Translation Techniques

By Chiara Grassilli
In Translation Techniques
Feb 3rd, 2014

Translation Procedures: The Technical Component of the Translation Process



This is a presentation by Angelo Pizzuto, professor at the University of Palermo, who offers an introduction to translation, the skills required and the main techniques that can be used to translate from one language to another.

The presentation starts with a question: can anyone translate? Or only highly specialised professionals such as lawyers and scientists? To answer this question he makes a distinction between factual knowledge and procedural knowledge.

Factual knowledge is the knowledge of the subject and specific terminology of the text we are translating.
Procedural knowledge is the knowledge of methods and techniques to transfer the meaning from one language to another. 

Highly specialized professionals have the factual knowledge, but if they lack the procedural knowledge they might not be able to re-express the text in another language.

Translation Techniques

What are the main strategies that allow translators to translate? The two main approaches are literal or non-literal translation.

Under each option there are several translation techniques available. If the translator chooses a literal or direct translation, he will be able to choose among:

  • > Borrowing
  • > Calque (divided into Lexical calque and Structural calque)
  • > Word-for-word translation

If he chooses a non-literal translation (also called oblique, dynamic or sense-for-sense translation) he can choose among

  • > Transposition, namely replacement of a word class with another word class, maintaining the same meaning. Under this category we can find techniques such as nominalization and verbalization that I described in my previous article
  • > Modulation
  • > Adaptation
  • > Concretization or differentiation
  • > Paraphrasing
  • > Logical Derivation

Let’s analyse the first category more closely.

Literal translation, also called “formal equivalence” by Eugene Nida, is a translation that follows closely the form of the source language. It is also known as word-for-word translation.

Although literal translation might work just fine for technical texts such as instruction leaflets and manuals, it has a big flaw when it comes to everyday expressions. In this case, translating word for word generates a nonsensical text that just sounds awkward and not fluent.

The reason why literal translation has had some supporters in the past is because it was believed to be more accurate. A literal translation is certainly accurate. The problem with accuracy is that it is not always the best way to convey the right meaning.

As I explained in my article How to translate idioms, some fixed expressions cannot be translated literally or word for word without losing the meaning completely.

Think about expressions such as “Not worth the candle”, “A Chip on your shoulder”, “A leopard can’t change his spots” or “a piece of cake”. Would you attempt to translate them word for word?

In this case the job of the translator is to find a dynamic translation that conveys the same meaning without using the same words.




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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

3 Responses to “Translation Techniques”

  1. […] Translation Techniques – Which approach to use and which techniques to choose when translating a text (Translation Techniques by @TranslatorT #xl8)…  […]

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  3. yeminli tercüme says:

    Thanks for sharing the translation techniques.

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