7 Translation Techniques to Facilitate Your Work

So, today we’re going to talk about translation techniques. Just as there are different types of translation and different methods of translation, there are different techniques of translation.

Translation Methods VS Translation Technics

What is the difference between a translation method and a technique? It’s very simple: a method is applied to the entire text to be translated, while the technique may vary within the same text according to each case and depending on the specific verbal elements to be translated. The classical taxonomy of translation procedures dates back to 1958 and is the work of J. P. Vinay and J. Darbelnet. It consists of seven categories:

1. Borrowing

Borrowing is a translation procedure that involves using the same word or expression in original text in the target text. The word or expression borrowed is usually written in italics. This is about reproducing an expression in the original text as is. In this sense, it is a translation technique that does not actually translate…

Example: The gaucho was wearing a black sombrero and a worn old pair of bombachas.

2. Calque

When a translator uses a calque, he or she is creating or using a neologism in the target language by adopting the structure of the source language.

Example: The English word handball is translated into Spanish as balonmano.  Or the English term skyscraper is gratte-ciel in French or rascacielos in Spanish.

3. Literal Translation

Usually this is called a literal translation or metaphrase. This means a word-for-word translation, achieving a text in the target language which is as correct as it is idiomatic. According to Vinay and Darbelnet, a literal translation can only be applied with languages which are extremely close in cultural terms. It is acceptable only if the translated text retains the same syntax, the same meaning and the same style as the original text.

Example: Quelle heure est-il? ⇒ What time is it?

5. Modulation

Modulation is about changing the form of the text by introducing a semantic change or perspective.

Example: Maybe you’re right ⇒ Tu n’as peut-être pas tort.

6. Equivalence or Reformulation

This is a translation procedure which uses a completely different expression to transmit the same reality. Through this technique, names of institutions, interjections, idioms or proverbs can be translated.

Example: Chat échaudé craint l’eau froide ⇒ Once burned, twice shy.

7. Adaptation

Adaptation, also called cultural substitution or cultural equivalent, is a cultural element which replaces the original text with one that is better suited to the culture of the target language. This achieves a more familiar and comprehensive text.

Example: baseball ⇒ football

Since the sixties, several authors (Michel Ballard, Hélène Chuquet, Michel Paillard, etc.) have established other methods of translation, such as explicitation (introducing specific details in the text of the target language), collocation (using a sequence of words that usually go together in the target language) and compensation (where an allusion or reference does not appear in one part of the text as in the source version, but later in the target text).

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