The use of translation services has jumped considerably in recent years as more and more businesses market their products overseas. Through from earlier times, professional translation services and individual freelance translators have been fighting to strike a balance between adapted translations and faithful translations.

The Difference between Faithful and Effective Translations

What is Faithful Translation?

A faithful translation means that when the translation takes place between two languages that not too much extra is put in that is not already there. At the same time, the aim is to try to maintain a reasonable amount of similarity in both form and tone of the text in the two different languages. The hope is that the impression put across to the reader who reads the translation is similar to the impression that the reader in the source language would get.

What are Effective or Adaptive Translations?

Another tool used in translation is an adaptation. This is used in those cases where cultural differences occur between speakers which can cause some confusion and make it hard for people to understand each other. Adaptation isn’t the same as localization. When a message is adapted it’s not translated literally but it doesn’t mean the translator is being unfaithful or that the translation has not been done well. There are just these situations where this is the only suitable way of carrying out a suitable translation.

Sometimes, adaptations are called “free translations,” because the translator has to substitute cultural reality because there is no direct reference to be found in the targeted language. A straightforward example could be the translating of “Friday 13th” from English to Spanish. In this example, it’s necessary to adapt the translation to the cultural reality in the world of the Spanish speaker, so that means translating it to be “Martes 13” (Tuesday 13th). Adaptations are in fact equivalents, which can be viewed more clearly when translations of TV movies or shows or movies take place, where a conversation or a cultural reference needs to be adapted in order to suit a for foreign audience

In theory, the adaptive or functionalist/effective translations angle for human translation gives more freedom for translators to deviate from the source text and focus on social norms that are faced in the target language. A translator is most definitely crossing over the line when he or she becomes far too compliant to the intended audience’s culture, to the extent where he or she might be abandoning the true context of the translation completely. To be clear about, this translation method focuses mainly on looking after the interests and expectations of the targeted audience. This means, therefore, meaning, context, and source text intentions will be ignored.

Without question a translation is rarely going to be identical to the original. The idea when translating is to make use of any available tools in order to recreate what is purported to be the intentions of the original text.  Acclaimed translator of Russian texts, Marian Schwartz, states that Russian doesn’t have auxiliary verbs, such as ‘would’ and ‘seem,’ but it is still able to put across these notions using other means. An example of a neutral sentence in Russian is “seemingly, she’s unhappy.’’  This doesn’t sound quite right in English, as it would be better to say “she seems unhappy.’’ Languages also possess different levels when it comes to emotions. English prefers understatement. Often what in Russian comes across as neutral could seem in English to be histrionic. Even to this day, Russian fiction often uses the word “alas.’’.

However, it often gets omitted in a Russian to English translation because it sounds so out of date and wouldn’t match an English reader’s style.

In the end it’s up to the translator to use his or her intuition when it comes to answering the question “do we need faithful or effective translations?”

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