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A-Z of Translation – the letter T:

We’re discovering a new language with the letter T:


Translationese – Ever been surprised by the odd way some of the world’s leading politicians seem to express themselves? After all, you would expect anyone who has achieved prominence in national politics to choose their words carefully and be able to communicate effectively. The problem lies in the reporting of speeches and comments in the media. All too often, remarks made in a foreign language will be translated very literally (and clumsily) into English, making the speaker sound rather silly.

This is the translationese trap, i.e. closely copying the choice of words and sentence structure commonly used in the foreign language rather than replacing them with their English equivalents. It happens in all fields, of course, not just in politics, and when translating into/out of all languages. So here again, the message is that translation is about more than just robotically replacing words in language A with the exact same words in language B.

Maybe a classical education is part of the problem? Famously, the standard English translation of Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War starts by stating: “All Gaul is divided into three parts.” There is no reason to include “All”, it makes the English sound odd and stilted, but presumably it was the natural and normal thing to say in Latin.

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