Challenges in translation

Nothing is as easy as it seems.

Cultural experiences — even in scientific and technical fields such as dentistry or dental technology — can differ from one country to another or even within a country. Since language reflects these differences, it is not always possible to translate word for word.

Translators must explain, elucidate, bridge the gaps, and make the foreign reader at home with a text that is not from his or her own culture.

So translators must strike a balance between fidelity to the source text and readability in the target language. This is not easy — especially when performed under material constraints such as time and budget pressures.

The best translators appreciate this very challenge of transporting a point, a thought, an idea across across cultural and linguistic boundaries.

To translate something from one language that simply does not exist in the other language is one of the most demanding tasks. Laws, government, schools, business structures vary from country to country. Dictionaries only offer solutions for the most well-established terms.

But when dealing with new information and novel experiences, we may have to create a new term or leave it in the source language and put in a translator’s note, explaining what the term means.

Another potential pitfall, especially with technical translation, is that many translators do not get a chance to see what their text describes. Often there is a good reason for this — these days, the object in question may not even exist in the real world even as its manual is already being translated. In these cases, translators are effectively flying blind, and their translations will have to be revised later.