3 translations into English that have suffered translation loss

Translations into English translation loss - cover

Humanity has been translating words from one language into another for thousands of years – from inscriptions in stone to religious texts, from books to films, and even songs.

But as any translator will tell you, sometimes it’s just impossible to copy everything into another language and expect it to have the same effect; some real creativity and ingenuity is needed to adapt the text to the new audience. Occasionally, the best solution is to leave some aspects behind in the original language, omitting certain parts in order for it to make sense – and be well received – in the new language. This is called translation loss.

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When is it OK to use Google Translate?

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Google Translate, and other machine translation (MT) programs, have come along in leaps and bounds in the last few years. Not only can we download apps where we can just type in words and instantly get a result in another language, but you can take photos of signs and get a translation straight away, and even instantly translate voice and video calls with the likes of Skype Translator. With the magic of deep learning technology, computers are able to “learn” more and in theory, improve the quality of their output the more it is used.
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Can some “untranslatable” words be translated after all?

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If you love languages like me, then you love coming across articles featuring “untranslatable words” or “foreign words that you’ll wish we had in English.” The bone of contention among translators and other linguists is that words like these are, of course, not actually untranslatable – you just may not be able to do a neat 1:1 substitution. You might need a few extra sentences to explain it, or perhaps you might leave it untranslated.

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French False Friends: 10 words to look out for as a tourist in France

Photo of Eiffel Tower statues. Copyright Edward Borlase

Photo credit: Edward Borlase

Ahh, false friends: the bane of any languages student’s life – as well as being rather annoying for translators and travellers alike. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of a language, you come across a word that looks exactly like an English word. Brilliant, you think – and then, you find out later, that it wasn’t at all the word that you thought it was.

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An introduction to theatre captioning

Photo of Theatre Script. Copyright Natalie Soper 2015

Captioning, and in particular theatre captioning, is not necessarily directly related to translation – it tends to be used to provide access to audience members who are hard of hearing. Captioning is different to video subtitling and opera surtitles (which often do have an element of translation), as captions give extra information, such as indicating who is speaking as well as sound effects, in order to give the best experience to the viewer who may not be able to hear these aspects otherwise.

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