How much Art is there in the Translation?

Would you consider a translation process a piece of art?

If the translation is an art, is a translator an artist?

And if the answers are yes, how creative a translator should be?


It seems as if we, people, have the intuition about what is beautiful, pleasant and esthetical. 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 given element of the construction doesn’t match our ideas of aesthetics, we feel uncomfortable and frustrated.


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


The “organic” sentence has to sound natural, logical, and its elements need to be consistent. This way, the translation, the “manipulation” of words of a given language, with the purpose to transform them into logical and beautiful equivalent sentences in another language is really art.


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.


Every language consists of fine nuances of meaning and its own overwhelming logic about the way words connect and “vibrate” together. However, phrases in any language can be translated in a way that the target language can reflect the exact idea, so it sounds natural and nice.


The world of art history translation can often be highly complex 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.


There are people who believe that translation is a type of art. Evidently, this process takes years of experience but once it is mastered, it can be most exciting for a translator. Literally, 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.


What a translator is doing when they are translating, is actually interpreting a message, figuring out what it means in one language and then they are translating it into another language. Most of the time translation is not done literally. There are some words that translate literally like numbers and maybe some health and safety processes and procedures. The second you get outside of a process or a procedure things are not literal anymore.


Essentially, translation is an art because the translator is trying to figure out what is meant in one language and then is basically painting a picture of what is meant in the other language. When you are dealing with different cultures and ethnicities, you are really translating a message and what is intended from the speaker into the new culture with now adding on a layer of cultural sensitivity.


There are actually a few times where he was saying some things that the interpreter just could not translate what he said because it would be an absolute offense to a person of the other language. So the translator would have had to creatively come 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 is being translated before interpreting the message. A translator really 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.


That’s why we believe that translation is an art because it gives a translator the opportunity to paint the picture of what they believe is the meaning of this other one. And this is subjective, many translators may translate a message differently. Sometimes is very difficult to even understand what people mean in a native language and never mind translating it into another language. Translating something is definitely a creative process and the more we understand the writer’s intended words what they really want to say the easier would be to paint that picture in the target language. But it still requires an enormous amount of creativity because some things just don’t translate.  You sometimes have 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 actually intended.


Because we are creating a new work every time we work on a translation, something that is based on the original text, but which is a wholly different thing. No matter how closely we try to stick to the original in tone, intent, and content, we cannot help but create aspects of it – and thus we are engaged in a creative work.

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