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A-Z of Translation – the letter J:

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

The letter J takes us into the world of inside knowledge:

Jargon – Based on a standard dictionary definition, we are talking here about “words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand”. This is all routine fare for translators, who are used to working on texts written by experts for experts. They are thus well advised to restrict themselves to a relatively narrow range of subject areas, as most professional translators do. Producing an authentic translation requires a good grasp of insider language, which takes considerable time and effort to acquire.

Even in our private lives, most of us would struggle to follow a conversation between a group of brain surgeons, bodybuilders or botanists, for example, and if we tried to contribute we would be instantly recognised as outsiders. Few clients would want the translations they commission to stand out like a sore thumb in the same way.

Specialist dictionaries are of little use here; they cannot hope to capture all the richness. Imagine a dictionary of football containing terms such as “offside”, “free kick” and “set piece” – useful, no doubt, but it wouldn’t allow you to speak with real authority on the subject and say things like “We woz robbed”. Genuine fans wouldn’t be fooled for a minute.

Fortunately, specialist journals, academic papers, corporate websites and blog posts are just a click away in today’s Internet age. Reading around a subject and staying in touch with the latest jargon has never been easier – but you still have to be prepared to invest the time.

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