6 translation problems

Translators usually have to deal with six different translation problems in their work, whether they’re translating a leaflet or a KIID.

Translators usually have to deal with six different problematic areas in their work, whether they are translating technical documents or a sworn statement. These include: lexical-semantic problems; grammar; syntax; rhetoric; and pragmatic and cultural problems. Not to mention administrative issues, computer-related problems and stress…

1. Lexical-semantic problems

Lexical-semantic problems can be resolved by consulting dictionaries, glossaries, terminology banks and experts. These problems include terminology alternatives, neologisms, semantic gaps, contextual synonyms and antonyms (these affect polysemic units: synonyms and antonyms are only aimed at an acceptance which depends on the context to determine which meaning is correct), semantic contiguity (a consistency procedure which works by identifying semantic features common  to two or more terms) and lexical networks.

2. Grammatical problems

Grammatical problems include, for example, questions of temporality, aspectuality (the appearance indicates how the process is represented or the state expressed by the verb from the point of view of its development, as opposed to time itself), pronouns, and whether or not to make the subject pronoun explicit.

3. Syntactical problems

Syntactical problems may originate in syntactic parallels, the direction of the passive voice, the focus (the point of view from which a story is told), or even rhetorical figures of speech, such as a hyperbaton (the inversion of the natural order of speech) or an anaphora (repetition of a word or segment at the beginning of a line or a phrase).

4. Rhetorical problems

Rhetorical problems are related to the identification and recreation of figures of thought (comparison, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, oxymoron, paradox, etc.) and diction.

5. Pragmatic problems: an example of a marketing translation

Pragmatic problems arise with the difference in the formal and informal modes of address using “you”, as well as idiomatic phrases, sayings, irony, humor and sarcasm. These difficulties can also include other challenges; for example, in the translation of a marketing text from English into French, specifically with the translation of the personal pronoun “you”. The translator must decide whether the formal or the informal “you” is more appropriate, a decision which is not always clear.

6. Cultural issues: an example of a financial translation

Cultural issues may arise from differences between cultural references, such as names of food, festivals and cultural connotations, in general. The translator will use language localization to correctly adapt the translation to the culture targeted. A very simple example is a financial translation which includes dates. If the text is in English, it is most likely, but not absolutely certain, that 05/06/2015 will mean June 5. However, as everyone knows, the same sequence in another language refers to May 6.

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