This article is about language translation. For other uses, see Translation (disambiguation).
“Translator” redirects here. For other uses, see Translator (disambiguation).
For article translations in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Translation.
Not to be confused with Transliteration.
Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-languagetext. The English language draws a terminological distinction (not all languages do) between translating (a written text) and interpreting (oral or sign-language communication between users of different languages); under this distinction, translation can begin only after the appearance of writing within a language community.
A translator always risks inadvertently introducing source-language words, grammar, or syntax into the target-language rendering. On the other hand, such “spill-overs” have sometimes imported useful source-language calques and loanwordsthat have enriched target languages. Translators, including early translators of sacred texts, have helped shape the very languages into which they have translated.
Because of the laboriousness of the translation process, since the 1940s efforts have been made, with varying degrees of success, to automate translation or to mechanically aid the human translator. More recently, the rise of the Internet has fostered a world-wide market for translation services and has facilitated “language localization“.
The English word “translation” derives from the Latin word translatio, which comes from trans, “across” + ferre, “to carry” or “to bring” (-latio in turn coming from latus, the past participle of ferre). Thus translatio is “a carrying across” or “a bringing across”: in this case, of a text from one language to another.
The Romance languages and the remaining Slavic languages have derived their words for the concept of “translation” from an alternative Latin word, traductio, itself derived from traducere (“to lead across” or “to bring across”, from trans, “across” + ducere, “to lead” or “to bring”).
The Ancient Greek term for “translation”, μετάφρασις (metaphrasis, “a speaking across”), has supplied English with “metaphrase” (a “literal“, or “word-for-word”, translation)—as contrasted with “paraphrase” (“a saying in other words”, from παράφρασις, paraphrasis). “Metaphrase” corresponds, in one of the more recent terminologies, to “formal equivalence“; and “paraphrase”, to “dynamic equivalence“.
Strictly speaking, the concept of metaphrase—of “word-for-word translation”—is an imperfect concept, because a given word in a given language often carries more than one meaning; and because a similar given meaning may often be represented in a given language by more than one word. Nevertheless, “metaphrase” and “paraphrase” may be useful as ideal concepts that mark the extremes in the spectrum of possible approaches to translation.[a]