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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Translation Theory  »  Target language and the need for being native

Target language and the need for being native

By Quamrul Islam | Published  09/13/2009 | Translation Theory | Recommendation:
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Quamrul Islam
inglés a bengalí translator
Miembro desde Sep 21, 2009
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Translators are often required to be native speakers of the target language, and this requirement is supported by a number of strong reasons as well. Without first hand experience of the target language, the rendition has a good chance of being completely marred by a lack of proper syntactical, or even semantic, representation, not to speak of cultural or social elements. Apart from a few European languages (especially Romance languages like French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese), which have great similarities in grammatical styles and etymological forms, most other languages differ considerably from each other, and particularly from the major languages.
The necessity becomes more obvious when it comes to translating into Arabic, Chinese, the Indian languages, or any other such language that incorporates a great deal of cultural context. Unless a person has spent a very long time with the target language society, it seems quite difficult for him or her to convey the exact meaning to the community. This also holds good to a great extent in translation of materials for minority language communities.
An effective communication depends largely on the efficiency of the overall impact on the target population, and thus, a communication gap would be created if the translated material fails to convey the full sense to the audience. As a consequence, addressing some vital issue might often get difficult on the sender side, or the situation might leave the people at the receiving end confused.
Keeping aside the written dilemma, the spoken words also have a great challenge to face. Interpreters in action undergo hectic brainstorming: receiving audio, processing and transforming it, and producing the transformed audio in the target language. They do these all at once, desperately running against time. The additional task of translating the appropriate cultural context would be the one final straw, leaving them completely exhausted. Hence it appears to be wise to select interpreters from the target group, in a bid to convey the message more successfully.
Coming back once again to the realm of written translation, what if the target language is English, the all-pervasive conqueror in an age of globalization? Should the translator be always a native English or American person when translating to English from any language? Or alternatively, will an English-speaking person be all the time capable to creep into the innermost feelings of the Oriental mind and society when translating their writings?
Down the ages, nations have treated English with different seriousness. European nations have always been strong and independent enough to uphold and foster their own respective languages that are no less rich and powerful than English. So they paid little attention to the English language, which had an insignificant role to play in Continental Europe.
On the other side of the globe, the Indian sub-continent (now split into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) was ruled by the British for as long as about 200 years. During the colonial rule, indigenous people have well adapted themselves not only to language of the English nation, but to their other aspects as well, including the legal system, trade and commerce, education system etc. After the end of colonial rule in 1947, these countries have continued the use of English as a principal lingua franca, and as a result, an English or American traveler will find someone to communicate more easily in urban areas of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan than in other parts of Asia. More and more people are leaning towards the English world, due mainly to the rapid globalization process, and largely to the increasing media and internet access.
With this background in mind, is it not possible that when translating into English from Hindi, Bengali or Urdu, a South Asian would be able to show similar expertise as an English native? South Asian languages have a very complicated grammar, and are enriched with numerous idiomatic or ornamental usages. Hence an English speaker should also find it difficult to get to the true meaning or sense of the source text.
IMHO, translators who are native speakers of Hindi, Bengali, Urdu or other South Asian languages are equal performers as Westerners, as regards translating into English from their respective languages. The idea that translators should be native speakers of the target language does not seem to be appropriate and applicable here.

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