The Role of Linguistics in Translation

In order to be a qualified translator, you need to have a solid grasp of the languages you are working with. This means it is important for translators to build comprehensive proficiency in linguistics as a scientific discipline. We take a closer look at how linguistics helps translators come up with a better-quality translation. Check out the specific benefits you can derive from a solid and comprehensive grasp of this important discipline.

  • Understanding context

The translation is not just about finding exact equivalents in the target language. Word-for-word translation is often required, but not all words and concepts can be translated literally. Linguistics helps us appreciate the importance of context when translating words, concepts, and ideas. As the scientific study of languages, linguistics guides and prompts translators to come to grips with a given context in which those words and terms were conceived. 

They can then look for the most precise and exact matches in another language, taking into account the related specificities, undertones, and cultural nuances. This is a practical exercise that saves translators the trouble and embarrassment of misrepresenting them wrongly.

That is why it is so important to use a professional localization service to ensure the translated material is relevant to a local context and culture. Professional localization services are adept at making your branding and marketing materials appealing to local audiences. Whether it is a website or an app, it has to cater to the needs of local customers to be effective.

  • Appreciating language structures

Languages are comprised of a set of structures. Syntax, morphology, grammar, and other linguistic concepts are used to construct a language in its entirety. When used in a given context, the language becomes functional. Translators need to understand the structure of both languages they are working with. 

Those structures can be completely different. For instance, Germans put the verb toward the end of a sentence, whereas in English, there is a strict word order. Translators need to be creative and instrumental to carry the intended tone and feel forward into the target language without compromising content or inhibiting understanding.

  • Appreciating linguistic discourse analysis

Linguistic discourse is an important concept. It is often referred to as the analysis of language that goes beyond the analysis of a sentence. This means that you need to think of the meaning of sentences going beyond grammatical analyses. Discourse analysts take a holistic approach to understand the meaning conveyed. They also pay attention to the manner in which things are talked about in a given society. 

Before you get down to your job translating a text, you need to get a handle on all the aspects, linguistic or non-linguistic, that work together to create a discourse. Once you are able to understand what the discourse is about, you are much better placed to ensure the highest quality of translation.

  • Historical considerations 

Historical considerations are also key to ensuring the top quality of translation. When translating works that date back to previous centuries, it is crucial to consider the evolution of the language and its dialects. If translators fail to understand the different meanings that specific words carried in the past, they risk misrepresenting important ideas and concepts. 

When using AI-based translation tools, the above nuances can be easily overlooked. The impact of technology on the translation industry can thus be undermined. It is important to minimize this risk.

Language is not a static phenomenon. It is constantly changing and developing. Its vocabulary is also constantly evolving to borrow new words, concepts, and ideas. Translators often need to have a full grasp of the continuum throughout which meanings have been changing not to miss any of the important nuances and details.

Final Thoughts

Linguistics plays an important part in translation services. Literal translation often misses the mark, especially when you want to convey the intended meaning in a culturally relevant way. As a translator, you should aim to be a proficient linguist too to make the most of your professional skills.

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Andrew Mazur is a professional writer and linguist. He speaks six languages fluently, and he has a basic knowledge of over 15 languages in total. Over the years, Andrew has worked on scientific and popular translations. As a professional, he enjoys sharing his tips and hacks with both college students and professional translators.

by Abdullah Sam
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