Why be a Professional Translator
Being a professional translator might not sound like a dream job; but the truth is, professional translators are highly sought after. Translating is a highly skilled job, and a professional translator usually earns on par with other high profile jobs. To
Apart from being a critically acclaimed motion picture, `lost in translation' is a phenomenon that translators the world over frequently encounter. To further discuss lost in translation, it is important to understand the meaning of the term lost in translation. For example, let's examine the popular French term "Sacré bleu" (no profanity intended), the literal and correct English translation of Sacré bleu is "Sacred Blue" (which, as is evident makes no sense at all). However in French, Sacré bleu is a popular expression usually used to express anger. In the example above, the term completely lost its relevance in English even though the translation is perfect; essentially the term was lost in translation. It is important to note that the loss in translation occurred due to a difference in culture and not because the quality of the translation was not up to the mark.
Loss in translation can occur due to other reasons too; sometimes there is no word that can best capture the essence of a local word. For example, the French words bouclé, frisé and crépu all translate into frizzy in English. However, the term crépu means `extremely frizzy hair like those most Black Africans have' for which there is no particular word in English. Obviously a sentence cannot read "She had frizzy hair like those of Black Africans", instead the English translation of a French sentence with the term crépu will simply read "She had frizzy hair". Once again there is nothing wrong the translation; the essence has been lost in translation.
Today, most translation firms ensure that very little is lost in translation, but sometimes it is impossible to replicate the humour, irony, or the underlying sentiment in a sentence, no matter how good the translation is. In fact, the most difficult things to replicate are humour and irony. The works of iconic writers like Voltaire have been translated into major languages; but it is widely accepted that to truly appreciate Voltaire's wit, one has to read his original works (which are in French). It is important to note that Voltaire's translated works are standard textbooks in colleges and universities the world over. Such translated works are testimony to the fact that there has been improvement in the quality of translation services the world over.
English has the unique distinction of being the only `universal language'. It is not surprising that the English dictionary is constantly updated to include foreign words that do not have an accurate meaning in English. Already, popular French terms like adieu and attaché are part of the standard Oxford dictionary. French is not the only language that has influenced English vocabulary; non-English words like Raj (from the Hindi word that means the `rule of') have now come to signify the British rule over Asian countries, in particular modern day India and Pakistan.
In conclusion, over a period of time languages have evolved to allow greater cross language compatibility, and it is only a matter of time before languages evolve to a level where nothing is lost in translation.
Neil Payne is the author of this article on Spanish Translation Service.
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