Translation Techniques: Chunking Up, Chunking Down And Lateral Chunking

By Chiara Grassilli
In Translation Techniques
Feb 16th, 2013

How To Translate A Word That Doesn’t Exist In Your Language

In the previous post I analysed three of the main translation techniques: loan words, nominalization and verbalization.

Today I would like to introduce some solutions to the problem of translating a word of the source text that does not have a precise equivalent in the target text.

There are three great techniques you can use to overcome this problem:

  • chunking up: move up to the more general word that include yours.
  • chunking down: describe the components of the object.
  • lateral chunking: a match in the target culture that recalls the word you have to translate.

Let’s suppose you need to translate the word rickshaw (in the photo) 250px-JapaneseRickshawand the target language doesn’t have the equivalent word due to the fact that in the target culture this object doesn’t exist. According to the techniques which I have previously presented, there are three ways to tackle the problem:

  • Chunking up: you can translate rickshaw as vehicle, as vehicle encompasses its general category and includes all those objects which allow you to move from one place to another.
    • Pros: it allows you to translate almost every word.
    • Cons: the translation will be generic and may not be accurate
  • Chunking down: you can describe the components of the rickshaw by explaining how it is made. In this way you give the reader a precise image of the object.
    • Pros: the description will be very accurate.
    • Cons: you need many more words, so the text becomes longer.
  • Lateral chunking: this involves a mental association,or a match in the target culture that recalls the word you have to translate. In the rickshaw example, you could say it’s a kind of bicycle used to carry people, as bicycle is more familiar to the reader.
    • Pros: it’s something we do instinctively, so it should be quite easy.
    • Cons: the translation will not be 100% accurate of course, since it invokes another concept.

The term chunking means to change the size of a unit. It is a technique often used in fields other than translation, most notably in information technology and psychology.

Other than being a great translation method, it can also be viewed as a good mental exercise for translators, who often have to juggle between two languages and need to make one cultural system accessible to another.

Finally, as the key aim of translation is to ensure the 100% total comprehension of the reader, you may find that you do not stick to the original piece 100%.

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About "" Has 117 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog

2 Responses to “Translation Techniques: Chunking Up, Chunking Down And Lateral Chunking”

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