This post was most recently updated on February 2nd, 2022
[A collaboration post with Day Translations – all thoughts are my own.]
Translation tasks require creativity on the part of the translator. The word creative means to have the skill and imagination to produce something new. Creative translation will make translators rack their brains to find just the right words.
When I first came across the word ‘translation’ I always thought that it was just about translating one source language word into one target language word. That’s totally wrong.
Translators don’t just transfer words between different languages – they have to be able to immerse themselves in two languages, two cultures, and two different worldviews. I can’t translate the English language just the way I translate the Indonesian language. This is a process that leads to a deep understanding of the source language (SL) and the target language (TL).
If you’re looking for something like word-for-word translation, technical translation is a good example. Certain tasks certainly require complete accuracy. Some people who don’t understand the difficulty of the translation process will think it’s just an easy process, like copy and pasting in google translate. But not all translations task are that simple.
Translators are faced with a complex task: transfer a specific text into a target language while maintaining its meaning. For example, in Indonesian we have proverb “sekali merengkuh dayung, dua tiga pulau terlampaui.” This one is literary translated into “by one stroke at the paddle, two and three islands have been passed”. The meaning of this proverb is doing multiple tasks in one go. In English, the idiomatic translation would be, “kill two birds with one stone”. Wow! Actually, this sounds rather violent to me.
After reading the example, you can see how significant the role of understanding language culture is in translation. Since writing is a creative act, and the process of translation will no doubt bring out some creative translation.
Translators connect the dots
Every language has its own concept and culture. Therefore, there are many dots to connect to achieve the best result, including language, understanding of cultural context, and an ability to read between the lines. Translators need to be able to dig into the text they are working on and consider all possible nuances before adapting the text for a new audience.
For example, there is a proverb “it’s no use crying over spilled milk”. Drinking milk has become most western people’s habit and part of their culture. To find out the equivalent in the target language, a translator should understand the meaning of this proverb. This proverb means something has already happened and there is no use to cry over the past as regret always comes last.
In Indonesian, the translator can simply translate this proverb into a sentence that means “something has already happened and is irreversible.” However, the translator can further examine whether there is any comparable proverb in the target language. As there is also the comparable one in Indonesian that is “nasi telah menjadi bubur”, literally translated as “The rice has become porridge”. The translator can use this as the equivalent translation.
You can see the difference in terms of concepts and culture between English and Indonesian. Indonesian people eat rice as their staple food; therefore Indonesians say “The rice has become porridge” instead of “it’s no use crying over spilled milk.”
It is good to find out the comparable proverb in the target language (if any) to present a more natural translation as naturalness in translation is important.
Translators have a personal translation style
Translators are creative. They elaborate and simplify information as part of creative translation, consequently instilling something personal in their work.
The final work is directly linked to the person who produced it as each translator approaches a text in a different way. Capable translators may not be good at creative translation. Creative translation requires the ability to understand and to express oneself well, while a sense of language is vital.
For example, translating a marketing document about a new product from English to Indonesian. First, the translators need to understand the distinguishing features and the selling points of the product is important. Other than that, they need the ability to write attention-grabbing copy: the ability to come up with some good copy without even using the source text. They will most likely find it difficult (even for me) to produce a creative translation.
The process of creative translation reflects not only the content of the source language but also its tone; this is the kind of versatility required of the translator.
Translators have an eye for branding
Translators are creative because they can help you communicate with your clients in target languages when it comes to branding for your business. This doesn’t come only in the translation text, but also in communicating your company’s name, colors, design, and user guides.
Translators can dig into your branding materials and translate the essence of your products in different languages and to specific geographic regions is invaluable. They can translate all the context to open your company to target markets around the world.
Professional translators need to go beyond the superficial meaning of a text. They have to immerse themselves in the creativity in translation in order to create a translation that effectively represents the meaning of the source text.