We keep on emphasizing the importance of handling two different kinds of language properly while we are translating thus literal translation and free translation are always taken into consideration. And which way of translation is better? There is no determinate answer.

But, the target language must express what the source language means, and distortion is not allowed. As two main forms of translation, Literal translation and free translation are not repulsive; on the contrary, they are complementary.

Literal translation can express exactly what the original language tells, while free translation expresses the general idea of the original, and can be easily accepted by readers. Today I am going to talk about what is free translation and how to use this method properly.

What is free Translation?

Sometimes known as “Creative Translation”, free translation is a way of translating without paying attention to the details while deleting or adding content to the original meaning on the basis of keeping the general meaning in order to be fluent and natural. Free translation requires translators to be creative and have extensive knowledge about the cultures of both the source language and target language. This kind of translation is always used in marketing, advertising, and sometimes in literature.

Free Translation of Words

With five thousand years of civilization, China has a long history and profound culture. There are always something unique that can’t be expressed by English properly. If we use free translation, we can creat a batter result for the others to understand, for instance: “四合院” as “courtyard with houses on the four sides” or “Chinese courtyard houses”, “北京烤鸭” as “roasted Beijing duck” and “太和殿” as “Hall of Supreme Harmony”. This relies on our daily accumulation and we must read as much as possible.

Free Translation of Sentences

There are some sentences that we can’t just translate literally, usually, it would have a bad effect and be hard for the readers to understand the original meaning. At this time, we should think seriously about how to express the meaning in another easy-to-accept way. Here are the examples:

Our son must go to school. He must break out of the pot that holds us in.

Literal translation: 我们的儿子一定得上学,他一定得打破这个把我们关在里面的罐子。

Free translation: 我们的儿子一定要上学,一定要出人头地。

LADY GAGA and MADONNA wow the crowd

Literal translation: LADY GAGA 和 MADONNA 让观众惊叹

Free translation: LADY GAGA 和 MADONNA 让观众眼前一亮

The use of idioms

Idioms can reflect a nation just like a mirror. As a special form of language, idioms carry a large amount of cultural information such as history, geography, religion, custom, nationality, psychology, etc., and therefore idioms are closely related to culture. The general Chinese view of idioms is that it expresses the essence of the language, adding beauty and color to the sentences by virtue of its richness and originality. Here are the examples:

Of course, Swarovski was still involved in the costumes.

当然,Swarovski 一如既往地参与了服装设计。

To create yet more costume twists, Phillips also worked with designers such as Desi Santiago, Erik Halley and Michael Schmidt.

为了创作更多别具一格的服装, Phillips 亦与 Desi Santiago、Erik Halley 和 Michael Schmidt 等设计师保持着合作关系。

As we see, the word “一如既往” and “别具一格” in described sentences commendably express the original meaning, while makes the sentences literary. But use too many variations or too much florid language at the expense of the beauty and simplicity of Chinese is not advisable.

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