Literal or Free Translation: Which is the Most Useful Approach?

Feb 12


Charlene Lacandazo

Charlene Lacandazo

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There has been an age-long debate about the relative merits of literal or free translation, and the issue is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. In truth, both approaches can be appropriate, depending on the context and situation.


In the translation process,Literal or Free Translation: Which is the Most Useful Approach? Articles there are some helpful techniques that can eventually help the linguist solve the issue of creating the most accurate translation of a text. Literal and free translations are the two general choices in translation; although both are different ways in translation, they can both be effective in translating a text into another language.

All professional translators have proficient knowledge about the translation process, however, to be able to use these techniques in translation, a translator needs to have lots of practice and experience, in order to also acquire an extensive practical knowledge about language translation.

Literal translation enables to have a translation of the text that is closely related to the original text. It retains the style and original message structure form; it is believed by most linguists that 70% of the sentences in every language can be rendered in translation using the literal method, even dealing with difficult texts. Thus, until today literal translation techniques are widely used by translators.

Truly, literal translation is one of the most important translation techniques in language translation. Using this method provides accurate translation that is easily understood by the target audience of the language. On the other hand, a free translation method is designed to deliver the intended meaning of the source language, without paying too much attention to the style of the text and syntax of the original text, but it definitely aims to create an accurate translation product as well, just in a very different way.

Just like literal translation, free translation requires a translator that has extensive knowledge about language translation. In addition, free translation is suitable if the text is difficult to understand by the readers.

But, when exactly should a linguist use the method of free translation, and when is it better to use the method of literal translation?

Translation is a complex process, and thus, literal and free translation are both important in order to produce an accurate translation product. However, it should be noted that linguists should further understand the whole context or thought of every sentence, before applying any of these methods. Otherwise it may be the case that applying of any of these methods may cause distortions the original meaning of the text. Thus, it is very important to hire the most professional translator in town that deeply understands the nuances of both languages and has lots of practice and experience in the field of professional translation.

A translator may take different approaches in translation, but it should be remembered that every translation is an act of interpretation.