Translating is not simply a matter of taking one word in one language and putting it into another. You also have to take into account the fact that what one culture or nation sees as good may be seen as bad by a different group. What do I mean by this?

Well, one prime example is happening right now. Some of you may have noticed that we have a layer of white stuff on the floor at the moment. It’s called snow. It’s the reason it took you 6 hours to get to work today. And, with the exception of 5-year olds throwing snowballs, most of us are already pretty fed up with it. But not everyone.

My sister in law is South African, and, not surprisingly, when she was growing up, she didn’t see much of the snow. This means that she really enjoys snowfall, because she associates it with novelty and pleasure. In comparison, most Northern Europeans associate it with inconvenience and cold. (In addition, most of the rest of Northern Europe also laughs at our utter incompetence when dealing with more than two flakes of it, but that’s another story). So, how do you translate the sentence “I groaned when I saw 10 inches of snow on the floor”? Not everyone would groan.

Another example would be the tradition in Western culture of celebrating victory by awarding the winner champagne. Although not as old a tradition as some (most notably champagne companies) would have you believe, it is nevertheless seen as a simple connection in our culture.Success=Champagne. However, in other cultures, champagne, being alcohol, is more associated with illegality than success. When Formula 1 expanded into the Middle East, the race winner received a bottle of a sparkling fruit juice-style drink instead. So, again, translating the sentence “The winner got the obligatory bottle of champers” is not necessarily as easy as looking up the word for champagne, especially if the winner would go to prison the moment he accepted his prize.

Finally, what do you do if the language you’re translating into simply doesn’t have an equivalent word for the word you’re translating? Many languages only have one word to cover the colours blue and green, which makes describing a set of snooker balls more challenging.

So, translating is about more than just learning lists of words for school test. You also need to get to know the people and the culture as well. Here at Wolfestone we work exclusively with professionals who have done just that. To utilise their skills, contact us at sales@wolfestone.co.uk.

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