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Translation: A Trap for Translators

We all know how important a language is for communication. It plays a vital role in every one’s life irrespective of caste, creed, culture, etc. However, language is not just a medium for communication. It is also a powerful instrument for the expression of thoughts and feelings of one’s mind. In the modern globalized world, language has also become globalized and hence translation has become very important. Various translation services are provided by the translating agencies so that different languages can be translated into English, to reach people across the globe.

Translation of Language:

Translation is not just the mechanical replacement of words into another language words. It also involves a transfer of culture, feelings of the speakers and also the sensitivity to language content. Therefore, translators should not only have accuracy and clarity, but also be impartial. If not then, language can also be a weapon of mass destruction or thought manipulation. Unfortunately, there is no user manual which comes with a language. We, our self has to be conscious while using it more specific while translating any language. Many important thoughts, expressions, meaning might get lost in translation.

Traps for translators:

While translating a language a translator might face various problems as translation is not at all an easy task. There are many pitfalls for the translators in this field. This article is a search for those pitfalls and problems. Some important problems are discussed below:

Different Structure for Different Language: Traps for translators:

Every language has their predefined language structure which contains verbs, nouns, pronouns, in a particular order. In English, a simple sentence order will contain subject, verb and object, for example, He likes dancing. But other languages like Arabic, subject pronoun becomes a part of the verb which also determines the voice of the sentence. Again, Farsi language follows the structure of subject, object and then the verb. Such differences in language form a trap for the translators.

Translation of Compound Words:

Compound words are those which are formed by combining two words. However, the overall meaning might not be similar to the meaning of its component words. Some compound words directly refer to the meaning like treetop, afternoon, etc. Some compound word only means half of its meaning like heavy smoker which means a person who smokes a lot, not a heavy person who smokes or time table which not at all means time on the table rather means the routine. Again, another type of compound word which have nothing to do with its component meaning like deadline, which has nothing to do with dead or line, it simply means the final time of submitting something. A translator might get trapped into these while translating as exact translation of these words are impossible because if one translates deadline directly into Hindi we will get ‘murda lakeer’ which has no meaning at all.

Ambiguous Words:

Ambiguous words are those words which have different meanings. Its meaning is derived from its context. Words like bark, which might mean dogs barking, also tree’s bark, nails which means finger nails and also nails, jam also could mean traffic jam or also eating jam. While translating the translator should be aware of the context in which the words are used or else he might get trapped.

Untranslatable Words:

Almost every languages have certain words which are non translatable, like in Hindi, we have Prasad, Aarti, Bindi. In Bengali some words like sheal nora, balloon chaki, nyaka, etc these words are non translatable. These words, one has to make people understand by the context as direct translations of these words are not possible.

Translating Idioms:

For native speaker, it is very easy to understand the phrases and idioms of their language, but for the translators to translate in other language is not at all an easy task like a ‘piece of cake’ can’t be translated exactly words to words as it doesn’t mean cake’s piece. Similarly, in Hindi we have ‘naach na jane aangan tera’ can’t be translated directly. Here, it is essential for the translators to take the help of the dictionary or other helps.

Expressing Slang:

The problem with the slang words is same to that of the idioms as they are used in the typical colloquial language and is hard to translate. Like in Hindi we have ‘chugalkhor’ means a person who can’t be trusted. In Bengali, ‘jachhetai’ means worse. In English, ‘couch potato’ means a lazy person. Such words are impossible to translate and therefore have to be left alone while translating.


While faced with such problems translators have to transfer the correct meaning instead of focusing on the accuracy of the words as this type of translation can be done even by machines. One can always add footnotes to explain the meaning below if faced with untranslatable words. Also the translator must have adequate knowledge about the target language and can take help of dictionary, thesaurus and translation services provided by various agencies instead of getting lost in translation.