Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Translation (The How)

To begin, consider these two entries from Wikipedia:

Sense-for-sense translation…fundamentally means translating the meaning of each whole sentence before moving on to the next, and stands in normative opposition to word-for-word translation (also known as literal translation), which means translating the meaning of each lexical item in sequence.”

Dynamic and formal equivalence are terms for methods of translation coined by Eugene Nida. The two terms have often been understood as fundamentally the same as sense-for-sense translation (translating the meanings of phrases or whole sentences) and word-for-word translation (translating the meanings of individual words in their more or less exact syntactic sequence), respectively, and Nida did often seem to use them this way. But his original definition of dynamic equivalence was rhetorical: the idea was that the translator should translate so that the effect of the translation on the target reader is roughly the same as the effect of the source text once was on the source reader.”

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2 thoughts on “Translation (The How)

  1. I’ve always wondered about this, as I may have mentioned in your prior post regarding your mentor who was a translator. I think I would favor the “sense-for-sense” translation, because word for word could (among other things) end up translating idiomatic speech that no longer makes sense and definitely doesn’t convey the author’s meaning. Imagine translating the English idiom “give up the ghost” into another language (and here I’m just assuming that no one else uses that particular idiom)–it might be read as “forsake the spirit,” “renounce the haunt,” or “surrender the ghost.”


  2. Me, too.

    Great example with “give up the ghost.”
    Renounce the haunt – he went out of the haunting business.
    Lots of wonderful possibilities arise.


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