The importance of translationMichal Šimurka 20.11.2020 About Translations Reading time: 5 min.
The concept of translation and its importance can be somewhat hazy. After all, nearly everyone speaks English in this day and age. What needs to be said or written can be done in English and Google Translate can solve all the rest. But is it really that simple?
Language is so much more than just a tool allowing us to communicate. It is the expression of culture, society, and beliefs. Thousands of cultures exist around the world, all expressing the specifics of their daily lives through their own languages. Imagine the vast cultural treasures lost if they suddenly ditched their native tongues and simply communicated in one universal language.
Simultaneously, other languages may be incapable of expressing certain feelings, emotions, or specific descriptions.
A classic example is the German “Schadenfreude”, which means the joy and pleasure that come from witnessing the pain of others. An elegant word that easily expresses a specific phenomenon, but a similar expression does not exist in English dictionaries. In this regard, German might seem to be the richer language.
The meaning and purpose of translation
But how can you learn about these phenomena? How can you learn about various cultures and begin to see the world through their eyes? Surely you cannot be expected to learn every language. There must be an easier way.
Translation is more than just changing the words from one language to another. Translation builds bridges between cultures. It allows you to experience cultural phenomena that would otherwise be too foreign and remote to grasp through your own cultural lens.
However, skilful translators are required to build these bridges. Translators are people who have a near-perfect understanding of both the source language and culture and the target language and culture. They know precisely how to grasp that “Schadenfreude” and bridge it over to you. They may use a few more words, or perhaps even change the wording of a whole paragraph, but the meaning of the original will get through. Then, you can begin to understand foreign concepts that have been bridged over to your native tongue.
The importance of the native tongue
The native tongue is the language you understand best. You established it in the early stages of your life. You express every emotion, feeling, and concept best in your native tongue as compared to any other language. No matter how perfect your other language skills become, there will never be a language you understand better than the one you’ve known the longest.
Therefore, receiving information in this language is essential, as it helps you avoid miscommunications. And this is precisely what translation does for you.
The importance of translation in literature
A girl in Japan can easily enter a library, choose one of Tolstoy’s books and enjoy the world that he has created. Similarly, someone in Indonesia can find Wordsworth and get lost in the beauty of the English Lake District. All of this is possible thanks to translation. The very existence of world literature stands upon translation.
Classics and masterpieces can be enjoyed by people around the world. But, perhaps it is even more important that translation helps preserve literature. While the language might not be widespread, translation offers the works a much larger audience for many years to come.
The importance of translation in media
At the end of a hard day, we love watching our favourite TV series. Translation’s got our backs here, as well. We are not limited to one country’s productions. If the series isn’t dubbed, there are almost always subtitles (which are often even preferred).
And what about that latest Korean blockbuster you watched in the cinema? Without translation it would remain in Korea, and we could only wonder how great it might have been.
The importance of translation in journalism
Spreading of information today depends on translation. It allows us to discover what’s happening in different countries through our own language, thereby staying informed about the world. Otherwise, we would simply live in an echo chamber, never confronting any different opinions.
Ignorance is indeed dangerous. But translation opens up millions of new sources. It grants access to a variety of worldviews and allows us to learn expert opinions from countries and cultures other than our own. Moreover, it supports critical thinking and encourages us to listen to what others have to say.
The importance of translation in education
The availability of so much information of course ties into education as well. Children can receive richer and more comprehensive knowledge from around the world, and they can learn to compare and discuss different perspectives.
In countries with many foreign-language-speaking children (caused by immigration, for example) translation can help with integration. Imagine living in a new country. You don’t understand the language—even your parents don’t. If all of your schoolbooks are translated into your native tongue, surely you can better adjust to your new surroundings.
Sometimes schools provide these children with individual educational interpreters. These people are specially trained, understand the child’s learning needs and communicate between the family and the school’s administration. This provides an invaluable help to ensuring a more secure future for the child.
However, when it comes to language learning, translation has fallen out of fashion. And no wonder: when you’re learning a new language, you want to communicate, not get stuck converting every word into your native language.
But translation remains a useful language skill to add to your toolbox. Just imagine all of the times you’ve had to translate a menu, interpret a train-schedule or be the mediator for your grandparents trying to order museum tickets abroad.
The importance of translation in business
Of course, we can’t forget the economic sector. Without translation, business as we know it would not exist. Translation undoubtedly fuels the global economy. Every single business giant has one thing in common: a heavy reliance on foreign relations. These bring in many advantages, such as:
- lower manufacturing costs,
- professionals otherwise unavailable in the home country
- and more markets to invest in.
This means that millions of project documentations, trade agreements, contracts or just simple manuals need translating. Furthermore, many meetings and audits need to be interpreted. All of which requires high-quality translation and interpreting professionals.
The importance of translation services
So we’ve established the incredible importance of translation. But how does it actually reach you and your needs? How can you access the vast possibilities unlocked by translation?
Fortunately, the answer is simple. Many translation agencies and individual translators and interpreters are ready and able to work. Perhaps you need your birth certificate translated, require an interpreter for a new production line or have software that’s ready to be localized into several languages. Translation agencies can guarantee that your project is in good hands and that your information will be communicated precisely and subtly in the target language.
Without any doubt, our society relies on translation. We would all be much worse off if it weren’t for high-quality translators. The vast treasures lost would be not only cultural, but also material. Fortunately, this will likely never happen, as so many professional translators, interpreters, and agencies are here and thriving.
What do you think? How would your daily life change if you had to make do without translation? Let us know in the comments.