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What Is Not a Translation?

What Is Not a Translation?

When you use a search engine to find out “What translation is,” you come across hundreds, maybe thousands of results. Some of the results mention translation, translation techniques, and translation history, while others describe the translation services they provide. There are various answers to the question of what translation is. So, what is not a translation? Let’s talk about that a little bit.

Before machine translation emerged, a lengthy process would take place using the source text, a dictionary, a pen, and paper. However, like every other field in our lives, translation techniques have changed considerably with the development of technology. When you paste a text into a machine translation tool, you can receive an output in whatever language you want. It even translates images. But contrary to what many people and companies think, the results of machine translation tools are not translations. At the very least, it gives you a basis for your translation, and you need to do the editing. This is a newly emerging translation profession called post-machine translation editing, but that is not today’s topic.

It would be more beneficial to proceed using an example. When you type “Blood is thicker than water” in Google Translate, the result in the Turkish language is entirely irrelevant. The output makes no sense in the target language, and it is incorrect to call it a translation. The worst part is that this so-called translation is marked as accurate by Google users. An actual translator finds the correct equivalent in the target language by looking at the phrase’s use, context, and etymological origin. This phrase, for example, emphasizes the importance of blood ties. For this reason, the most accurate response when transferring to the Turkish language would be to use a phrase highlighting the value of family.

Contrary to popular belief, transferring words into the target language one by one does not mean translating. Those who do not embrace the global world fail to realize how intertwined the concepts of language and culture are. Words are indeed transferred to the target language using specific terminology in technical areas such as medical translation or the translation of user manuals. However, even in technical translation, there are many elements to consider, such as tone.

Finally, knowing and speaking a language does not necessarily mean someone can translate. Throughout history, many translation techniques and theories have been developed, none based on just knowing the language. For example, some patients who do not speak the source language bring a friend or a family member with them when going to a hospital. Sometimes, people even bring their children along. Words are not enough to emphasize how wrong this situation is in every aspect.

To summarize, just like in every profession, the field of translation requires technical skills and training. There is a famous saying, “I am not rich enough to buy cheap goods”; let us adapt this saying for this field. Trust us, getting cheap and poor-quality translation services to lower the cost will cost you more in the long run.

What Is Not a Translation?