ADEQUACY PROBLEMS IN TRANSLATION | January 2019 | Translation Journal

January 2019 Issue

Read, Comment and Enjoy!

Join Translation Journal

To receive regular updates,
fill in your details below.
You will also receive a PDF listing
8 Ways to Ignite your Translation Career.
Join now. 


Everybody knows that a translator is responsible for an adequate fiction translation. Proper fiction translation is the indicator of the translator’s talent, which shows the accumulation of all the background information about the writer and expresses all the beauty of the source language into the target one. A translator should be a good psychologist of the writer, understand his attitude to the novel and know the peculiarities of the target language. Adequate translation is not about word-to-word translation or ‘some translator’s thoughts on the subject of the novel’. Fiction translation shows the balance between understanding and the language structure. If no one assesses fiction adaptation for its adequacy, the readers will never learn if they read a good translation or a bad one.

What does the adequacy mean? How does it influence translation? Translation quality is determined with its adequacy or completeness. The adequacy stands for the correspondence of the target text to the source text, including the expressive means in translation.

Certain lexical and grammar elements of the source text can be translated with the various variants if these variants are suitable for the text creation. Separate phrases, sentences and paragraphs should be rendered with the knowledge of the whole source text context. Not only some phrases determine the target text translation, but also complete text comprehension defines some separate phrases. Adequate translation creates specific difficulties for a translator. A translator should correlate the target language and his text comprehension. If we believe that mentality thinking of all the people is the same, independently on the language, the translation will be performed in one way. If we stick to the point, that there are significant changes between the languages, the translation will be performed differently. Translation shows the mentality of the source language with the comprehensible methods of the target language.

For example, one translator has the determination to make his translation universally understandable. He uses some general notions, acceptable and known all over the world. However, the text may lose some specific features, which lead to the problems of the understanding not only the written text but also the text ‘between the lines’. Thus, the translator shows only one side of the translation. The text should be ‘adapted’ for a target language reader. The translator tries to smooth the text, and these developments decrease its quality as the text loses idiomaticity and authenticity.

Name translation always creates specific difficulty. Names characterise the country, where the events take place, the epoch, the time the book was written. Besides, the particular feature of the fiction translation is a characterisation of the cultural and temporal differences. The fiction translation reflects the culture, the time, the language and style of the author, his conditions of life. The writer uses particular phenomena, which create a unique atmosphere and characterise the time in the book. These realia describe only the source language culture and may have another meaning in the target language. When a translator does a universal translation with the understandable realia in both languages, and a reader may come to think the events in the book can happen in any other country. On the one hand, the translation may lose authenticity, though, on the other hand, the reader of the target language will understand some notions without particular reference to historical facts. However, even knowledge of the source text history will add more benefits to the translation.

When a translator does not have enough figurative means to translate the source text, he explains some notions or realia in the notes and comments. Sometimes the comments have additional particular information, though more frequently they sound like ‘annotations' to some historical facts and events. An explanation does not always mean adaptation. If a translator tries to find the analogous phrase, idiomatic expression in the context of the target language, the translation will be closer to author's intentions.

Sometimes a translator wants to preserve the author’s style and show it, with the help of specific word order, so he keeps the word order of the source text unchanged. Unfortunately, it produces a reverse effect, the sentences become long, hard to understand and the target text is getting clumsy. Notwithstanding, that the reader perceives everything written, the reader ‘feels' the text is not native. Word by word translation makes the novel even more complicated to comprehend.

The translator may pay attention to each detail in the process of translation, though sometimes the translation may sound too verbal. There should be more expressive and implicit meanings. Sometimes translators use transliteration, transcription, semantic modification, description, comments, and mixed translation to escape problems with the non-standard lexical units.

When a lexical unit meaning in the target language does not coincide with the meaning in the source text, a translator should be very careful with the definition in the target text. Some confusion may cause different associations of the source language.

Grammar transformations can be used in the structure of the source language when the original text contains differences in comparison with the possible construction of the target language. Translators use such transformations in case of the verb forms and grammar units change. Such conversions are necessary to produce the required effect in the target text. A translator may substitute the structure of the sentence, may use antonymic translation, zero translation (omittance of the translation in the target language text in order to keep the context) to preserve the author’s intentions.

Stylistic techniques of the translation help to mark individual units in the source text. Some stylistic groups can not be translated, as they reflect a unique author's style. Some of them can be converted partially, only a small part of the stylistic units can be rendered without any change in the target language. It means that adequate text creation is closely connected with the change or substitution of some stylistic groups. For example, the image can be replaced; the word order can be modified, figure speech may be changed, word-to-word translation can be used to achieve the goal.

Notwithstanding methods, language competence, a thorough and systematic approach to the translation, any translation may contain some mistakes of different types.

Evaluate different types of mistakes is possible only by comparing the translation with the source text. However, this comparison can show the reason, which led to the wrong interpretation – whether the translator fails to understand the word in the source text, or chooses the wrong word in the target text. Therefore the translator should solve this problem himself, how to escape such miscomprehensions. Similar mistakes lower the translation quality. It is possible to single out some general issues of text misunderstanding, caused by the following reasons:

  1. Languages structure differences;
  2. Meaning differences;
  3. Linguistics means;
  4. Background history differences.

Each language has its structure, different metaphoric expressions, idiomaticity. Sometimes these mistakes are connected with the translator´s purposes. Some translators believe that they should strictly follow the rules of the source text and express it in the target text. They keep the word order, and they choose the most similar in the phrases. However, the words are used in a figurative sense, or even in a satirical meaning. A translator should know the context of the book, how it is related to the writer's circumstances and conditions of life.  

The main translator’s function is to comprehend the text of another culture, evaluate comprehensibility and express it with the means of the target language. The translator should be able to represent the ideas of the source language with the reasonable and correct methods of the target language.

The quality of the translation is determined with the following factors:

a)         how translator understands the text

b)         his knowledge of cross-cultural differences.

The main task of the translation is to preserve the meaning of the source text and reflect it in the target text. The more difficult the novel for understanding in the source language, the harder it is to perform an adequate translation of high quality. Only correct knowledge of the source text can help us to create the universal image, which the author has wanted to show.

Translation mistakes can be differentiated as speech error and functional errors. Speech errors can be detected in the structure of the language and in the norm of the speech. They show the violations of the speech and verbal rules. Functional errors cover so-called deviations of the source text, influencing the sense of the unit. These deviations are divided into ‘distortions' and ‘discrepancies' depending upon the gravity of the mistake. Distortions are the mistakes in the text, which provide the wrong information of the source text in the target text. Some problems can appear if the meaning of the target text is not clear. Such deviations can be connected with the transliteration in the translation when some phenomenon of the source language is transferred into the target language without any additional information. For example, some historical persons of one country can be unknown in another country, the names of some shops, when translator does not provide extra information to the reader or doesn’t make a comment. Usually, descriptive translation helps to solve this difficulty.

Speech errors do not distort the meaning of the source text, as the reader can understand the phrase and can reconstruct a correct version of the lexical and grammar forms. It may happen when a translator works with the native language as a target one. Typically, there are mistakes, arising out of violations of the speech norms. Word-to-word translation and imitation of the original text, mechanical transfer of some peculiarities of the source language should be translated partially. Though sometimes the author deliberately makes speech errors in the source language to characterise the situation in the text.

Lexical and grammar analysis of the translation will help to single out specific difficulties in interpretation and find out the ways out to avoid them. First of all, translation means should be selected not on the base of the equivalent, but its situational equivalent. The intention of the source text plays a very significant role and should be understood correctly. All languages differ, this is why a translator should consider the structure of the language with the help of which he's going to express the idea of the source language. Word-to-word translation will lead to the imitation of the source text. The more the translator knows about the types of mistakes, the better he will understand the possibilities to escape them.

Comparing some translations, it is quite natural, that any translation may contain some mistakes of different types. A translator should consider this to create an adequate interpretation, to preserve the source text meaning and reflect it in the target text. Sometimes translators use descriptive translation and generalisation in awkward situations, which help to indicate the intention of the source text. If some phrases are not clearly understood in the source language, this ambiguity is preserved in the target text with the possible means of the target language. When the source text contains tropology, the translator may lose the right intentions and distort the source text because of the wrong comprehension. For example, when some words are used in a figurative sense. While a translator “softens” and replaces the word, he changes the image of the source text and loses it in the target language. Or the opposite situation. When the image is weak in the source text, and in the translation some extra colour is added. The balance between the original version and the translation can be lost. The translator should select the words very thoroughly to let the reader understand the text correctly. Sometimes translations make the target text somewhat difficult to understand. Translators have a lot of sources to keep this balance: transpositions, breaking the sentences, substitution of some original forms. If we follow the principles of the source language, we can run a to do a word-to-word translation. The changes in the target text are justified.

Each translator has his understanding and views upon the novel. It is possible to decrease the mistakes, starting with the cross-cultural concepts up to differences in stylistics. These are two main issues, which form the entire piece of work. To emphasise the original text structure and following the author's style will make the target text resemble the original. Following translation adequacy balance is essential. Translation adequacy requires a precise and accurate transfer of the meaning from the source language into the target one.

Mistakes in the translation can be classified in several groups of translator competence. When a translator misunderstands some words and finds it difficult to get the text, can not comprehend the logical structure of the book. When a translator does not understand the difference of the language structure and speech and does not know how to transform phrases into the target language. Sometimes a translator may misunderstand the author and his intentions and may fail to identify the author's evaluation in the text of the source language. Finally, a translator may choose the wrong word due to insufficient competence in the target language.

Any translation is a responsibility because a translator creates his text in the eye of a target- language reader. In the first place, the translator should show the way the author understands the novel. A translator should make some preliminary analysis to ‘feel' the text. The text should be equally understandable and equally vague and complicated as the writer planned it to be. This principal task of a translator is to choose exact words and stylistic means in the target text to show all the beauty of the source text.

The main task of the translation is to reflect peculiarities of the source language with the possible ‘techniques' of the target language. In my article, I pay a lot of attention to lexical and stylistic analysis of the translation, because in combination they help to create an adequate translation. If any translator uses some special sources of the target language, even if it does not coincide with the structure of the source text, it can solve or even avoid some translation problems. When a translator takes into account the whole context of the novel he is translating from the point of the source text, he will create an adequate translation. Besides, source language understanding plays a major role. The better the translator understands the source language and the author’s language, the more natural for him to create the translation, which could be an adequate version of the original book.

Log in

Log in