How Much Art Is There in Translation


The concept of translation resembles a beautiful fabric that weaves together cultures, languages, and emotions. Do we consider it an art form? Definitely yes. The art of translation makes the translator an artist, who wields words, idioms, and cultural concepts to regenerate a masterpiece in the desired languages. However, the question that often clicks our mind is, “How much art is there in Translation?” or “Is translation the mere conversion of words from one language to another or it is a nuanced art that requires a creative touch?”. If that is so, then translators must be called artists with unique translation skills. 


Humans have intuitive skills for recognizing beauty, pleasure, and aesthetics. Whether it is about music or lyrics, we unintentionally evaluate its elements like rhythm, rhyme, diction, tone, movements, style, and millions of other factors that make us define and classify everything we see, hear, and read. If a part of construction differs from our ideas of construction, we feel uncomfortable and frustrated.

Translation as an Art

People might consider translation, a mere mechanical act in which words are converted from one language to another. However, they are unaware that there’s more to this process. The translation is an art hidden within its intricate folds. 


Languages become complex when we dive into their minute details. They possess general terms and then some unique terms that cannot be translated easily without involving a sense of emotion with them. For instance, a delicate term in the Portuguese language “Saudade” represents “a feeling of longing; melancholy”. Another concept of the Japanese language “wabi-sabi” represents a worldview that finds beauty in imperfection. These and many other similar terms can certainly be not considered as just words, rather these are delicate emotions intertwined with culture. How would someone translate these untranslatable terms without losing these emotions? That’s where the art and creativity of translation shine. 


Translator as an Artist

In nature, a translator is an artist who paints the colors of words on the canvas of cultural context. Their art does not include only the accurate conversion of words but also the preservation of the original meaning of the text. This art requires skills and a lot of knowledge to represent itself in the best of forms. 


The translator must have deep knowledge and attention towards the way the words interact, how they sound about one another, and how the writing of a word in the context of a specific idea and theme leads to the use of another word, which in turn leads to using the third one and so on.


The “organic” sentence has to sound natural, and logical, and its elements need to be consistent. This way, the translation transforms phrases into logical and beautiful equivalent sentences in another language that represents the form of art. 


Another aspect that explains the concept of a translator as an artist is the translation of poetry. Poetry involves a delicate combination of rhythm and rhyme. Translating poetry goes beyond breaking language barriers; it’s the art of maintaining the original meaning of the text while encapsulating soul-stirring emotions. Every language consists of fine nuances of meaning and its overwhelming logic about the way words connect and “vibrate” together. However, professional translators translate the phrases into any language in a way that the target language can reflect the exact idea, so it sounds natural and nice.


How Much Art Is There in Translation


Every language out there follows certain rules that control articulation, the relationship between the elements, etc. It is quite possible that this connection and logical structure can be transferred to another language but it often happens that some items from the source cannot create a clear logical structure in the target language. That’s where the art of translation dives in. 


The practice of translation is an art in itself and the quantity of this art depends on the skill and knowledge of the translator. The art of translation involves the essence of empathy which allows the translator to dive deep into the core of both source and target languages, explore their unique shades, and artistically combine them to create a bridge of meaning. 


The world of art history translation is intricate and wide-ranging in content and draws on any number of other fields and disciplines, such as history, philosophy, politics, literature, economics, and even medicine. Many different text types and linguistic registers also demand a variety of approaches requiring translators to be flexible, conversant with stylistic norms in each area, and aware of the expectations of different types of audiences. 


The translation is a journey through the maze of cultures and only the enlightened ones can accomplish this task of encapsulating the uncontainable. Some people believe that translation is a type of art. Certainly, this process takes years of experience but once it is mastered, it can be the most exciting experience for a translator. What a translator does, is he/she converts a picture in one language and paints it with the words of the other language. This process takes creativity and imagination as the translator must think.


Essentially, translation is an art because the translator while dealing with different cultures and ethnicities translates a message and its intended meaning into the new language along with adding a layer of cultural sensitivity.


Sometimes the speaker uses certain words that when translated can offend the target audience. Therefore, the translator then uses his/her art and creatively comes out with a way to communicate his message to the target audience without slandering the person who was saying it. The translator has to reflect on the actual meaning and intentions of the person for whom the message is being translated before conveying the message to the target audience. A translator has to understand a message and then paint that picture in the target language so that it comes across with the intended meaning vs the literal meaning. 


Another reason to believe that translation is an art is that it allows a translator to paint the picture of what they believe is the meaning of a particular text. It’s a subjective interpretation, many translators may translate a message differently. Sometimes it gets difficult to even understand what people mean in a native language and never mind translate it into another language. 


Translating is certainly a creative process. The more we understand the writer’s intended words, the easier it gets to paint that picture in the target language. But it still requires an enormous amount of creativity because some terms cannot be just simply translated. The translator has to imagine the author of the source text as a character and imbue them with personality traits that come out in their tone and style. This is in some ways fiction, of course, and introduces the risk that the translator will insert their own beliefs or attitudes into a text in place of what was intended. But we need to consider the fact that translators work on thousands of projects, one after another. They do consider the original text but sometimes they are supposed to generate a completely different thing.  No matter how closely they try to stick to the original text in tone, intent, and content, they cannot help but create aspects of it – and thus they get engaged in a creative job.


Final Thought!

Thus, we can conclude that there is a tremendous amount of art in translation. The art that vibes with languages, cultures, and emotions and allows the translator to creatively convert messages and carry the essence of one world into the other. Translators, as artists, make sure that they retain the original meaning of the source text while using their artistry in the process. Next time whenever you read a translated work, stop, take a break, and contemplate the art of translation. 

Also, read Do Machines Have a High Success Rate in Translation?