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Religious texts


Translation of religious works has played an important role in history. Buddhist monks who translated the Indian sutras into Chinese often skewed their translations to better reflect China's very different culture, emphasizing notions such as filial piety.

A famous mistranslation of the Bible is the rendering of the Hebrew word "keren," which has several meanings, as "horn" in a context where it actually means "beam of light." As a result, artists have for centuries depicted Moses the Lawgiver with horns growing out of his forehead. An example is Michelangelo's famous sculpture. Some Christians with anti-Semitic feelings used such depictions to spread hatred of the Jews, claiming that they were devils with horns.







Saint Jerome, patron of translators

One of the first recorded instances of translation in the West was the rendering of the Old Testament into Greek in the third century B.C.E. The resulting translation is known as the Septuagint, a name that alludes to the "seventy" translators (seventy-two in some versions) who were commissioned to translate the Bible in Alexandria. Each translator worked in solitary confinement in a separate cell, and legend has it that all seventy versions were identical. The Septuagint became the source text for later translations into many languages, including Latin, Coptic, Armenian and Georgian.



Saint Jerome, the patron saint of translation, is still considered one of the greatest translators in history for rendering the Bible into Latin. The Roman Catholic Church used his translation (known as the Vulgate) for centuries, but even this translation at first stirred much controversy.

The period preceding and contemporary with the Protestant Reformation saw the translation of the Bible into local European languages, a development that greatly affected Western Christianity's split into Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, due to disparities between Catholic and Protestant versions of crucial words and passages.



Martin Luther's Bible in German, Jakub Wujek's in Polish, and the King James Bible in English had lasting effects on the religions, cultures and languages of those countries.

See also: Bible translations and Translation of the Qur'an


Machine translation


Machine translation (MT) is a procedure whereby a computer program analyzes a source text and produces a target text without further human intervention. In reality, however, machine translation typically does involve human intervention, in the form of pre-editing and post-editing. An exception to that rule might be, e.g., the translation of technical specifications (strings of technical terms and adjectives), using a dictionary-based machine-translation system.

To date, machine translation—a major goal of natural-language processing—has met with limited success. A November 6, 2007, example illustrates the hazards of uncritical reliance on machine translation.[37]

Machine translation has been brought to a large public by tools available on the Internet, such as Yahoo!'s Babel Fish, Babylon, and StarDict. These tools produce a "gisting translation" — a rough translation that, with luck, "gives the gist" of the source text.

With proper terminology work, with preparation of the source text for machine translation (pre-editing), and with re-working of the machine translation by a professional human translator (post-editing), commercial machine-translation tools can produce useful results, especially if the machine-translation system is integrated with a translation-memory or globalization-management system. [38]

In regard to texts (e.g., weather reports) with limited ranges of vocabulary and simple sentence structure, machine translation can deliver results that do not require much human intervention to be useful. Also, the use of a controlled language, combined with a machine-translation tool, will typically generate largely comprehensible translations.

Relying exclusively on unedited machine translation ignores the fact that communication in human language is context-embedded and that it takes a person to comprehend the context of the original text with a reasonable degree of probability. It is certainly true that even purely human-generated translations are prone to error. Therefore, to ensure that a machine-generated translation will be useful to a human being and that publishable-quality translation is achieved, such translations must be reviewed and edited by a human.[39] The late Claude Piron wrote that machine translation, at its best, automates the easier part of a translator's job; the harder and more time-consuming part usually involves doing extensive research to resolve ambiguities in the source text, which the grammatical and lexical exigencies of the target language require to be resolved.[40] Such research is a necessary prelude to the pre-editing necessary in order to provide input for machine-translation software such that the output will not be meaningless.[41]





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