Linguistic Equivalence in Translation

Equivalence will always be an important part of human translation as long as the latter exists. To be more specific, equivalence is one of the most important considerations of professional translation agents and freelance translation service experts alike when it comes to localizing a website or straightforwardly translating textual material.

Therefore, regardless of whether your professional translation agency is doing source oriented (to be as faithful to the original text as possible) or target-oriented (to make sure that the original message is translated in terms that the target audience will understand) translation, there's always some degree of equivalent exchange in different echelons of language.

The Importance of Equivalence

The factors that affect human translation the most are mostly the ones that are cultural or linguistic in nature. If these so-called parameters are as effective and accurate as expected, they will help streamline the translation process in a convincing and correct manner.

Ergo, translation services must begin striking a balance between language and culture in order to truly achieve translation equivalence. Doing so is, of course, easier said than done. Many scholars view translation through different contexts; there are those who base their studies on source-oriented theory, while there are others who emphasize targetoriented ideals above all else. In fact, the latter concept is currently being applied to the international online market in the form of adaptation and localization.

Then again, there are experts who'd rather strike a balance between text faithfulness and audience accommodation.

Theories of Equivalence

Jakobson's Equivalence Theories: R. Jakobson (1959) believes that equivalence comes in three types—intersemiotic (equivalence between sign systems), interlingual (equivalence between languages) and intralingual (equivalence within one language; paraphrasing or rewriting the same content). The second type, interlingual, is the one where translation equivalence is classified in.

Nida's Equivalence Theories: Conversely, E.A. Nida (1964) has written that there are two kinds of equivalence—formal equivalence (also known as formal correspondence) and dynamic equivalence. Formal equivalence is more concerned with word-for-word translation and content faithfulness, while dynamic equivalence is focused upon context and sense-for-sense adaptation.

The bottom line here is that all translation theories are somehow connected with the notion of equivalence in one way or another. As such, equivalence is an important philosophy when it comes to translation theory and its many different practical applications. Actually, both target and source languages include equivalent ranges from the least significant level (morphemes) to the most meaningful levels (sentences).

These levels of language are the ones that help strike the proper balance between too much faithfulness to the original text and too much pandering to the target audience. Accordingly, translation is all about creating a balance or equivalence between the original language document and the target language translation of the work.

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