Like any other profession, translation is a job where many common challenges are faced even by experts. Translators are trained individuals who understand the linguistic nuances required whenever they are doing translation work and know that there is no room for error. Still, each translation job is unique, thus challenges are ever present in the job.
Here are 5 Challenges That Translators Face
The challenge comes when the language is complex. An English sentence comprises a subject, verb and object. In some languages, the order is different. In Farsi for example, a sentence is made up of a subject and an object before the verb. In other languages such as Arabic, the subject pronoun is written as part of the verb, which then determines the voice of the sentence and the gender of the subject.
Many of the spoken dialects are woven into many languages, which can affect content. Culture also plays a major part in the use of a language. Each language has a structure that is unique to it, and it is this structure that directly affects the simplicity and level of accuracy of translation. If the language is simple, the translation is also easier and simpler.
Compound words are composed of two or three nouns and adjectives that are combined. There are three forms of compound words:
Closed form (like keyboard, notebook, childlike, firefly)
Hyphenated form (like six-pack, mass-produced, over-the-counter)
Open form (like attorney general, full moon, real estate, post office)
Some of the compound words could be straightforward in reflecting their meaning, such as underground, afternoon, seashore. However, there are compound words that only mean half of the term, such as bookworm and bellboy. There are also words that provide another meaning altogether, as in the case of butterfly, which does not mean butter or fly, or the word deadline that has nothing to do with line or being dead.
There are languages where terms for certain objects or actions do not exist. In the United States for example, an extra room in the house where guests are allowed to sleep is called a guest room. In Greek, such a room is called ksnona, while in Italian, a guest room is called camera per gliospiti.
Words with multiple meanings
The use of a word or words in a sentence could give them different meanings. There are words that sound alike (homonyms) such as scale (of a fish) and (weighing) scale. There are also words spelled similarly that sound different (heteronyms), like windy (day) and windy (road). Some other examples include excuse, polish, absent, alternate, minute, contest, record and many more such words. This also applies to idioms, similes and metaphors.
What should a translator do when faced with these common issues? Translation work requires meticulousness. The translator must be well read, have a good knowledge of vocabulary of both the source and target languages and consult dictionaries, thesauruses and other reference books to find the appropriate terms.
What do you think? Did we miss any common challenges translators have to face everyday? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.