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The Art of Translation


When I started working for the very first time I was asked to translate a document from English to Urdu. Even though it wasn’t in my job description but I still accepted the task because translation had always sounded like one of the easiest jobs in the world. What could be possibly difficult about that? Especially when a document has to be translated into our native language, it has to be convenient, right? That thought remained my truth until the day I had to perform the very daunting task that I had proudly declared easy.

I spent the next few days translating a ten page document into a language I had heard and spoken since childhood, a language which I was I love with, a language I took great pride in - only to have it partially rejected. The document was then circulated around the company to get a decent translation but we ended up sending it to professional translators whose very first draft was obviously accepted.

That experience was enough to strip the shroud of naivety I had been draped in, that week,

I learnt two things.

  1. Translation, by no means is an easy task.
  2. There is so much more to translation than simply ‘translating’.

Let’s talk about what ‘more’ there is to translation;

Professional translators know the savvy techniques through which the tone of the content stays consistent. Whether it’s the formal language of your website or an informal heartfelt piece of writing or simply a friendly blog. They make sure the tone remains intact and that your content never sounds too mechanical.

One of the biggest concerns of any customer while sending in a document for translation are not only to convert the words in a given language but also to have a consistent, high quality content which reflects your business stature. Professional translators have learnt how to translate accordingly.

Translators are very well aware of the current and updated file formats and they know how to handle each. Being the victim of this overwhelming activity, I can tell you handling a file format you are not fully aware off does not always have a happy ending. It’s a much better idea to let the professionals handle it.

They also know how to take care of all your demands regarding the text you have provided, you can have your content translated literally in any way you want to.

What we connect with is not always our mother tongue but the essence of it. While we are all familiar with the beautiful metaphors and sayings of our language, we aren’t always able to communicate the essence. That is where the magic of a professional translator comes in handy.

To conclude, translation is an art which should never be undermined, we might think we know better but we don’t. Signing off with the words of Jonathan Lethen, ‘Fantastic writing in English is kind of disreputable, but fantastic writing in translation is the summit’.