6 translation problems

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Translators typically have to deal with six different translation problems, whether they are translating a leaflet or an investor report.

At work translators typically have to deal with six different issues, whether they are translating technical documents or sworn statements. These issues belong to lexical-semantic problems; grammar; syntax; rhetoric; practical problems; and cultural issues. Not to mention administrative issues, computer-related problems, or stress…

1. Lexical-semantic problems

Lexical-semantic problems can be solved by consulting dictionaries, glossaries, terminology banks, and experts. Such problems include terminology alternatives, neologisms, semantic gaps, or lexical networks. Other problems are contextual synonyms and antonyms that affect polysemic units: synonyms and antonyms are aimed at an acceptance which depends on the context to determine which meaning is correct. Another problem pertains to semantic contiguity, i.e. a consistency procedure which works by identifying semantic features common to two or more terms.

2. Grammatical problems

Grammatical problems can include questions of temporality, aspect –where the verb indicates if the action is continuing or completed–, pronouns, and whether or not to make the subject pronoun explicit.

3. Problems in syntax

Syntactic problems may originate from syntactic parallels, the direction of passive voice, the focus –from what point of view a story is told–, or rhetorical figures of speech such as a hyperbaton –the inversion of the natural arrangement of words–, or an anaphora –the repetition of a word or segment at the beginning of a line or a sentence.

4. Rhetorical problems

Translators are confronted with issues that involve the identification and recreation of figures of thought –comparison, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, oxymoron, paradox, and many more– as well as diction.

5. Practical problems: Translating a marketing document

Practical problems can occur due to the difference in the formal and informal modes of address using “you”, as well as idiomatic phrases, sayings, irony, humor, and sarcasm. Translators can face  other challenges, specifically with the translation of the personal pronoun “you” in the translation of a marketing text from English into French. The translator must decide whether the formal or the informal “you” is more appropriate, and such decision is not always obvious.

6. Cultural issues: Translating a financial document

Cultural issues may arise from different cultural references, such as names of food, festivals, and cultural connotations. The translator will use language localization to adapt accurately the translated text to the targeted culture. Think of a financial translation that includes dates. If the text is written in English, it is most likely, but not absolutely sure, that 05/06/2021 will mean June 5 of 2021. However, as everyone knows, the same sequence in another language refers to May 6 of 2021.

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