fact that more than 7,000 languages exist in today’s world, only translators with good background knowledge, subject knowledge, social and cultural competence, and, of course, advanced language skills will be able to deal with the process of translation and always needed.

So, what is translation? Let us take a look at the most common and simple definition of the term. The translation is a process of conveying information with the help of linguistic and cultural knowledge. “The fact that we are able to produce equivalent in English for every word does not mean that we can give an adequate translation of the text. Translation implies that we have the capacity to enter into the mind, the world, and the culture of the speakers or writers, and we can express their thought in a manner that is not only parallel to the original but also acceptable to the target language.” (A. Duff). While translating, we need to refer to the original, stick to it, and try to fit into the context in the target language. It is not right to focus on the surface meaning only. Words, sounds, and grammar issues are important. Nevertheless, attention should also be paid to the ideas and concepts that are together known as ‘deep meaning.’

According to historical data, the first translations began to originate when people, in turn, began to write and read. Taking into consideration the fact that the process of translating is related to written pieces only, it’s no wonder that the first translations appeared long after people began to interact with each other verbally. According to historical facts, people began to write in two completely different regions on earth. The most interesting fact is that it happened at the same time. The first case was recorded in Mesopotamia, around 3200 BCE. That is where the first surviving translation was found – a well-known Sumerian epic called “Gilgamesh.” Around 2000 BCE, the epic was successfully translated into a range of Asian languages. From this point, historians follow the history of translation to Buddhist monks. The latter worked on the translation of various ancient religious texts into the Chinese language.

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As for the other earliest translation, we cannot overlook the Bible. The famous collection of sacred texts or scriptures has been translated more than 531 times. So, it is no wonder that it has added much value to the history of world translations. Around 600 BCE, it was the first time that the Jewish Torah was translated from the Hebrew languages to Arabic. The Torah makes up the first five books in the Bible. It was during this period that writing reached Mesoamerica (today, this area is known as southern Mexico and some regions of South America). Mesoamerica is the second known place that writing was invented independently. Not long after that, translations began to enter into our lives and spread throughout the areas mentioned above and the whole planet as well.

When a professional is trying to do the best translation possible, it is important to keep transformation in mind. The thing is that different languages have different sentence structures. For that reason, the goal of a translator is to find the equivalent surface structure in two languages that correspond to the common deep meaning. The process of translation involves changing the form of the message from one language to the appropriate form in the target language, without changing the deeper meaning. (M.Larson)

Word-for-word translation is the result of an expert’s desire to be very close to the meaning in the source language. But the truth is that this technique is no good. This type of translation will definitely ruin the real deep meaning of the source language. What is more, even the surface structure in the target language will inevitably become blurred. Adequate translation means a conceptual identity in both – the source and the target languages.

According to today’s marketing data, people usually buy services and products if they find their descriptions in their mother tongue. For that reason, the language translation is one of the means that help many different companies go global. They tend to translate their services and products into one or several languages to become better competitors in the global arena as well. As for the language pairs, the most popular ones include English-Chinese, English-Spanish, English-German, English-French, English-Portuguese, English-Russian, English-Italian, English-Arabian, and English-Japanese. The pairs we’ve just mentioned are of the top demand within the localization and translation market.

At the moment, most people on earth speak 23 languages. Depending on the languages that you speak as your mother tongue, it can be more difficult to learn, speak, and translate some languages than others. As for the most complex languages, it is hard to name the hardest ones. Nevertheless, we can assume that our starting point is the English language. With that in mind, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, and Japanese are the most complex languages to learn if you’re an English native speaker.

As for the unusual ways of translation, it is impossible to disregard the so-called Braille Code. The latter enables us to translate all existing languages for blind people or the ones who are visually disabled. There is a Braille Code available for nearly all languages on the globe! What is more, even music, computer science, and mathematics have their own systems of the Braille Code.
When it comes to translation, culture plays a crucial part. A lot of translation experts admit that more often than not, it has the biggest and the most important role. It can help in both communication and translation, while the lack of cultural knowledge can become a great barrier.

Wierzbicka argues that we are “different people” not only because we speak different languages, but also because we think differently, feel differently, and relate to other people differently. (A. Wierzbicka)

The word equivalents should be chosen in the process of translation very carefully. It requires theoretical knowledge and a deep understanding of how choices in texts reflect other relationships between senders and receivers of the information. To be a good translator is one of the most challenging tasks mainly because becoming one requires switching safely between two universes of discourse. If you are a translator or entrepreneur looking to build a career in the field, you will need nearly perfect time management and organization skills. The ability to prioritize and work within the tightest deadlines is a must as well. The possibilities that the field incorporates are endless if the translation that you produce is of the best quality possible.

Today, individuals and companies use translations in order to build solid relationships in a globalized world that never stops. It is not a secret that accurate and professional communication is an integral part of success, regardless of the field of business. This is the only way the message can be carried precisely from one culture to the other.