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Translation strategies

Mona Baker (2011) puts forward a number of strategies that translators could use in their translation when they encounter translation problems. These will be discussed in relation to isiZulu and English combination. These translation strategies are used for dealing with non-equivalence at a word level and above word level (collocations and idioms and fixed expressions) respectively. Other scholars, such as Alcaraza & Hughes, have also made a significant contribution in terms of proposing translation strategies that could help translators overcome translation challenges. 

Here, I will discuss just a few common ones which are used almost on a daily basis by translators.

1. Translation by a more general word

This strategy is used when the target language have no specific words known as hyponyms but has general words (superordinate). 

For example: English has specific words such as lawyer, attorney, advocate and conveyancer but isiZulu do not have translation for these. Instead it has a general word: ummeli.

2. Translation by a more neutral or less expressive word

A translator may use a more neutral or less expressive word to avoid the author’s personal feelings that may reflect on the text. 

For example: there is a noticeable difference in expressive meaning of the word intoxicated and its equivalent -phuzile which is less expressive or neutral meaning drunk than -dakiwe which is quite expressive.

3. Translation by paraphrasing

This strategy is used if the concept expressed by the source word is not lexicalised in the target language. This normally happens with technical words which are semantically complex. 

For example: the word prebend has no direct equivalent in isiZulu. It can be translated into a long complex sentence: ingxenye yemali etholwa umfundisi uma ephethe emicimbini ethile ngesikhathi egcina imisebenzi yakhe ethile ngokusemthethweni

This strategy also applies to the translation of idioms. This is done when a match cannot be found in the target language. 

For example: the idiom to sing a different tune may be paraphrased as ukusho enye into engafani nokade uyisho ekuqaleni, which means saying something different to what one said initially.

4. Translation using a loan word

This strategy is used when dealing with culture specific words, modern concepts and buzz words. 

For example: the word kitchen has no direct equivalent in isiZulu and, as a result, the word is translated as ikhishi.

5. Translation by circumlocution

This strategy is used in collocation phrases where it may be difficult for a translator to produce a collocation, which is typical in the target language while at the same time trying to preserve the meaning associated with source collocation. 

For example: the phrase running tummy. A translator may be tempted to literally translate this phrase as isisu esigijimayo or esigijimisayo when the correct translation is ukukhishwa yisisu which is typical in isiZulu.

6. Translation by cultural substitution

This strategy involves substituting a culture-specific word which may relate to religious belief, type of food or social custom with a target language one. According to Baker (2011), the advantage of this strategy is that it gives the reader a concept with which they can identify. 

For example: the concept of dowry may be translated as ilobolo which does not have the same propositional meaning but is likely to have a similar impact on the target reader.

7. Translation by omission

This strategy involves leaving out unimportant and unnecessary information, which may distract the target reader but at the same time does not disturb the coherence of the translation. 

For example: you need to be home exactly at 6:00 pm may be translated as kudingeka ukuthi ube sekhaya ngehora le-6:00 ntambama. What is noticeable here is that the word exactly has been omitted but it did not affect the intended meaning.

8. Transposition

This strategy involves substituting one grammatical category for another on the basis that both may be fairly said to possess the same semantic weight (Alcaraz & Hughes, 2002:181). 

For example: the phrase any person who steals can be translated as bonke labo abebayo. What has happened here is that indefinite pronouns have been substituted for common nouns.

9. Modulation

According to Alcaraz & Hughes (2002:185), modulation entails changes to semantic categories or even alterations of the processes by which thoughts are expressed. 

To cite their example: The new law has prompted thousands of citizens to demonstrate. This can be translated as Umthetho omusha wenze ukuthi izinkulungwane zezakhamuzi zigcwale umgwaqo. The translator has introduced a modulation of the part zigcwele umgwaqo for the whole demonstration because of its close association with the idea of public protest.

The strategies discussed above clearly demonstrate that these can be a valuable tool for translators in dealing with the perpetual challenges that translators meet in their everyday translation of different texts.

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