Style and Stylistic Accommodation When Translating

August 20th, 2009
Style refers to a lot of things, but for the intents and purposes of this article, we'll only be focusing on the meaning that's most related to translation and linguistics. Generally speaking, style refers to a person's method of expressing himself through the written word. At its broadest sense, it refers to presenting yourself using words, which includes concepts such as clarity, grace, and many other intangible factors that separate bad writing from good writing. Precision and economy is of great importance to proper writing style as well, which aids in the abovementioned grace and clarity qualities. Simply put, style refers to the form and format of writing that's distinguished from, say, actual content and meaning. In other words, it's how you write, as opposed to what you write. In terms of professional translation, style would probably seem like a second-priority concern since the emphasis of translation has always been on context, faithfulness, methodical adaptation, and proper interpretation of the source text's content. Reasons for Accommodating Style with Translation On that note, translation is defined as reproducing the message of the source language text into a target language document by coming up with the closest natural interpretation possible, first in terms of context and then in terms of style. Since that definition includes a mention of style (most other definitions don't), it at least shows that style is still a factor when it comes to professional translation. More to the point, there's a reason why the ancient Chinese referred to the translator as the "go-between" or "matchmaker"; translation is a channel by which both parties will be able to fully understand each other through the limits of each other's languages. Any translation service worth its salt knows that human translation is equal parts "faithful rendering of a text's original meaning" and "adaptation of text to the culture of the client". The latter includes modifying your translation to suit the writing style of the target language of your target audience. How to Accommodate Style with Translation Most translation services and language interpreters value style alongside substance because it's one of the considerations they make when adapting a text from one language to another; i.e., localization. In order for your human translation to not sound like a machine translation, you have to emulate the style of the target language together with the meaning of the source text. A translator's job is to identify translation disparities and seek to resolve it via pragmatic and stylistic adaptations. A true professional translation expert should not only be proficient in two languages; he should also be knowledgeable about two cultures. Cultural vision adds context, and writing style differs from one language to another. In order to adapt your translation's faithful meaning to the style of another language, you need to mediate between cultures (which includes socio-political structures, moral systems, and ideologies) in order to overcome stylistic incompatibilities that stand in the way of communicating the meaning of the source text.

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