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Research Study: The Need for Professional Translation Services

Currently, there are several needs for translation services, such as in courts as well as in clinical settings. However, it is notable that there are professionals in this field who have had formal education and training in translation, and there are also those who provide translation services without formal education but are bilingual. The concern here pertains to the accuracy of the translation given, in terms of meaning and context, particularly in complex languages such as Arabic or Russian. While bilinguals are able to provide translations, there may be instances when the meaning may not exactly be accurate because the context is different. This study seeks to determine the differences in interpretation of translators with formal education and training from those who have had no formal training but are bilingual and, thus, teach English as a Second Language (TESL). This study hypothesizes that there are differences in translation of those who have had formal training and those who do not; and, these differences impact the functional meaning of the translated text or speech. It is assumed that those with formal translation education will fare better as compared to those who are only bilingual but have not really received any form of training in translation.

Apr 6, 2016   /   Visits: 2,475 Printable versionPrintable

The theoretical framework used for this study is the Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), which contains cultural and situational context components. The crucial link between SFL and translation lies in the shared view of meaning and centrality of meaning. According to SFL, there are three levels of translation or interpretation: (i) phonology and graphology; (ii) lexicogrammar and semantics; and (iii) context. With SFL, choices in interpretation are based on the linguistic resources of the speaker who almost always uses language to transmit meaning. It must be noted that meanings are conveyed through different types of understanding. One person may translate a sentence literally if he or she does not understand the context of what has been said or written. The translation will be grammatically and semantically correct but not exactly what the speaker or writer had in mind. This may lead to communication problems.

Moreover, these meaning are could be ideational, textual or interpersonal. Ideational meaning refers to both logical and experiential resources. On the other hand, logical meaning encompasses associations between various experiences. Meanwhile, interpersonal understanding entails combining interpersonal and ideational meaning into a single linear construct that includes the flow of information. Just as importantly, meaning may be interpreted on evidence available which, in turn, exists within linguistic resources at the clause level. This means to say that a systematic functional grammar (SFG) is just like other grammars in the sense that it focuses on clause level linguistic features. The main difference of the SFG is that it derives meaning from resources of the speaker or the communicator.

Language Translation Study
Formal translation studies are multidisciplinary, with particular focus on the humanities and social sciences. Translation studies delve on language interpretation, translation and the study of theories that explain these activities. Aside from these, translation studies contain various disciplines such as including semiotics, philosophy, philology, linguistics, history, computer science, and comparative literature. Briefly said, translation is the process through which meaning is communicated from a source language to a target language. It is important to note that translation is never perfect.

More often than not, the risk of spillover is always present, from the source language to the target language. In spite the occurrence of spillovers, it can also provide benefits in the form source language calques and loanwords that could be very helpful to the person doing the interpretation. Equally noteworthy is the common misconception that as long as a translator is bilingual then he or she can become effective in translating. However, understanding both the source and target languages is not sufficient in becoming a competent translator. The technique commonly used by bilingual translators with no formal is to transform their thoughts according to the source language and the target language. In contrast, translators with formal education and training acquire crucial skills necessary to understand, read and retain another person's ideas. Only after these have been achieved can the sentences be translated to the target language. As may be seen here, the techniques used by translators with formal training are different from those used by bilingual translators who have no formal training. Even though this may significantly and adversely impact the translation being done in terms of accuracy, one of the issues at hand is that translation, as a profession, is not regulated.

There are no established criteria as well as policies that govern the profession for the benefit of both the professional translator and the one seeking translating services. Nevertheless, there are professional organizations exclusively for translators that provide accreditation but the latter is not really legally binding. Hence, it is not uncommon for bilingual speakers who have had no formal training to join the profession. To note, translation that is not accurate could lead to disastrous results particularly if it is being done in the context of business or politics. Culture plays a significant role in communication and there is the risk that translation done without formal training is not able to grasp critical cultural contexts. Apart from culture, other elements that could impact translation are gender, avoidance in translation, addition of explanatory sentences, effective use of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the transition from novice to expert translator.

This study was conducted on 10 students studying at the King Saud University (KSU) in Saudi Arabia. All of the participants are male, and enrolled as either English majors or as language and linguistics majors. Students enrolled at the language and linguistics course at the KSU receive extensive formal training in translation. The participants were asked to take a translation test based on a text called the "Mark Rothko 1903- 1970," from English to Arabic. This text contains specific social, cultural, and geographical contexts, making it ideal for a study on translation. They were administered an identical test requiring them to detect minor mistakes, unnatural translations or major mistakes in texts presented to them coming from the "Mark Rothko 1903- 1970." The test papers were then assessed by the researcher who had the guidance of two professional translators who have had formal training.

In analyzing the data collected, it is apparent that the question of technique is of paramount importance. For example, when translators translate, they work on "units" that could vary in terms of word, phrase or sentence" sometimes even the entire text being translated. Participants with no formal training tended to interpret entire sentences and phrases from English to Arabic. Thus, if there is a misinterpretation of a single word, then the entire phrase or sentence becomes affected as the data collected from participants with no training shows. It must be noted that the translator must also consider the unit of thought, and under this perspective, the most basic unit of thought is the sentence itself.

There is a distinct difference here between translating according to unit (word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence) and unit of thought, or the underlying thought within a sentence. Admittedly, this is a skill that is difficult to master. Translators need to understand that there is no exact formula as to what units a translator must use in interpreting texts. They need to have that knack for identifying a concept that they encounter and they can either use the unit or unit of thought technique. Hence, it is also clear that between languages, there is no such thing as a one-to-one relationship between word and meaning. The reason for this is that there are different types of meaning, including (i) orthographical meaning which refers to an equivalent meaning of words, and (ii) collocation or phrasal meaning, which refers to the phenomenon when no exact word exists that can translate another word. Thus, the translation will not be a word but rather, a phrase or an explanatory statement. In other cultures, meanings could even change depending on how the speaker has pronounced a word. Someone who has no knowledge about this would translate the phrase word per word, or translate it based on what he or she knows about the given phrase. The meaning then may not exactly be the same as what the original speaker wants to convey.

In this study, it becomes apparent that translators with no formal training are immensely challenged simply because modern English contains so many phrasal verbs that have different shades of meaning. This is further exacerbated by the participants' lack of skill in effectively describing the phrasal verb. It is evident here that idiomatic expressions can stump the participants and there is a tendency to associate them with wrong meanings because the translators have not been introduced to the contextual importance of translation. The bilinguals would only translate them based on what they know, which may be superficial in nature as they do not understand nuances. In contrast, translation students committed less errors in each the categories of minor mistakes, unnatural translations and major mistakes. Important patterns that emerged between the scores of the two groups of participants involve (i) pronunciation of names, (ii) category of idiomatic expression, (iii) proper nouns, specifically, names, (iv) omission, (v) addition, and (vi) risk taking in translating.

An explanation to the differences in the scores of the participants pertains to subjectivity, which every individual will have no matter what his or her background is. Translators usually evaluate texts to be translated based on their own perspectives that, in turn, affect that way that they interpret texts. This suggests that those with formal training would also have better perspectives since they have been thought to look for certain factors when doing their work.

In this study, it has become apparent that when participants come across a topic or concept on which they have little knowledge about, they will tend to think that there is something flawed in the text they are translating even if there is none. Studies in extant literature attest to this phenomenon. No translator can avoid a certain level of involvement in his translating. Indeed, the values and style of the author of the original text are integrated into the text that he or she produces. In the same way, the translator is also influenced by certain values and styles, including that of personal preferences. However, translators have to be cautioned about allowing their values and styles to interfere with the context of what they are translating. Interestingly, this subjectivity is also observable in the two professional translators that acted as assessors of the test results in this study although to a minor degree. This subjectivity may not be prevalent but this is worth looking into in future researches concerning translation.

This study attests that subjectivity makes it challenging to make absolute conclusion on whether differences in the translations of participants with no formal and with formal training impact the functional meaning of the translated text or speech. The reason for this is that just as subjectivity exists in the translation of texts done by participants, subjectivity also exists in the assessment of their responses. However, based on the patterns identified in the data collected for this study, it is apparent that knowledge of relevant theories provides a stable foundation for accuracy in translation. For instance, theories that have been established in the field of linguistics, especially SFL, inform the decision-making of translators that have had formal education and training. Translational studies and linguistics are inextricably intertwined such that translators that have had no formal training and thus had no solid background in linguistics and theories are at a distinct disadvantage compared with those who have had formal training. In short, an effective translation that provides equivalent, valid, reliable, culturally accepted and accurate translation depends upon knowledge about linguistics that translation studies provide. This is still possible among those without formal training but only with long periods of experience. Translation, like other skills, need practice and exposure in order for an individual to have a good grasp of the task at hand. Although those with formal training will come in better prepared, they would still commit mistakes along the way since they are not native speakers. These mistakes though will be lessened over time as mastery of the language is achieved. Mastery would mean having an excellent understanding not only of the formal qualities of a language but also about its nuances and quirks.

As discovered in this study, what makes translation effective or not depends upon the lexicon and lingui-cultural styles, also known as the multi-coding system of language. This means to say that in translation, language and scientific disciplines are involved so that a coherent and accurate translation is provided. Linguistic studies teach students essential components of language that will enable them to translate effectively. These components pertain to culture, literature, hermeneutics, semantics and machine translation. For these reasons, it is expected that professional translators who have had formal training and education on translation can provide better translation than those who do not. Finally, formal education teaches about ethics in translation that those who have no formal training will not likely obtain unless they purposefully seek it. Ethics in translation serves as guide as to what a professional translator must strive to accomplish and how to go about achieving this. A future area of research will be the tools that can help assess translation so that subjectivity is minimized. It is a fact that translation even by those with formal training can still be subjective, and as such, must be avoided. There should be exercises during formal education meant to wean translators away from their own personal perspectives. Another future area of research will be on how to train translators without formal education on translation so that they would still be effective in this aspect.
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Translation Association

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