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The study of proper principle of translation is termed as translation theory. This theory, based on a solid foundation on understanding of how languages work, translation theory recognizes that different languages encode meaning in differing forms, yet guides translators to find appropriate ways of preserving meaning, while using the most appropriate forms of each language. Translation theory includes principles for translating figurative language, dealing with lexical mismatches, rhetorical questions, inclusion of cohesion markers, and many other topics crucial to good translation.

Basically there are two competing theories of translation. In one, the predominant purpose is to express as exactly as possible the full force and meaning of every word and turn of phrase in the original, and in the other the predominant purpose is to produce a result that does not read like a translation at all, but rather moves in its new dress with the same ease as in its native rendering. In the hands of a good translator neither of these two approaches can ever be entirely ignored.

Conventionally, it is suggested that in order to perform their job successfully, translators should meet three important requirements; they should be familiar with:

  • the source language
  • the target language
  • the subject matter

Based on this premise, the translator discovers the meaning behind the forms in the source language and does his best to produce the same meaning in the target language - using the forms and structures of the target language. Consequently, what is supposed to change is the form and the code and what should remain unchanged is the meaning and the message. (Larson, 1984)

One of the earliest attempts to establish a set of major rules or principles to be referred to in literary translation was made by French translator and humanist Étienne Dolet, who in 1540 formulated the following fundamental principles of translation ("La Manière de Bien Traduire d’une Langue en Aultre"), usually regarded as providing rules of thumb for the practicing translator:

The translator should understand perfectly the content and intention of the author whom he is translating. The principal way to reach it is reading all the sentences or the text completely so that you can give the idea that you want to say in the target language because the most important characteristic of this technique is translating the message as clearly and natural as possible. If the translation is for different countries besides Mexico, the translator should use the cultural words of that country. For example if he/she has to translate ”She is unloyal with her husband” in this country it can be translated as “Ella le pone los cuernos” but in Peru it can be translated as “Ella le pone los cachos”. In this case it is really important the cultural words because if the translator does not use them correctly the translation will be misunderstood.

The translator should have a perfect knowledge of the language from which he is translating and an equally excellent knowledge of the language into which he is translating. At this point the translator must have a wide knowledge in both languages for getting the equivalence in the target language, because the deficiency of the knowledge of both languages will result in a translation without logic and sense. For example if you translate the following sentence “Are you interested in sports?” as “¿Estás interesado en deportes?” the translation is wrong since the idea of this question in English is “¿Practicas algún deporte?” 

The translator should avoid the tendency to translate word by word, because doing so is to destroy the meaning of the original and to ruin the beauty of the expression. This point is very important and one of which if it is translated literally it can transmit another meaning or understanding in the translation.

For example in the sentence.- “In this war we have to do or die”, if we translate literally  “En esta guerra tenemos que hacer o morir” the message is unclear. The idea is, (.) “En esta guerra tenemos que vencer o morir.”

The translator should employ the forms of speech in common usage. The translator should bear in mind the people to whom the translation will be addressed and use words that can be easily understood. Example. “They use a sling to lift the pipes” if the translation is to be read by specialists we would translate it “Utilizan una eslinga para levantar la tubería”. If the text  is to be read by people who are not specialists we would rather translate it “Utilizan una cadena de suspension para levantar los tubos”.

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