Approaches of Translation: Literal Translation & Free Translation

Literal translation and free translation are two basic translating skills. Proper use of the two approaches can make your translation better.

Literal translation refers to a method to render of text from one language to another by following closely the form of the source language. Definitely different from mechanical translation (word for word translation), literal translation shall provide fluent and accurate translation that is easily comprehended by the readers of the target language.

Free translation is a method to deliver the intended meaning of the source text without paying attention to details such as syntax, style and so on of the original text. Free translation is suitable in case the translation is difficult to be understood or accepted by the readers or the translation seems not as attractive or powerful as the original text by approach of literal translation.

People often get confused between literal and free translation. Moreover, they get confused about how to handle different types of translation. Which type of translation should be used. It depends solely on your target audience.

Keep in mind that the audience that is reading your text might be monolingual. Different from a translator, they will not check the source to help them understand the translated text. Literal translations are really difficult to read and comprehend.

It is because when the translator sticks too much to the source then it loses the intended message; however it is recommended to use literal translation when your document is full of technical terminologies. 

On the other hand, if your content is generic then you should avoid literal translation and should go for free translation. It will help your content sound natural in another language. To retain the original essence of the translation is the work of the skilled translator. If you follow some steps then you can provide your audience with seamless free translation

  • Do not copy the text like sentence structure and punctuation word to word from the source language.
  • Get a pause using the translation task and read the translation aloud to feel how natural the translation sounds.

Just like other things, it is very important to maintain a balance in translation. The good translation must portray two things

  • Depict a clear picture of the original text.
  • A sound text without any grammatical mistakes

Accurate translation means conveying the right message despite changing the order of the words and sentences. The translated text should sound like it is written for you.

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Let’s take UI translation for example.

Are you sure you want to permanently delete the selected user(s)?

确定删除所选用户?

确定要永久删除选定的用户吗?

When shipped from the factory, no passwords are set.

刚出厂的计算机没有设置密码。

计算机出厂时,并未设置密码。

When the Security Indicator flashes, enter the password and press Enter button.

当 Security Indicator 闪动时,输入密码然后再按一下“Enter”键。

当安全指示灯闪亮时,输入密码,然后按 Enter 键。

Double-click this icon to test your double-click settings. If this icon doesn’t change, adjust your settings using the grid above.”

双击图标进行测试。如果图标没有变化再使用网格调整设置。

双击此图标测试双击设置。如果此图标不发生变化,则使用以上网格调整设置。

Read Also: Literal Translation & Free Translation (Continued)

When translating the UI strings, generally you can follow the syntax the source text and get the accurate and acceptable translation. Please note such pronouns as “you”, “your”, “we”, etc. have not to be translated in most cases.

Besides UI strings, literal translation is also suitable for mechanical, pharmaceutical and even commercial materials:

Paper mills normally cook native (unmodified) or modified starch onsite to prepare it for use.

造纸厂通常现场制备原(未改性)淀粉或改性淀粉以备使用。

纸厂通常会在现场蒸煮原淀粉(即未改性淀粉)或改性淀粉以备使用。

In modern paper plants, automation is used to ensure consistency and cost-effectiveness.

在现代造纸车间,采用自动化设备能确保一致性和成本经济效益。

在现代造纸车间,采用自动化控制系统,以确保生产的稳定性和控制成本。

In papermaking, the coating working station is a circulation system that pumps the homogenized coating colours from the storage tanks in the coating colour kitchen through filters in the processing tanks and then to the coating head.

在造纸过程中,涂层工作站是将均质涂料从涂料配置室的储存罐中通过处理罐的过滤器抽送到涂层喷头的一种循环系统。

在造纸过程中,上料工作站是将分散均匀的涂料,从涂布厨房储存槽、通过工作槽的过滤器、泵送到涂布头的循环系统。

Wrapping up

Whether it is the literal translation or free translation, you have to opt for the translation process according to your translation requirements. CCJK has a team of native translators that are also subject matter experts in their field. If you require a literal translation or a free translation, you can get the services from proficient translators at a fast turnaround time and affordable rates.

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