Who Has a Gift to Foresee: Topical Problems and Prospects of Translation Industry
A good translator should take into account all these features in his work. How can one use a pie recipe if the quantity of foodstuffs is measured in pounds and temperature conditions – according to the Fahrenheit scale? Can we consider such text as translation? Of course, it depends on the definition. That's why broader term has appeared recently: localization. This term is used mostly in the sphere of software. The thing is, the necessity of making some additional revision is more obvious in this sphere. The simplest example: Russian words on the average are longer than the English words, that's why while adapting the program to the Russian conditions programmers have to widen printable fields or diminish font size, etc. At last, all these "pleases" should be removed: they are not used in Russian manuals! And vice versa, "pleases" should be added into the English variant, otherwise the text will be impolite.
By the way, politeness is significant. One my Russian friend was coding software for a Korean customer and he often faced the situation when the work, which seemed to be accepted, in fact was rejected. He understood this fact only after several e-mails. After reading the standard well-wishing introduction, he overlooked the main part of the message criticizing his work.
To sum up, localization is necessary not only in the sphere of software. There is such a phenomenon as product localization, where colors, symbols and other cultural features are adapted to the end consumer's mentality.
Most people tend to overestimate the importance of words. They don't understand how much information can be transmitted by, for example, intonation. By the way, that's why Russian phrases seem to be rude to foreigners. The absence of formal signs of request ("please", "can you", etc.) in Russian speech is a stumbling block for the foreigner's mind.
Much more information can be transmitted by gestures. Everyone can easily imagine how a completely neutral sentence "Look at him" can be altered in meaning with the help of different gestures in conjunction with the right intonation!
But the most auxiliary information is contained in life experience. To find the best example of this statement, one should just talk with children: it's clear that they lack much knowledge (which seem obvious to us) for the right understanding of our words. The same rule is often forgotten in conversation with foreigners. Usually we are just unaware of the basic knowledge required to understand a seemingly elementary text. For instance, I have told the following joke to my Russian-speaking American friend:
- I am!
- What a rare last name!
- Yes, sir.
The American just smiled politely and complained that Russian humour had always been a great mystery for him. I had to explain the situation in detail: that this is a roll-call in army, and the last name Ivanov is extremely widespread in Russia, that's why the phrase "What a rare last name!" bewilders the listener. My American interlocutor had understood all that without my hint. The stumbling block was the word "sir", which shows that the roll-call was not in the Russian army, but somewhere abroad. So, jokes are another knotty problem for a translator.