As the world merges and boundaries are removed, translation has become an important part of communication in business. As people from different cultures and nationalities interact more with each other, generating an accurate and clear translation becomes more important than ever. Unfortunately, the lack of standardization and awareness of its importance has led to some misconceptions about the process of translation. One of the most common ones, and probably the most damaging, is that if you understand two languages, you can translate from one to another.

The truth is that translation is not just about converting a text in a certain language into a text in a different language. Translation is still a communication tool used to relate with and appeal to the reader. Therefore, a translation must be able to depict the nuances of the original text and reach out to the audience as much as the original text.

Today, many translators have the tendency to generate a word-per-word translation. The problem with this is that any writing has an explicit and implicit message. While the explicit message is conveyed directly through the words, the implicit message is usually relayed through word choices, tone, and voice of the text. If these factors are not taken into account, the translation will not generate the same impact as the original text. For example, different words in the English language have the same meaning but different connotation. The word ‘rumah’ in bahasa Indonesia, for example, can mean ‘house’ or ‘home’. Therefore, when translating the word ‘rumah’ into an English text, the translator must consider the context of the writing. Is the author referring to the physical house or to the sense of home?

Perhaps as a result of the lack of effort or understanding, many translators also fail to consider the context of the original text. This becomes a huge problem when the text has a specific objective. A marketing text, for example, is designed to appeal to the target market. A marketing text for teenagers will be worded differently from a marketing text for a more mature audience. When the translation fails to consider the appropriate word or style for the target market, the audience will not relate to the message as much although they understand what is being said. Consider an ad for a music player app that uses the tagline “Let’s Dance!” In bahasa Indonesia, this might be translated to “Ayo Berdansa!” While technically this is a correct translation, the word ‘berdansa’ is not used by younger Indonesians. The colloquial translation “Yuk, joged!” would be more appealing to the target audience.

To avoid these mistakes, a translator has to identify the text being translated. Is it a marketing text, an academic text, or a corporate report? Through such identification, translators will be able to understand the objective of the text. A marketing text aims to appeal. Therefore, the style of the translation must be appropriated to the target audience. This means the translation needs to focus on the feel and the implicit message of the text. Meanwhile, an academic text seeks to inform in detail. As such, the translation of an academic text has to be more loyal and accurate with no details left out. On the other hand, a corporate report aims to generate trust as well as inform. The translator needs to use the appropriate jargon to show the expertise of the author while delivering the message in the most effective way possible.

A translator also needs to do some research to understand the more technical aspects of the text. When translating a text for a more technical industry, for instance, a translator must become somewhat of an expert in that industry. Imagine you are translating an article for an infrastructure-financing firm that contains analysis of the current condition of the industry. The article aims to show the firm’s expertise in infrastructure financing. Without understanding the big picture of the industry, the translator would not be able to accurately rewrite the analysis in the target language. Without enough research, the translator would also end up using jargons that are not commonly used in the industry. This can be damning to the reputation of the firm. Therefore, research is a vital part of the translation process.

In the process of translation, the context of every word needs to be considered. Therefore, it is important to read the whole sentence, even the whole paragraph to understand the whole message that is being conveyed. Then, rewrite that message in the target language. This may result in a translation that is radically different in structure from the source text. That is fine, however. Because remember, you are translating concepts, ideas, and messages instead of words, sentences, and paragraphs.

by Dimas Anggara