Who Has a Gift to Foresee: Topical Problems and Prospects of Translation Industry
Indeed, if a person can't formulate his thoughts well in his native language, then he won't be able to interpret somebody else's ideas, that's the problem! To my mind, of the three cornerstones of technical translation – understanding of the foreign language, knowledge of the native language, and knowledge of the subject field – the low quality of the first one does less harm. Even if a nonspecialist comes out of a completely new situation due to common sense and good grammar, without familiarity with the necessary terminology, he won't be able to transmit his understanding to the reader-expert. And the consequences of these can be the most unfortunate. For instance, if "zhestkyi disk" (hard drive) (Rus.) translated into English as "solid disk" just evokes a smile, then "pervichnoye koltso" translated as "primary ring", not as "prime ring", in an algebraic article will make the theorem invalid, take my word for it!
If a translator formulates ideas unintelligibly while understanding everything right, it can complicate reading as seriously as wrong terminology.
At the same time a good expert can fill vacancies in his knowledge of the foreign language with the understanding of the matter. If he, say, doesn't know all the refinements of use of the preposition "within", but he knows for sure the relative position of the given objects and how to speak about it in the target language, he would be able to provide a high-quality translation. One mathematician even translated the whole monography from English though he had never studied the language. He was just at home in all the theorems given in the book and could reproduce the content of the book simply by looking on the formulas where everything is clear without translation. Though the only fragment of, so to say, artistic text – the introduction – is not very well written by him.
Many people suppose that the top requirement for high-quality translation is to know many foreign words (or, at least, have a pile of dictionaries on tap). Unfortunately, this is not enough. Though advanced translators, as a rule, really have an extended vocabulary, the knowing of the words itself doesn't guarantee high quality of translation. The trouble is that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the words from different languages. A word from one language can't be translated into other language always in the same way. As a rule, one have to choose from several variants on the basis of context.
Let's take a look at the familiar word "table". Everyone who had been learning English for, at least, one year knows that one of its meanings is "a flat horizontal slab or board, usually supported by one or more legs, on which objects may be placed". Many learners know the second meaning - "an arrangement of words, numbers, or signs, usually in parallel columns, to display data or relations". And how many learners know the verb "to table"? Though it also has many meanings, including "to suspend discussion of (a bill, etc.) indefinitely or for some time" and "to submit (a bill, etc.) for consideration by a legislative body". What is more, the same word can denote table appointments, a company assembled for a meal, a palm in chiromancy, etc. There are also such interesting words like "defeat" which as a noun is translated into Russian as "porazheniye" (failure) and as a verb – as "pobezhdat" (to win)!
That is, knowing word meanings is a necessary condition, but it is absolutely not enough to understand the text. Like mosaic pieces, words give us the opportunity to compose completely different pictures from one set. ("Father's teacher entered the room" and "Teacher's father entered the room" – do you think that a foreigner will easily catch the difference between these phrases which is so obvious to us? Let alone famous "execute not pardon", where the sense depends on where the comma is placed.) Sometimes even the identical phrases will be translated differently depending on context. (It is clear that in some cases the phrase "let it be" can mean "I express my approval for this" and in other – "OK, you have won, do as you wish") And you shouldn't think that it's some rare case, some language exotic. The interpreter is always more or less faced with the problem of ambiguity. And the choice of the right variant from several equivalents is based upon his common sense, erudition, and understanding of the situation. The three following real-world examples illustrate the seriousness of consequences of the wrong word choice.
Pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Or, get a sample translation for —