Translation: the fine combination of science and art


More often than not, translation is viewed as a job that provides no space to unleash creativity. People perceive translators as specialists, who sit in front of computers for hours and merely replace the words of one language with another. Right now and right here, we are going to take a red pan and put a huge red cross on this thought. Translation is a unique profession, not only does it require ‘’scientific’’ knowledge, but also grants the opportunity to be creative while writing and composing. Thus, transforming the process of translating into making art. This might come off a little romantic and emotional, but it is not acceptable to undervalue translation and label it as a monotonous work. Let me stop the sentimental statements here and present you points that make translation equally a science and an art.


Translation as a science

Just like any other profession, translation requires a good deal of relevant knowledge. If you belong to the group of people who believe that being bilingual automatically makes you a translator, then we might have a little disagreement. Bilinguals do not have to know two languages perfectly, from A to Z. They can have limited vocabulary and not be aware of complicated grammatical structures but still manage to hold conversations and write in an amateur way. Translators, on the other hand, are the zealots of the languages they know. Ask them to translate a word and they will give you the synonyms, antonyms, common expressions and idioms that can be used instead. Just like a chemist knows the periodical table or a botanist, the tree structure, translators know the language. Actually, ‘’know’’ is a weak word to describe translators, to be more precise, they feel the language. What is it, if not a science? Think of translation as chess. Chess does not require to be physically fit, yet it is a sport. The same applies to translation, it does not include numbers and formulas like most of the sciences but it is a science.

Translation as an art

Let’ s admit that we always say, ‘’art is a way to communicate.’ We go on by saying musicians express themselves through their music, artists through their paintings, actors through their performances’’- a little cheesy but it’s true. We, at least have to give credit to translators, because thanks to them we are capable of reaching out to the whole world. So, it is only fair to say that while we can’t express ourselves in all the languages, translators make it real for us. In such manner, translation falls into the category of art.

We already talked about the technical preparedness of translators, but it is not enough to translate a piece of text. Not all languages share common words, idioms or grammar rules. Just like in crafting, translators need to think and adjust words to achieve a worthy result. If you love poetry then you definitely are a translation-is-an-art person. Imagine translating a love sonnet with no sense of details, creativity or whatsoever. Bear word-by-word translation will not convey the beauty and the tone of the poem.

So what?

I hope I was successful in changing your mind and now you think of translation as a mixture of art and science. I am sure, at some point in your life, you have read a translated text. Do me a favor and the next time you read a translated piece, pay attention to how carefully, detail-oriented and flawless professional translations are. Appreciate the work of those who help you reach the globe in your native language.

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