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Mixing styles in translation

Mixing language styles in one of the most frequent mistakes in translations. The whole point of different styles is to differentiate between situations and contexts. Mixing styles can therefore lead to incorrect translation: lack of clarity, blunders, loss of the text’s spirit, atmosphere (if it’s a literary text), etc.

Such mistakes become the most obvious when scientific terminology is used in literary text or in dialogue from it, or in the opposite case, where lyrical, artistic words are used in scientific, legal or advertising documents. The formal/business style, the journalistic style and the scientific style may be combined, but they should not be mixed with the literary style.

N.B. Advertisements often contain words from the literary style, such a ‘soft’ and ‘fluffy’, but in most cases this makes them sound comical and does not inspire confidence.

The most important aspect of translating literary texts is to create a convincing text that best describes the author’s view, even at the cost of using words that are not exact equivalents. In other words, in order to achieve contextual accuracy, words that are not direct translations are allowed. However, the use of terms, loanwords and idioms that are out of context is inadmissible. It would bring confusion and ruin the general mood of the piece, depending on the type of text we’re working on.

When working with any of the other styles, mixing them with each other is more acceptable. A text can successfully combine the scientific, journalistic and business styles. And so can its translation, because for those styles, literal translation and the preservation of the exact meanings of words must be observed. The only factor we should pay specific attention to is the words with several meanings, which are typical for this style.

Only linguists with a high level of knowledge and many years of experience can create a coherent and convincing text. You can immediately sense it when even the less important words in a text sound out of place. ‘Sense’ is the right word to use. A translator’s sense, intuition, is one of his/her crucial qualities developed through years of practice. It takes a lot of general knowledge to understand and translate the terms and words characteristic to different language styles. The art of translation lies in choosing the most suitable word for the context. Even more knowledge is required when a word has different meanings in the different literary fields. Technical and scientific texts rarely contain words with unpredictable meanings; terms and words of non-artistic nature prevail in them. In recent years, more and more young people who lack even the basic knowledge to be translators have come into the translations field. This creates obstacles for the specialists in their development, even though the work they do is of high quality. Sadly, the quality of a translator’s work is directly proportional to the years of experience. Translation has all the characteristics of an art, and just like any other art, it is both about senses and about the work that develops these senses, this intuition, with the years. Young people should be given the opportunity to develop, but not at the expense of the quality of work we strive for. The best solution to this problem would be to improve the selection process of specialists, to apply a more efficient filter when establishing how skilful they are with language.

mitraMixing styles in translation

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