Translation Process & Challenges

Translating requires special skills and continuous practices to produce satisfactory translation products. People who speak two languages proficiently may not find translating an easy job. To understand why this may happen, we need to know the translation process and the challenges that may appear at each stage. The following figure illustrates Nida’s model of translation process.

Nida's Model of Translation Process 

Figure 1. Nida’s Model of Translation Process

Translation process starts with analyzing the source language text (SLT). At this stage, our linguistic capability to correctly interpret and understand the source language text is highly needed. Our knowledge about the subject matter will support our work at this stage. One among the challenges that we as translators may encounter at this initial step is perhaps lack of clarity of the SLT and the issue of untranslatability.

Lack of clarity in the SLT may be found in unedited texts. In this case, we need to work harder in comprehending and analyzing the meaning of the source text to know what exactly the intention of the author is. If necessary, we may need to consult the author/client in person to ask for clarification.

In addition to the possibility of lack of clarity in an unedited SLT, cultural gaps may result in the issue of untranslatability.  When we come across this problem, we may use the internet as a one-stop solution to this problem. We can search and learn about a particular term related to a certain culture. However, we should equip ourselves with skills to formulate keywords, otherwise, we may not find the information that we seek. In addition to being skillful in making keywords, we should also be selective in determining which sources of information to trust.

The second stage in translation process is transferring the message into the target language text (TLT). Here, we can use dictionary, thesaurus, and any other relevant supporting materials/sources. The ability to choose the appropriate equivalent in the TLT is a must to have to ensure that the message is correctly presented in the TLT. One of the challenges that may appear at this stage is lack of equivalents in the TLT, for example, when translating a text from English into Indonesian, we may find it difficult to find an equivalent in the TLT for a certain cultural term.

As English is richer in vocabulary compared to the Indonesian language, we may find it easier to find equivalents in English rather than in Indonesian. In this case, we can use more than one word to compensate the meaning components that are not covered by a single word. There are a number of translation strategies that can be applied depending on the context, the target readers and the nature of the text to be translated.

The third stage is the restructuring process. As every language has its own system, shifts in translation are unavoidable. This is acceptable so long as the meaning or the message in the SLT is correctly presented in the TLT. This stage can also be regarded as an editing stage that involves decision making. At this stage we will need to decide which equivalent to use or which strategy to apply, whether to make the translation faithful as in legal translation or to produce a dynamic translation like in translating a literary work. Apart from being required to be linguistically capable in understanding the source language, we must also be able to express ourselves in the target language. We have to be aware of the pragmatic context and minimize the occurrences of grammatical mistakes in the TLT. As for instance, in translating a text from Indonesian into English, we must understand the correct use of tenses, articles, preposition, phrasal verbs, etc.

In order to produce a natural translation, we have to know the idiomatic expression in the receptor language. We can search whether our translation (a phrase or expression) is the common or idiomatic expression in the TL by feeding it to the search engine. If there are very few or even no results at all, that may indicate that the phrase is not common / idiomatic in the TL and thus, we have to find another one that is more commonly used by native speakers of the TL. Reading the texts in SLT especially the texts written by native speakers will essentially help us in improving the quality of our translation products. Last but not least is the proofreading process. Sometimes, we already edited our work several times yet we do not realize that we make a mistake or even some. Here, the role of a proofreader is needed to check our work so that we can confidently submit our work to our clients.

In conclusion, problems should not prevent us from taking up a challenging translation work/project. We should realize that problems are always present in any field. Therefore, instead of regarding them as barriers or obstacles, we can regard them as challenges and use them positively to motivate ourselves to continually learn to enhance our quality, to strive to better ourselves and finally to work hard to be experts in our field.

Written by Luh Windiari

Note: The figure 1 was taken from Susan Bassnet’s book titled “Translation Studies” Third Edition. Printed in 2002 by Routledge

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