Translation Techniques: Borrowing

By Chiara Grassilli
In Translation Techniques
Sep 28th, 2015

Borrowing: one of the most used translation techniques


Borrowing is a common translation technique. It basically means that the translator makes a conscious choice to use the same word in the target text as it is found in the source text. This is usually the case when there is no equivalent term in the target language. This technique also allows the translator to put a text clearly within a particular cultural context through the register of the vocabulary it uses. Certain terms allow people belonging to communities of similar interests to transcend linguistic boundaries. Despite using different linguistic systems, they share the same reality and the same code to decipher it. Depending on where this code was created, some words will have a lot more prestige than others in a certain context.
Numerous English words are “borrowed” into other languages; for instance software in the field of technology and funk in culture. English also borrows a lot of words from other languages. For example: abbatoire, café, passé and résumé from French; hamburger and kindergarten from German; bandana, musk and sugar from Sanskrit. Borrowed words are often printed in italics when they are considered to be “foreign”, especially in academic work.
Borrowed words can sometimes have different semantic significations from those of the original language. A good example is the Moroccan word ‘tammara’, which is borrowed from Spanish, means in Moroccan Arabic ‘a difficult situation’, whereas in Spanish it conveys the meaning of a ‘type of a palm tree’. The same thing can be said about the word ‘flirter’, which refers in French to a sexual foreplay, while in English the term means behaving towards someone as though one were in love with but without serious intentions. Borrowing in translation is not always justified by lexical gap in the target language, but it can mainly be used as a way to preserve the local colour of the word, or be used out of fear from losing some of the semiotic aspects and cultural aspects of the word if it is translated.
Regarding borrowing, we should also add that a certain term is taken from a language, but in a natural way, which means that it will respect the rules of grammar and pronunciation of the target language. An example of Borrowing is the verb ‘mailer’, which is used in Canadian-French spoken language; here, the French suffix-er is added to the English verb ‘mail’ to conform to the French rules of verb-formation.
In conclusion, borrowing is one of the most used translation techniques. It is used mainly out of necessity, due to the fact that a certain word does not exist in the target language. We use a lot of borrowed words in the spoken language every day, without even knowing they come from another language. Most of the borrowed words come from English and they are usually technical terms.

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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

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