Lost in Translation?
Translation is communication, but never that easy as a target word for a source word. A translator, who is a mediator to bridge up possible gaps and therefore ensure smooth communication, must accommodate to both target linguistic conventions and target culture so that the translated piece reads smoothly and is culturally acceptable.
Different languages entail different cultures behind it. Without such consciousness and appropriate cultural knowledge it would be no surprise that communication failed. Culture means all kinds of things, the arts collectively: art, music, literature, and related intellectual activities; knowledge and sophistication: enlightenment and sophistication acquired through education and exposure to the arts; shared beliefs and values of a group: the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people; shared attitudes: a particular set of attitudes that characterizes a group of people.
Culture is usually acquired through enculturation, the process through which an older generation induces and compels a younger generation to reproduce the established lifestyle; consequently, culture is embedded in a person’s way of life. Culture is difficult to quantify, because it frequently exists at an unconscious level, or at least tends to be so pervasive that it escapes everyday thought.
There are many examples of mistranslations or bad translations because the translators were ignorant of the cultural differences between languages. Not only are there differences between Chinese and English, there are differences within each of the two languages as well. The challenge for translators is to be aware of these differences. A translator may try step by step to overcome the difficulties in comprehending the remote culture and ambiguous language of an individual author.
However, besides being aware of differences, translators must also keep abreast of changes and be adept at knowing or even coming out with new words to render new inventions and new situations. The world today is being transformed at an unprecedented pace. Things around us are changing all the time – new technology, new inventions, and new cultures. New words are being churned out at an amazing speed. Thus, one of the challenges for translators is to learn to appreciate differences and also to keep up with the constant change that is happening all around us.
With the proliferation of Internet and Internet-related products and businesses, myriads of new phrases, terminology and concepts are expected. Suitable translations are required for words, phrases, concepts and procedures. To do this, translators must first understand what these are. Therefore, they cannot afford to be lazy. They must make an effort to acquire these new branches of knowledge. An excellent translator should impart a rare combination of professional aptitude along with a great artistic flair.
It is difficult enough just to keep up with the advances in science and technology, what is more difficult is to keep up with popular culture that moves at a bewildering pace. Popular music, fashions, trends, teen-speak: they change as soon as you think you have gotten the hang of them.
To keep up with all these changes and trends, dictionaries are useful but quite inadequate. Besides, they become out-dated after some time. One of the best ways to keep up is to do what many young people today do: read lifestyle magazines, watch television and MTV, surf the Internet. Besides these, one must also read newspapers, news magazines, journals and the like to keep abreast of developments in the world