The most important and most well-known translation methods

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The most important and most well-known translation methods. Translation from English to French is an academic exercise with its own rules and procedures. The first authors to have tried to put some order in the methods of translation from English to French are J.-P. Vinay and J. Darbelnet, with their book Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais written in 1958 . There are seven translation processes: Borrowing, Word-for-word, Literal translation, Transposition, Modulation, Equivalence and Adaptation. Do you want your translations to be successful but you are not very familiar with translation techniques? Through this article, you will discover the most important and most well-known translation methods.

The main translation processes:

1/ Borrowing 

This is the easiest translation process. Borrowing is a translation process that involves using a word or phrase from the source text in the target text. It is usually indicated by italics. The idea is to leave the phrase or word from the original text as it is.

Take the example of: “boyfriend” instead of “petit-ami” or even “British Museum” instead of “Musée britannique”.

2/ Word-for-word

The word-for-word directly translates the word or phrase from the source language into the target language. This is a “copy” of the original. Take the example of: skyscrapers which means “gratte-ciel” or “honeymoon” which means as “lune de miel”.

You have to use it wisely. Misuse of this process can lead to misinterpretations, fatal errors that can cost you dearly.

3/ Literal translation

This process involves translating the source language word for word, without changing the word order or grammatical structure. Take the example of: « She had always dreamed of going to Japan » which means » Elle avait toujours rêvé d’aller au Japon  » or “What times is it?” ” which translates to ”  Quelle heure est-il ?”.

4/ Transposition

Transposition consists of changing the grammatical category of a word during its translation. Without changing the meaning of the sentence. Take the example of: « The Prime Minister thinks that » : « Selon le Premier Ministre » or “endless” which means « qui n’en finit pas ».

5/ Modulation

It’s a process that involves a change of perspective. It avoids the use of a word or expression that does not fit well in the target language. It is highly recommended. Take the example of:   « Hold the line » : « Ne quittez pas » or “They lost their lives” which means « ils ont trouvé la mort ». Sometimes it can be mandatory. Take the example of: “I miss you”: « Tu me manques » or « bureau des objets trouvés » which means “lost property office”.

6/ Equivalence

Equivalence is a process of translation that involves making an expression entirely different. Use to translate names of institutions, interjections, ready-made expressions or proverbs. Take the example  « Birds of a feather flock together » : « Qui se ressemble s’assemble » or “Ouch!” which translates to « Aïe ! ». 

7/ Adaptation

This translation process consists of using a cultural equivalent which refers to the same concept as in the target language. Take the example of the film “Jaws” translates to “Les dents de la mer”.

These seven translation methods are the main ones that you absolutely must know in order to be able to obtain quality translations. There are still others, but they are not the most used, namely: Explanation, Expansion, Collocation or even Compensation. You can also read another article about it.

All you need to do now is practice!