Text Difficulty and Translation
determining text difficulty and problems during translation
The Importance of Translation
Characteristics of Difficult Text
- Sentence difficulty: including vocabulary, syntax, and the prepositional text base.
- Structure: including the rhetorical composition and coherence.
- Style: including expression, presentation, vocabulary, paragraphs, method of presentation, tone of the author, and language for special purposes.
- Content: including concepts, logic, theme, nature of the subject matter, and the content unity.
Ways of Assessing the Difficulty of Text
- Assessing text difficulty can be made into an objective and systematic process by following the following 5 criteria:
2. The register (material aspect)
3. They type of language used (functional aspect)
4. The pragmatics of the reader (pragmatic aspect)
5. The historical-cultural context (temporal, local, or cultural aspect)
- Assessing text difficulty can also be accomplished through counting the number or renditions (interpretations) in the group of the subjects translation the text.
- Formulas such as the Flesch Reading Ease Formula and the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Formula provide instructors with an equation to measure the difficulty of a text. These formulas take into account the number of words, the number of sentences and the number of syllables.
Flesch Reading Ease Formula:
2.06.835-1.015(number of words/number of sentences) - 84.6 (number of syllables/number of words
Flesch-Kincaid Readability Formula:
39(# of words/# of sentences) + 11.8(# of syllables/ # of words) – 15.59
Common Difficulties in Translation
- From one language to another words take on different and multiple meanings. When translating a text, words rarely take on a one-to-one substitution for meaning.
- Distinguishing general vocabulary from specialized terms - determining the difference in these words comes down to if the word is understood by all of its native speakers (general vocabulary) or if the word can be classified under a certain domain (specialized term).
- Distinguishing between various meanings of a word of general vocabulary - determining the use of a word and understanding its meaning in the context. To master this section of difficulty, one must be able to understand the text, which includes understanding the situation being described.
- Taking into account the total context, including the intended audience and important details such as regionalisms - Being sensitive to the receiving audience of a translation will allow for understanding (or not) and the cultural connections and understandings to be made clear
Recommendations for Overcoming DIfficulties in Translation
1. Simplifying the translation for all students
2. Teaching English (or the native language) and comparing and contrasting it with the foreign language with reference to style, tenses, vocabulary, structure, culture
3. Encouraging students to write essays and paragraphs in both the native language and foreign language to identify their own translation errors and weaknesses
4. Boosting and encouraging translating of different kinds of text from the native language to the foreign language, and vice versa
5. Paying attention to the text for cultural, conceptual/semantic, idiomatic, and grammatical difficulties in translation
How Teachers Can Improve Translation
- A taxonomical list of abbreviations composed of the most frequent errors in translation among students:
- Introduction of passages - allows for an introduction of a new topic that can be compared to the subject at hand.
- Back-translation of student work - after a text has been translated the student can recopy the text to a clean sheet of paper and store for future use. This allows students to see where their translation started and where it ended up.
- Collaborative translation - the students can partner up and compare/contrast their translations. This allows for students to see a better translation and lets students help one another.
- Transcribing and translating - allows students to use their listening skills for listening to a text and transcribing it.
Tools to Assist with Translation