TTT: TECHNICAL TRANSLATION TRIANGLE
Even though many people from different occupation branches perform translation services at the time being, when we step into the translation world, a vast land composed of many different sub-categories welcomes us. This service might seem like something can be done by anyone with a specific knowledge of a foreign language, and this is partially true (e.g. translation of a user manual). In fact, it’s not enough only to master a foreign language, but also to master the knowledge of the mother tongue. This has exactly the same importance as the foreign language in question has.
So, if we manage to fulfill these two categories, right after comes a new question: how to translate? And right before we can answer this, we should go through a series of questions: Is it an interpretation, or (written) translation? If this is a written translation, is it a technical translation or literal translation? And so on…
Since I’m a technical translator, I’ll pick this topic and go back to the very beginning, to the first ages, where the very first debate about translation was raised. When they wanted to translate written texts (which were grouped as holy texts and other texts), one of the most famous translators of the first ages, Cicero, had two different approaches: word to word translation and the translation of the meaning (Akşit Göktürk, Çeviri: Çevirilerin Dili, 1998). The common idea was to use word to word translation for holy texts, and translating the meaning of other texts. These approaches worked at the time, but after a while, it was understood that word to word translation wasn’t really enough to understand a text in full conception.
Let’s imagine that we’re right at this very point, decided that neither (only) word to word translation, nor (only) the translation of the meaning is not enough to transfer the text to the target audience from another language. Even though there are many other sub-categories/methods for translating a text, these two methods are the base of whole written translation subject, especially the technical translation. So, what do we do?
The solution is, using them together in a harmony. Because it wouldn’t be correct to say “word to word translation is wrong”, since it’s used in many cases where no other alternatives are available to translate a specific phrase (e.g. enable system notifications “Eng”; sistem bildirimlerini etkinleştirin “Tur”; Systembenachrichtigungen aktivieren “Ger”). On the other hand, in some cases, the exact translation of the word can’t really explain the meaning (e.g. history of a browser isn’t translated as history/tarihçe into Turkish, it’s translated as “past/geçmiş”). So, in order to solve our problem, we’re going to use a geometrical shape: a triangle. To start, we draw the first side of it:
Why are we talking about a triangle? There are only two elements here?!? Because, the way to perfection goes trough a triangle. The triangle method is used in many different subject fields: one of which is topography. If you have two different coordinates in hand to locate a specific point on map, you need a third coordinate to be able to make a precise calculation of the point’s location. The triangle shape helps you to locate the exact point with the least possibility of making a mistake.
Another field the triangle shape is used is the didactical education – the didactic triangle:
The didactic triangle is used while the preparation of a single lesson’s plan. The teacher must consider the three key points: the needs of students, what they expect from this lesson and the content to be taught. Via the struggle to adjust the sides of this triangle in the best possible way, the teacher reaches the ultimate lesson plan for the students. Again, the triangle shape shows the way to perfection.
So, let’s turn back to our triangle: what can we place on the remaining corner of the triangle so that it can lead us to perfection? Similar to the didactic triangle, our last element is of course “content”:
When I receive a text (a task, a batch, etc.) , first I read it to check the content: is it about a game, IT, Casino, etc.? Then I start the translation and go through the text, keeping the triangle in mind and trying to give it the perfect shape until the end. My aim is always to reflect every single word from the source text, and then to decide if I should omit/add some words to nourish the meaning. The triangle generally gets its final shape at the last reading phase. While translating, I pay attention not to omit any words and I make sure the meaning is transferred correctly to the target audience. If a word must be omitted, the client must be informed about this.
Mentioning the target audience, there are of course some other elements, which we must consider while translating, and it doesn’t mean that we must ignore them just because we didn’t add them to our triangle. Another example would be “client’s wish”… We all know how important it is, right? We can actually add this to our triangle too:
If we place an orange circle symbolizing “client’s wish” around it, we can indicate the boundaries where we must stop while adjusting our triangle so that we can make our client satisfied too.
To sum up, we have first checked the very first debate of translation and took two basic methods from the first ages into consideration: word to word translation and translation of the meaning. After this, we came to the point where these methods aren’t adequate and thought about a solution to find the perfect method in order to realize the most accurate technical translation. For this, we took a glance at geometry and decided to get help from a shape, which is used in many other subject fields to form the perfection - the triangle.
After reviewing other examples, in order to adopt the usage of the triangle into our subject field, we completed the third edge with the “content” element. Thus we reached the result: while translating, we should form this triangle with the given elements throughout the text and try to form it in the best possible way.
At the end, we considered other elements we must take into consideration and developed our figure with the “client’s wish” element in order to give an example.
Whatever you do, if you always consult to the miraculous shape “triangle”, you’ll always get a good result and impress the target audience with whatever you do. I hope my triangle method applied to technical translations can help you to reach the perfect translation results and eventually to ensure happier and more collaborations with clients.