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What is translation?

Jun 22, 2010

Translation is the comprehension of the meaning of a text and the subsequent production of an equivalent text, likewise called a "translation," that communicates the same message in another language. The text that is translated is called the source text, and the language that it is translated into is called the target language. The product is sometimes called the target text.

Translation, when practiced by relatively bilingual individuals but especially when by persons with limited proficiency in one or both languages, involves a risk of spilling-over of idioms and usages from the source language into the target language. On the other hand, inter-linguistic spillages have also served the useful purpose of importing calques and loanwords from a source language into a target language that had previously lacked a concept or a convenient expression for the concept. Translators and interpreters have thus played an important role in the evolution of languages and cultures.

The art of translation is as old as written literature. Parts of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, among the oldest known literary works, have been found in translations into several Southwest Asian languages of the second millennium BCE. The Epic of Gilgamesh may have been read, in their own languages, by early authors of the Bible and the Iliad.

Developments since the Industrial Revolution have influenced the practice of translation, nurturing schools, professional associations, and standards. The Internet has helped expand the market for translation and has facilitated product localization. Currently, some 75% of professional translators work with technical texts.

Since the 1940s, attempts have been made to computerize the translation of natural-language texts (machine translation) or to use computers as an aid to translation (computer-assisted translation).


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