"literal translation" "direct translation" "word-for-word translation"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by cheshire, Apr 6, 2007.

  1. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    What's the difference among "literal translation" "direct translation" "word-for-word translation"?
  2. vachecow Senior Member

    USA English
    Literal and word-for-word both mean that it is translated in such a way that it may not sound good but is gramatically correct.

    Im not sure about direct, I've never heard it used like this before.
  3. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I've heard direct translation quite a few times and have used it myself. I can't see much difference, if any, between that and "literal" however. Here is an example where both are used, clearly expressing the same idea in different ways:

    [SIZE=-1]"X might be the most literal translation, but what's the point unless you are learning Greek and want such a direct translation."[/SIZE]
  4. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    In the sentence Matching Mole provided, 'literal translation' could easily replace 'direct translation'. The other version was used to avoid word repetition.

    Literel translation, word-for-word translation, and direct translation are the same. An idiomatic translation is different in that the text is rendered into the other language so that it sounds right in the other language. I'm going to put just a small amount of Latin here just to show the difference between idiomatic translation and direct (word-for-word, literal) translation:

    [SIZE=-1]Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. <-- Latin text

    Gallia is all divided in parts three. <-- literal translation

    Gaul is divided into three parts. <-- idiomatic translation

    Gaul has three divisions. <-- [/SIZE][SIZE=-1]Even more idiomatically translated

    Orange Blossom
  5. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I sometimes use the word transliteration. Can it mean the same as the 3 others or should its use be restricted to alphabets?
  6. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Thanks, you're all wonderful:)
    I think "transliteration" is for the purpose of trinscribing pronunciation only.

    Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. <-- Latin text
    galia est omnis diwiza in partes tres.<--Transliteration
  7. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)

    Hi, are there any terms for "preserving the meaning of each word you translate from, but at the same time following the syntactic rule of the language you translate into?
  8. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    Chesire is right about the meaning of transliteration. Transcribe is another word we use for this.

    Tchaichowski is a transcription, or transliteration, of his name from Cyrillic.

    In English, a word-for-word translation is the same as a literal translation. I don't think there is a special term for a translation that retains the literal translations of the words while rearranging them into the syntax of the other language.

    Orange Blossom
  9. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    I have always used the term 'free translation' when referring to a translation which, rather than being literal or word-by-word, attempts to convey the same message in the translatee language as in the original by using the appropriate expressions and vocabulary for this purpose.
  10. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    This is what is called an "idiomatic translation". :)

    Orange Blossom
  11. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    I've never heard that one, Orange Blossom, furthermore, I'm not sure it's really appropriate.
  12. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    A google search with "idiomatic translation" in quotes brings 33,000 entries.

    Here is a quote from one site that uses it:

    From: http://www.springer.com/west/home/l...IPageCounter=CI_FOR_AUTHORS_AND_EDITORS_PAGE1

    Basically what I was saying in my previous post is that a free translation is also called an idiomatic translation. This is the opposite of a word-for-word translation, literal translation, or direct translation.

    Orange Blossom
  13. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Thanks, Orange Blossom; a very interesting site.
  14. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Is "word-by-word translation" a misspelling?
  15. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    Hi Cheshire,

    Word-by-word may be a mistranslation or a mistyped word which I suppose could be called a misspelling.

    Orange Blossom
  16. Moon Palace

    Moon Palace Senior Member

    Hello everybody,
    would 'direct translation' be a way of saying there is no need to go through any intermediary? I mean that in French, we speak of the 'departure language', the 'arrival language', and in between there is what we call 'neutral language', that is a language that is not grammatically correct in any of the other two languages, but that allows to retain only the meaning deprived of any idioms before reaching an idiomatic translation. Would these different names be equally used in English?
  17. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    I don't think "literal translation" = "direct translation," but I'm not sure what the latter exactly means either. Does it mean "with no intermediary?"
  18. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    To me, direct translation suggests that each word is translated into its "direct" equivalent, and the word order is also rendered "directly", i.e. without any change, without trying to make the text sound natural or idiomatic in the target language. In that, I think it's strictly synonymous with "literal" (= "to the letter", etymologically).*

    In reality, there's an almost infinite number of intermediary degrees between a totally idiomatic (the latter being a strange concept, anyway. It would be more accurate to call it "the most idiomatic possible") and a totally direct translation. But we don't have the words to name all those steps (direct? half-direct?half-idiomatic? see what I mean?).
    The most "direct translations possible" are performed by translating machines. But no human being translates like that.

    EDIT : * there would remain to define what a "direct equivalent" is. Is it a cognate? Rarely. I mean, most of the time, there is none available.
    In my attempt to define what a direct translation is, I think I have unintentionally demonstrated that this term is clumsy, inappropriate and maybe stupid.

    To sum up, my answer is that when people use these 3 expressions, direct, literal and word-for-word translation, they mean exactly the same, i.e. an extreme which exists only in theory (except if you take machines into account).
  19. epistolario

    epistolario Senior Member

    I also did, until someone corrected me and I looked it up in the dictionary and verified that I was wrong. My question is, what is the equivalent verb form for the following nouns in the title of this post? Are the ff correct?:

    translate literally
    translate directly
    translate word-for-word
  20. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Quite honestly, I don't think there is a verb for any of these.
  21. Gaguis New Member

    According to what I learned when I was at university, a literal translation and a word-for-word is the same, to translate from one language to another one word at a time, rather than giving the sense of the original. However, direct translation refers to the fact of translating from a source language into a target language that is your first or native language, so here we have another concept, reverse translation, to translate from your first or native language into a foreign one.
    I hope it helps! :)

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