We are assuming that because a language is composed of words, grammar, and punctuation, that a software acting as English to German translators, for example, should know syntax.
All bilingual people know however, that it is impossible. We have tried it. As English to German translator, I can’t begin to tell you how often I had to witness the meaning of a word being used wrong, causing considerable embarrassment and even a hostile reaction. Machine language translation does not understand hyperbole, jokes, sarcastic connotations, and even though there are existing software programs understanding intensity, and emphasis, they do not translate the words into another language very well or even adequately. Just imagine asking a computer to see an item you have designed for marketing in the Internet.
Take a look at the results after being translated into another language by a computer program. Can you even imagine what might happen to your costly and time intensive copy-writing?
How great it would be to have software which would actually do this! Unfortunately, it’s a lot more difficult than we can imagine, and no one has been able come even close. Computers don’t understand what is meant by what is being said.
Language is how people express themselves, the fluctuation of the meanings and the underlying insinuations of polite conversations.
Language is indeed an art. We can say things without “really” saying what we would like to say, but can’t because we would be impolite. We have all been in situations who called for “linguistic finesse”, or just great care.
As if it weren’t difficult enough, imagine you are in a business where finding exactly the right meaning of a word is priceless would you leave it up to a computer to build your business? Computer translation is okay when you are traveling and you want to ask for directions.
As long as people from different parts of the world have been communicating, there has been a need for translators. As globalization has brought us into greater contact with each other, the need for translators has grown and so have the various misconceptions and myths about translation.
Translators must know more than just the vocabulary and grammar of a language. Translation is much more than writing, so the understanding of translation theory a necessity. One needs to understand the problems and issues that are inherent in translating languages.
For example, an English to German translator would need to know when it is important that the cultural elements of the original text from an English-speaking country needed to be transferred to the translated version and when they should not be. Different approaches need to be taken when translating technical texts and legal documents, as opposed to philosophical writings and fiction.
One could imagine that translating a romance novel would require a different ‘touch’ than an internet-marketing-sales letter and opt-in page.
Translators are often specialized in a particular subject area. They should have an intimate knowledge of that field. Medical translators, for example, develop a large vocabulary of medical as well as biological terms and have an understanding of human anatomy and medical procedures. A translator for the Internet Marketing genre would need to have extensive knowledge in copy-writing.
A translator who doesn’t understand what the meaning is of what he or she is translating is doomed to produce a very poor translation.