Translation Category D: Types of Translation Based on The Translation Technique Used

These translation types are specific strategiestechniques and procedures for dealing with short chunks of text – generally words or phrases.

They’re often thought of as techniques for solving translation problems.

They differ from the translation methods of the previous category which deal with the text as a whole.


What is it?
Using a word or phrase from the original text unchanged in the translation.

Key features

  1. With this procedure we don’t translate the word or phrase at all – we simply ‘borrow’ it from the source language.
  2. Borrowing is a very common strategy across languages. Initially, borrowed words seem clearly ‘foreign’, but as they become more familiar, they can lose that ‘foreignness’.
  3. Translators use this technique:
    – when it’s the best wordto use – either because it has become the standard, or it’s the most precise term, or
    – for stylist effect – borrowings can add a prestigious or scholarly flavour.
  4. Borrowed words or phrases are often italicised in English.

Examples of borrowings in English
grand prix, kindergarten, tango, perestroika, barista, sampan, karaoke, tofu


What is it?
Reproducing the approximate sounds of a name or term from a language with a different writing system.

Key features

  1. In English, we use the Roman (Latin) alphabet in common with many other languages including almost all European languages.
  2. Other writing systems include Arabic, Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Indian languages.
  3. Transliteration from such systems into the Roman alphabet is also called
  4. There are accepted systems for how individual letters/sounds should be Romanised from most other languages – there are three common systems for Chinese, for example.
  5. English borrowings from languages using non-Roman writing systems also require transliteration – perestroika, sampan, karaoke, tofuare examples from the above list.
  6. Translators mostly use transliteration as a procedure for translating proper names.


Calque or Loan Translation

What is it?
A literal translation of a foreign word or phrase to create a new term with the same meaning in the target language. So, a calque is borrowing with translation if you like. The new term may be changed slightly to reflect target language structures.

Word-for-word translation

What is it?
literal translation is natural and correct in the target language.

Alternative names are ‘literal translation’ or ‘metaphrase’.

Note: this technique is different from the translation method of the same name, which does not produce correct and natural text and has a different purpose.

Key features

  1. This translation strategy will only work between languages that have very similar grammatical structures.
  2. And even then, only sometimes.
  3. For example, standard word order in Turkish is Subject-Object-Verb whereas in English it’s Subject-Verb-Object. So, a literal translation between these two will seldom work:
    – Yusuf elmayı yediis literally ‘Joseph the apple ate’.
  4. When word-for-word translations don’t produce natural and correct text, translators’ resort to some of the other techniques described below.



What is it?
Translation with a change of grammatical structure.

This technique gives the translation more natural wording and/or makes it grammatically correct.


What is it?
Translation with a change of focus or point of view in the target language. This technique makes the translation more idiomatic – how people would normally say it in the language.

Equivalence or Reformulation

What is it?
Translating the underlying concept or meaning using a totally different expression.

This technique is widely used when translating idioms and proverbs. And it’s common in titles and advertising slogans. It’s a common strategy where a direct translation either wouldn’t make sense or wouldn’t resonate in the same way.


What is it?

  1. A translation that substitutes a culturally-specific referencewith something that’s more relevant or meaningful in the target language.
  2. It’s also known as a cultural substitution of cultural equivalence.
  3. It’s a useful technique when a reference wouldn’t be understood at all, or the associated nuances or connotations would be lost in the target language.
  4. Note: the translation method of the same name is a similar concept but applied to the text as a whole.

Different cultures celebrate the different coming of age birthdays – 21 in many cultures, 20, 15 or 16 in others. A translator might consider changing the age to the target culture custom where the coming-of-age implications were important in the original text.

Animals have different connotations across languages and cultures. Owls for example are associated with wisdom in English but are a bad omen to Vietnamese. A translator might want to remove or amend an animal reference where this would create a different image in the target language.


What is it?

A meaning or nuance that can’t be directly translated is expressed in another way in the text.

Many languages have ways of expressing social status (honorifics) encoded into their grammatical structures. So, you can convey different levels of respect, politeness, humility, etc simply by choosing different forms of words or grammatical elements. But these nuances will be lost when translating into languages that don’t have these structures. So, a translator might use this strategy to express (compensate for) them in another way – perhaps by using a different register (vocabulary that’s more formal or informal) or by adding something, not in the original.






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