In this article, we will explore the impact of knowing the linguistic structure of languages on the translation process, and in this case, we will mainly focus on German – Turkish translation. When you step into the inflected world of the German language, which is one of the Germanic languages and a branch of the Indo-European language family, you will encounter words that have been altered beyond recognition with uncertain roots. Even though this may make you feel alienated, as a reader and translator of the text, this is the point where you experience the varied characteristics of the languages that you enjoy. On the other hand, Turkish belongs to the Ural Altaic language family and is an agglutinating language. Therefore, it has a simpler structure than German. Before digging into the subject of German-Turkish translation, I would like to briefly explain the sentence structures of these two languages. Eventually, to experience a language and internalize it, you should be integrated with it, and this process takes you on a long and frustrating journey.
In examining the language structure of German, I believe that one should start with the articles, especially when the structure will be compared to Turkish. The articles in the German language are separated into two groups: definite (bestimmter Artikel) and indefinite (unbestimmter Artikel) articles. However, German has a grammatical gender (das Genus) with a distinction that I am sure most of you are already familiar with. Especially for those just starting to learn German, this structure can be a nightmare, but once they understand the logic, they will find it enjoyable. When we think about languages that embody cultures and experiences, we realize that every language structure shows us the diversity of life. Also, although I could just briefly mention the issue of grammatical gender in this article, I want to point out that it has been a critical topic of debate in feminist studies. It is impossible to include all the information gathered from various studies in this short article.
In the German language, there are four types of definite articles: neutrum – neuter (das), feminine – feminine (die), maskulin – masculine (der), and plural (die). Names and adjectives are also conjugated according to the rules of the language. In German, there is not only the conjugation of time, but also cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative) that determine word function in sentences. e.g.: Kasus, Adjektivdeklination. Let’s look at two examples on the usage of the definite and indefinite articles in German related to our topic, German-Turkish Translation:
Der Übersetzer – the translator (masculine), Die Übersetzerin – the translator (feminine), Die Übersetzerinnen – the translators (plural). (There are exceptions). At this point, I think it is possible to ground the German linguistic structure in logic, especially when we consider that the verb form of die Übersetzung (translation) is Übersetzen (to translate), then we see that the word root remains the same. Let’s add another piece of information and see how this rule works with indefinite articles while keeping in mind that in German “der” defines masculine and “die” defines feminine and plural:
Einer Übersetzer – a translator (masculine), eine Übersetzerin – a translator (feminine). In this example, we see how we define “a person” with regard to grammatical gender rules. All of these instructions show us how the German linguistic structure is like a crossword puzzle. Alright, why have we come to this point? Surprisingly, as a translator, this is where we start, where we see cultures and lives hidden within words, and where we begin building our translation strategies.
Compared to German, Turkish has a “biological gender” (der Sexus) structure. Although its linguistic structure is simple, the words between the subject and predicate link to one another like railway cars. First, let’s clarify the biological gender structure from a linguistic perspective. This structure is based on the reflection of a person’s sex on the word. It can also be used as a description, for example: man and woman, son and daughter, Mr., Ms. or Mrs. These terms are stated in German as Mann-Frau, Sohn-Tochter, Herr-Frau, and these words stress semantic emphasis of the expressions. At this point, we as translators start to struggle with the question of how to produce text written in another language in our native language (even though it would be more appropriate to do translation from a foreign to a native language as a translator). When we do that, we take our binoculars out of our pockets, and all of a sudden, we learn how inadequate we are in our native language. Languages exist within their structures. This is also the case for Turkish-German languages. Although they are not part of the same language families, thanks to the translator, the text produced in one language comes to life in another, and this life exists in translation.