Imagine how the world would look like if we wouldn't be able to understand other people, to learn other languages. How we would communicate to share knowledge, inventions and information? How we would react to linguistic alienation and in fear of an unintelligible world out there? That would probably lead to tragic events in our history, and we would not be where we are today. By imagining that terrifying world, I am sure you understand now the importance of translation but how about its meaning? Let's step into the extensive universe of translation and its value for all of us.
Let’s start from the very beginning. For sure, you are familiar with the term “translation” but what exactly does it mean? Cambridge Dictionary defines it as:
the activity or process of changing the words of one language into the words in another language that have the same meaning
So it’s a process which means that some effort, time and work is required to meet the objective. The goal is to translate the text from the original, so it is perfectly reproduced and understandable in target language.
The definition mentions also that the translated text must have the same meaning. That leads to various complications for a translator. One of those is literal translation which will not work in most cases for idioms, expressions etc. Translation must capture the meaning of the original, without necessarily using the same words. This is because a word translated into another language may also have different meanings in the target language, which can lead to inaccuracies and inaccuracies in the translation.
To conclude the first part, every created text that is a message, communication, is translatable, although this is not always a simple and predictable process.
Good translation requirements
For good translation we need extensive language skills, of both source language and target languages. That's a basic requirement to start translating texts. The process may seem quite easy at first sight when we look at the source text. Then, a few moments later, we realize that our language knowledge may not be enough.
In the first place, we need to understand a term or idea and its context in our source language. Simple? Sure, if we translate some basic texts while we are familiar with the subject. But what if we need to translate a technical documentation of a vending machine or medical reports? In such cases good translation requires a specialized vocabulary and knowledge of subject-specific terminology. Moreover, as mentioned in the first part, we need to understand idioms, expressions and proverbs which may not exist in our target language. Searching or even creating a good replacement for a non-existing phrase, requires not only great language and culture knowledge but also a lot of creativity.
Even today, with such advanced automatic translators like DeepL or Google Translate, translation needs a human input. It's the man who makes translated text understandable and well-placed in the context. Specialized texts require understanding different terminology in various context, which in most cases would not work perfectly with automatic translation. Moreover, good translation must be localized - adjusted to local language variation of the content recipient.
You know that translation is good when it feels right for the recipients. They don't notice that the text was written in another language. It must feel like their own text.
Second: Why do we translate?
For centuries, translations have served one purpose - communication between people. The option to contact with other parts of the world, to communicate with different cultures, opens many possibilities. Thanks to languages and translation, we can spread our products and ideas all over the world. We can get to know other cultures and communicate using translated texts and messages.
We translate also because we are curious to other cultures. Thanks to translation we can read books written in different languages and share texts we created with other people. We can get to know recipes, share art and ideas. Above all, we want to be heard and understood by others, so that the language is not a barrier anymore.
Because of that, translation touches all topics that people deal with - from regulations, instructions and everyday language to literature, scientific press, legal texts or IT systems and web or mobile applications. We make the products of our work or imagination accessible and understandable all over the world.
Third: Why is translation important?
The importance of translation is directly related to our need to communicate with other people. But there are other reasons why it is so important in our lives, see the list below.
- Communication which is related to understanding other cultures and ideas. That communication makes possible effective interactions between different people that leads to evolution.
- Not everyone knows English or other most spoken languages. Translation makes possible getting all information we need in our native language. There is no need to learn a new language to read a book from Greece or to understand German website content. We get all of that ready to use in our native language.
- It makes different terms sound and feel familiar, even if the translation is not literal. It creates a bridge between two different groups of users and allows spreading information, ideas and knowledge.
- Translation is important as it leads to the popularization of ideas and information. Thanks to translated reports, documents and studies, we can learn, develop and create better products.
- Translation creates a sensation of global integration - we can watch, read, hear and understand people from the other side of the world without learning that language!
- It helps to improve and expand products and businesses, so that they grow in multiple areas. We can expand our customer base and create effective communication with them. Well translated and localized software will encourage potential clients to use it because it will not feel strange and difficult.
You have just read about the importance of translation and its meaning. I am sure you understand now how if affects our lives and how difficult would be to live without it. Thanks to translation we can receive information from other parts of the world in our native language, which we fill best with.
Translation is still needed in the contemporary world, as it was needed for centuries. I think that it will not change so quickly. However, thanks to advanced technologies, we can translate faster and produce better content. Automatic translators make our work much easier and faster. Nevertheless, I think that they will not replace humans as translators soon, because who can understand humans better than another human being?