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Using Direct or Indirect Translation

Because of the fluid and dynamic nature of language, translators must learn to develop the skill of knowing when to use direct or literal translation.


In addition to native-level language proficiency, ability to quickly adapt and adjust, and thorough understanding of language quirks and nuances, a translator must know when to use literal or direct translation or when to use creative translation.


Direct or literal translation, as the name implies, refers to word-for-word translation. In the world of translation, it can also refer to technical translation which is used for legal, technical and medical translations, among others.


“At the end of the day, it should be about the target reader,” Alfonso Martinez, The Spanish Group general manager, said. The Spanish Group is a California-based provider of Spanish translator services. “Who will read the translated text? What’s the best way for them to understand it? The purpose of translation is to facilitate understanding of a text in a different language, and that is the best benchmark to use when deciding when to use direct or indirect translation.”


When it comes to translating creative text, such as bodies of poetry, songs or novels, an indirect or creative translation is a more apt approach. With literary text, factors such as rhythm and figures of speech help define the overall feel and meaning of the work so it is important to maintain these in the process of translation. To do so, a translator must be able to understand the implied meanings of literary texts and translate it in such a way that it is understandable and accessible while maintaining the creative integrity of the text.


This type of translating skill requires a translator with a strong background in literary appreciation. It is also important to note that with indirect translation, the translator may slightly veer away from the source text but this does not mean that he/she is at liberty to incorporate personal recommendations or emotions.


Martinez added, “A lot of people still assume that translating is simply alternating between two languages. The concept of direct and indirect translations proves otherwise. Translation is a field that requires a lot of mental stamina, and a certain level of maturity to understand how words should be handled.”


As an experienced and renowned provider of Spanish translator services, The Spanish Group assigns field specialists for each translation job to ensure accuracy, clarity and reliability. The group handles technical, medical, legal, website, business, and personal translations which can include creative text.


Lorenzo Saavedra is a San Francisco-based Colombian writer. He has a degree in Journalism and Economics from the University of Miami where he graduated with Latin honors. He is fluent in Spanish, English, Italian, and also speaks “some Arabic.”


During his time in the university, he wrote about Cuban-American population and relations, and the incorporation of Cuban-Americans into mainstream American society.


Lorenzo juggles his time between working as a freelance writer and travelling which is also a source of inspiration for many of his works. His favorite topics are politics and social issues, literary and film criticism, and business.
Lorenzo enjoys going to the beach and learning about new languages.

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