How Many Languages Do.Not.Have Different Words For Mother Abd Father Translating Words With Multiple Meanings

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Translating Words With Multiple Meanings

You can crash a car, the stock market, a party you are not invited to or cymbals together to make a sound. You can describe a flowering plant as a noxious weed or a more desirable garden flower. Maybe that plant is yellow, but your hair is blonde. You can create, but what do you mean when you use create? Build, build, raise, compose or imagine? When you use the word human, are you talking about a male, female, child, adult, bachelor, father mother, sister? Do you take your money to the bank or sit on the bank of a river? If you use the seemingly simple word “on”, how do you use it? Is it a preposition? Is it above or on the table? Maybe it’s an adverb where do you put your shoes? Or an adjective when you put the game in 20 minutes? The list is quite long for such a small word; you can be on call, on the roof, on cloud nine, on the edge, on the fire, specially or on the phone.

So many meanings, so little time, so many ways that the translation can be wrong. You cannot translate without reflecting on the meaning behind the words, the semantics. As we well know, translation based on one-to-one substitution is rarely acceptable and never acceptable in this case. Here are a few problems you may have encountered in your work and some ways to solve them.

Finding Meaning

The meanings of words evolve over time as language evolves. The British word, molasses, now means molasses, but its definition was not always “a thick syrup produced by refining sugar.” It is derived from the ancient Greek word for the bite of a wild animal. So, the meaning expanded to refer to any injury. From there, it turned into the medicine used to treat the wound. It later evolved to refer to the sweet substance added to medicine to make it taste better. The most recent version is one of these sweeteners that we all know – molasses. It seems a strange path to follow, but the previous meanings of the word motivated its metamorphosis. Words develop and change, gain meanings and lose them. What happens to a word in one language does not happen exactly the same way in another. This adds to the complexity and difficulties of translation.

When the Spanish talk about the fish swimming around, they use pez, but if they catch that fish and cook it for dinner, they call it pescado. In English, fish is fish, whether it’s part of fish and chips or in our lakes and streams.

Translators face these dreaded multiple meanings all the time; which is why they need to have a thorough understanding of both languages ​​and an ability to deal with differences in meaning that seem insignificant until they cross the other language, something that no computer can do. It’s job security for translators, really.

Paying attention to multiple meanings is particularly important in marketing and advertising where word play is often used and multiple meanings abound. Take the word “power”, a favorite with pharmaceutical marketers. Imagine a headline “The Power to Change Your Life,” accompanied by a photo of an electrical cord. In the title, power is meant to indicate strength. But power also means electricity. Now consider other languages. The Spanish use the colloquial alternative to electricity, or “luci”. Thus, the double meaning would be lost in translation if the original title is used, unless, of course, your company is a lighting company with such exceptional products, they really change people’s lives.

Be specific…or not

Multiple meanings must be treated with sematic criteria, both general and specific. By knowing the points of the general theme the translators travel in the right direction, which allows them to choose how different words will be used in the target language. For example, the word “run” is generally known to indicate a faster pace than jogging. But what if a river ran dry, or someone ran a company, or a meeting ran long, or someone ran a man. Did he hit him with a car, speak against him or hit him? Fortunately, most words and phrases don’t appear in isolation, so context clues can save the day.

Knowing whether the topic is generalized or industry specific can mean the difference between calling a bus, a vehicle to transport many people from point A to point B or a computer component in which cards can be placed.

Consider the Context

Being sensitive to the whole context, your audience and important details like regionalisms and culture is key. For example, “thank you” in Japanese depends on whether the person being thanked was obliged to do the service and how much effort they put into the service. In English we can say “thank you very much” or “thank you very much”, but in the immensely polite culture of Japan, these two words are much more intricate and convey much more meaning in different situations. That’s something to keep in mind.

An example of how an insensitive translation can have serious repercussions is the Cold War remark made in 1956 by Nikita Khrushchev, head of the Soviet Union, who complained about the United States. His off-handed remark was translated as “we will bury you”. This remark left an indelible and infamous mark on the minds of all Americans. Believing Communism to be a superior system to Capitalism and predicting that Communism would outlast Capitalism, Khrushchev actually said something along the lines of “Whether you like it or not, we will be present at your burial.” Assuming that the Russian word for “burial” could only be translated one way, as “we will bury you,” it needlessly raised tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, perhaps needlessly prolonging the Cold War.

So, you see, many meanings are still present and important. You know how to use it properly and be prepared for every instance that comes your way. And stay tuned for next month when we discuss how multiple meanings are by far the most important reason why computer translations fail (and will always fail) when it comes to accurate language translation.

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