Methods of Translation
Some of the common methods of translation are as follows:
- Word-for-word translation: Here the source language word is translated into
another language by their most common meanings, which can also be out of
context at times, especially in idioms and proverbs.
- Literal Translation:
Here the source language grammatical constructions are translated to their
nearest target language. However the lexical words are translated singly,
out of context.
- Faithful Translation:
Here the translation interprets the exact contextual meaning of the
original within the constraints of the grammatical structures of the
- Semantic Translation:
Semantic translation refers to that type of translation which takes into
account the aesthetic value of the source language text.
Adaptation refers to that type of translation which is used mainly for
plays and poems. The text is rewritten considering the source language
culture which is converted to the target language culture where the
characters, themes, plots are usually preserved.
- Free Translation:
This method of translation produces the translated text without the style,
form, or content of the original text.
- Idiomatic Translation: It translates the message of the original text but
tends to distort the original meaning at times by preferring
colloquialisms and idioms.
- Communicative Translation: This method displays the exact contextual meaning of
the original text in a manner where both content and language are easily
acceptable and comprehensible to the readers.
Taking into account the process and product of translation,
Jaaskelainen (2005) divides strategies into two major categories: some
strategies relate to what happens to texts, while other strategies
relate to what happens in the process.
Product-related strategies, as Jaaskelainen (2005:15) writes,
involves the basic tasks of choosing the SL text and developing a method
to translate it. However, she maintains that process-related strategies
"are a set of (loosely formulated) rules or principles which a
translator uses to reach the goals determined by the translating
situation" (p.16). Moreover, Jaaskelainen (2005:16) divides this into
two types, namely global strategies and local strategies: "global
strategies refer to general principles and modes of action and local
strategies refer to specific activities in relation to the translator's
problem-solving and decision-making."
Phases-related strategies: Differenciate the strategies used during the ANALYSIS of the source text phase
and the PRODUCTION of the target text phase.
What kinds of textual changes do
• Strategies are also known as shifts or procedures or techniques.
• Early classifications:
– by Nida:
changes of order, omission, structure, addition
by Vinay and Darbelnet: loan, calque, literal translation, transposition, modulation,
total syntagmatic change, adaptation.
• A summary list of some frequent
strategies (with Finnish terms added):
Unit change (eg. word > phrase)
Rhetorical scheme change (alliteration...)
Modulation (e.g. concrete > abstract) Rhetorical
trope change (metaphor, irony...)
What might be the best strategies for
translating metaphors, allusions, neologisms, names, slang, dialects...
(For Culture-specific concepts)
some procedures of translating CSCs:
- Making up a new word.
- Explaining the meaning of the SL expression in lieu of translating it.
- Preserving the SL term intact.
- Opting for a word in the TL which seems similar to or has the same "relevance" as the SL term.
Defining culture-bound terms (CBTs) as the terms which "refer to
concepts, institutions and personnel which are specific to the SL
culture" (p.2), Harvey (2000:2-6) puts forward the following four major
techniques for translating CBTs:
- Functional Equivalence: It means using a referent in
the TL culture whose function is similar to that of the source language
(SL) referent. As Harvey (2000:2) writes, authors are divided over the
merits of this technique: Weston (1991:23) describes it as "the ideal
method of translation," while Sarcevic (1985:131) asserts that it is
"misleading and should be avoided."
- Formal Equivalence or 'linguistic equivalence': It means a 'word-for-word' translation.
- Transcription or 'borrowing' (i.e. reproducing
or, where necessary, transliterating the original term): It stands at
the far end of SL-oriented strategies. If the term is formally
transparent or is explained in the context, it may be used alone. In
other cases, particularly where no knowledge of the SL by the reader is
presumed, transcription is accompanied by an explanation or a
- Descriptive or self-explanatory
translation: It uses generic terms (not CBTs) to convey the meaning. It
is appropriate in a wide variety of contexts where formal equivalence is
considered insufficiently clear. In a text aimed at a specialized
reader, it can be helpful to add the original SL term to avoid
The following are the different translation procedures that Newmark (1988b) proposes:
- Transference: it is the process of transferring an SL
word to a TL text. It includes transliteration and is the same as what
Harvey (2000:5) named "transcription."
- Naturalization: it adapts the SL word first to the normal pronunciation, then to the normal morphology of the TL. (Newmark, 1988b:82)
- Cultural equivalent: it means replacing a cultural word in the SL with a TL one. however, "they are not accurate" (Newmark, 1988b:83)
- Functional equivalent: it requires the use of a culture-neutral word. (Newmark, 1988b:83)
- Descriptive equivalent: in this procedure the meaning of the CBT is explained in several words. (Newmark, 1988b:83)
- Componential analysis: it means "comparing an SL word
with a TL word which has a similar meaning but is not an obvious
one-to-one equivalent, by demonstrating first their common and then
their differing sense components." (Newmark, 1988b:114)
- Synonymy: it is a "near TL equivalent." Here economy trumps accuracy. (Newmark, 1988b:84)
- Through-translation: it is the literal translation of
common collocations, names of organizations and components of compounds.
It can also be called: calque or loan translation. (Newmark, 1988b:84)
- Shifts or transpositions: it involves a change in the
grammar from SL to TL, for instance, (i) change from singular to plural,
(ii) the change required when a specific SL structure does not exist in
the TL, (iii) change of an SL verb to a TL word, change of an SL noun
group to a TL noun and so forth. (Newmark, 1988b:86)
- Modulation: it occurs when the translator reproduces
the message of the original text in the TL text in conformity with the
current norms of the TL, since the SL and the TL may appear dissimilar
in terms of perspective. (Newmark, 1988b:88)
- Recognized translation: it occurs when the translator
"normally uses the official or the generally accepted translation of any
institutional term." (Newmark, 1988b:89)
- Compensation: it occurs when loss of meaning in one part of a sentence is compensated in another part. (Newmark, 1988b:90)
- Paraphrase: in this procedure the meaning of the CBT is explained. Here the explanation is much more detailed than that of descriptive equivalent. (Newmark, 1988b:91)
- Couplets: it occurs when the translator combines two different procedures. (Newmark, 1988b:91)
- Notes: notes are additional information in a translation. (Newmark, 1988b:91)
Notes can appear in the form of 'footnotes.' Although some stylists
consider a translation sprinkled with footnotes terrible with regard to
appearance, nonetheless, their use can assist the TT readers to make
better judgments of the ST contents. Nida (1964:237-39) advocates the
use of footnotes to fulfill at least the two following functions: (i) to
provide supplementary information, and (ii) to call attention to the
A really troublesome area in the field of translation appears to be
the occurrence of allusions, which seem to be culture-specific portions
of a SL. All kinds of allusions, especially cultural and historical
allusions, bestow a specific density on the original language and need
to be explicated in the translation to bring forth the richness of the
SL text for the TL audience.
Appearing abundantly in literary translations, allusions, as Albakry
(2004:3) points out, "are part of the prior cultural knowledge taken for
granted by the author writing for a predominantly Moslem Arab [SL]
audience. To give the closest approximation of the source language,
therefore, it was necessary to opt for 'glossing' or using explanatory
footnotes." However, somewhere else he claims that, "footnotes ... can
be rather intrusive, and therefore, their uses were minimized as much as
possible" (Albakry, 2004:4).