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What is Translation?

With the world being a global village, translation services play a significant role in catering to a diverse and heterogeneous audience. The world is multilingual, and the need of the hour is to make resources available to these people from different parts of the world, in their respective languages. And that’s where we come in!

What is translation?

Wikipedia defines translation as “the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text”. In simple words, it means communicating the meaning of a particular text from one language to another. The purpose of translation is to convey the original tone and intent of a message, taking into account cultural and regional differences between source and target languages. A translator’s task isn’t just to translate words, as much as it is to communicate meaning.

History of translation-

Translation has been used by humans for centuries, carried out as early as the Mesopotamian era when the Sumerian poem, Gilgamesh, was translated into Asian languages. This dates back to around the second millennium BC. Other ancient translated works include those carried out by Buddhist monks who translated Indian documents into Chinese. In later periods, Ancient Greek texts were also translated by Roman poets and were adapted to create developed literary works for entertainment. Translation services were utilized in Rome by Cicero and Horace, and these uses were continued through to the 17th century, where newer practices were developed.

The need for translation became greater with the development of religious texts and spiritual theories. As religion developed, the desire to spread the word and encourage faith means that religious texts needed to be available in multiple languages. One of the first translated religious texts is known to have been that of the Old Testament, which was translated into Greek in the 3rd century BC. This translation refers to the ‘Septuagint’, which was a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, with Septuagint coming from the Latin word ‘Septuaginta’, which means seventy. This text is, therefore often referred to as the ‘Greek Old Testament’. Without using our modern practices and tools, this translation was carried out by no less than 70 scholars who painstakingly converted the text into Greek, which became the basis for future translations of the bible in multiple languages.

Modern Translation Practices and Understanding

Following on from the Industrial Revolution, the economy developed rapidly and evolved into a machine with the potential for global success. New machinery allowed for swifter production of texts and business-related materials. This meant that more time could be invested in evolving a company and translating material to enter foreign markets. Since the 18th century, businesses have benefitted from formalized translation services but the dawn of modern practice came with the widespread introduction of the internet.

The internet has revolutionized the ability to access, translate and understand texts and documents from all over the world, whether they be contemporary or historical pieces. Crucially, the need to understand the culture of the original country and its target audience is further enhanced by modern tools and practices. Although some instant translation services are capable only of metaphase translation (literal word-for-word translation), specialist firms, platforms, and translators can translate texts and spoken word into multiple languages while observing the relevance and culture of the target receiver.

Translation in India: A brief overview

India is a multilingual country and has always been so. There are two distinct language families in India—the Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian. The most ancient of the Dravidian languages is Tamil, the others being Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam which evolved later. The major Indian languages of today derive from either of the two groups, and sometimes two Indian languages might not have many linguistic traits in common. For instance, translation from Hindi to Malayalam means that translation is between two languages that are radically different although they belong to the same region called India. 

But despite this diversity, we can safely state that Indian languages own a shared sensibility, partly derived from the common heritage of Sanskrit and from ancient theories of literature and language. Sanskrit was the dominant language in the northern part of India in the ancient times but other languages like Prakrit, Pali and Apabhramsa were used as languages of communication by the common masses. Sanskrit was the language of literature and religious rites. As India passed into the medieval period, the influence of Sanskrit declined. The various invasions during this period also brought with them different cultural and linguistic influences. 

Persian became the dominant language because it was the language of the court; it was also considered to be the elite language of scholarship under the Mughal rulers. The Mughal courts had scholars who were also translators. Baburnama, the autobiography of Babur was originally written in a language called Chagatay but was translated into Persian by Humayun’s minister Bairam Khan. Akbar commissioned translations of Sanskrit works into Persian. The Mahabharata was translated into Persian during Akbar’s time. His great-grandson Dara Shukoh translated the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-gita into Persian.

Human translator vs Google Translate/machine translation (MT)

Google Translate is a useful tool for on-the-spot translations when you’re away on vacation or stuck on the phrasing of a question in French class. But Google Translate is rarely a good idea when accuracy is imperative. On the other hand, a professional translator dedicates years of their life to understanding the subtle nuances of a language. This includes learning grammar structures, idioms, and how certain words can have very different connotations in a foreign language. Human translators are able to take cultural and regional variations into account when producing a translation. As such, a professional translator offers a more tailored service to match your specific audience than MT ever could.  

The lack of linguistic understanding by MT often leads to errors, unreadable sentences, and fractured syntax. Another fault of Google Translate is that it can often be too literal. This is especially the case when it comes to translating grammar structures that don’t match up across different languages. A human translator has a full understanding of the grammar structures of languages they work in. This means they know what tenses to use to provide an equivalent meaning, rather than a word-for-word translation. 

MT doesn’t have the same ability as a human translator to choose a more appropriate or more explicit word. For example, Google Translate wouldn’t understand that something that costs ‘an arm and a leg’ is expensive. Professional translation services would be able to recognize an idiom for its true meaning. And, if there is one, they would even be able to find an equivalent phrase in the target language to maintain the same tone.

Future of translation services-

Machine translation is instantaneous and continues to improve by leaps and bounds each day thanks to the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). MT hits that sweet spot of cost and speed, offering a really quick way for brands to translate their documents at scale without much overhead. 

Meanwhile, professional, human translation comes handy for projects that require extra care and nuance. Talented translators work on your brand’s content to capture the original meaning and essentially convey that feeling or message in a new body of work. Although MT is becoming more powerful, it has not properly grasped the intricacies of human language.

It is not ideal for picking up on the hypersensitive linguistic subtleties of contextual details. A human translator leverages tools like visual context and various linguistic assets to adhere to brand standards, translate accurately, and convey the message of the content consistently. The most significant benefit of human translation is the accuracy of the content they can churn out. In conclusion, we’d like to say that MT will never be able to fully replace human translators and their ability to investigate fully. 

It is for you to decide if you wish to access quick text using Google Translate or verified, protected and accurate content that our team will be happy to provide!

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