A word about translations...
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Customarily, people tend to think of translating as an obscure activity that is actually very simple so long as the translator happens to know both languages. Some people even believe that all it takes for a workable translation is a dictionary of languages A and B and some basic high school knowledge of the language they are translating from. In any case, translating is often regarded as a necessary evil with little actual significance attached.
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To all those people, let me ask you this: Have you ever worked in a large organization, where you had to rely on people to pass on pieces of information by word of mouth? If the information went through more than three individuals, most likely you will have noticed that what the guy at the end heard was hardly the same thing you told the guy who was supposed to pass it on. What happened? Well, everyone along the line "translated" your message. Since the message is passed on by word of mouth, this means that everyone along the line puts in their own words. This is in fact a form of translating: Information received in a set of words is abstracted to the actions, items, requests etc. that the recipient of the message thinks this informtion means. In passing it on, he translates these abstract concepts back into language. Doing this over and again within one and the same language will inevitably result in a loss or alteration of the information that was passed on. The only way to prevent this is by exercising extreme discipline, learning a text by heart, or passing the information on in writing.
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Well, translating is very much like passing on information by word of mouth. Obviously, the information cannot be passed on as is in writing, because the whole point of translating is that the information is not written in the language the intended recipient of said information understands. The translator has to abstract the information found in the source text - the text that he is given as an original. The translator must then put this abstract information into another language - the target language.
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In doing so, the translator must pay attention to grammar and spelling, differences in sentence structure between languages, recognize idioms and connotations in the source text and find the appropriate equivalent in the target language, in short he must transscribe the meaning of the original text. Looking up words in dictionaries does not suffice to accomplish this task. A simple example may illustrate this well enough:
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Most visitors to this site will know the anecdote of the German commander who tried to bluff by sending the commander of an American unit in mainland France a note during the Battle of the Bulge. The German commander stated that the Americans were surrounded and told them to surrender. Alas, the American commander replied in one word: "Nuts". The Germans checked their dictionary and found, well "nuts". They did not recognize the connotation of this word and that the American commander had not fallen for their ruse.
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You will see now, that translating is quite a challenge. It takes a lot of discipline and intimate knowledge of both the source and target languages.
 


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