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“Russian Translations
That Read Like Originals”

What is a “Translation That Reads Like an Original”?

Translation is a complex process of reading, understanding, and conveying information that was originally written in a different language and culture. It can be done by any speaker of the two languages, but good translation takes a professional with extensive training, experience, and resources. A translator is far more than a clerk substituting word for word—he or she is an information specialist.

The document you need translated was written in the culture and background of the author and his or her intended readers. And every writer has expectations about what the reader knows and believes. You see, reading is an active process: the reader synthesizes an understanding of the text from a combination of the actual text and the reader’s knowledge and beliefs. When the writer’s expectations are met, communication succeeds.

But since the translation will be read by someone with a different culture and background, the translator faces the challenge of keeping that reader from tripping over the writer’s unfamiliar culture, background, and assumptions (the writer’s mindset). So when we do a translation, we do more than translate what the writer actually said. We translate the mindset; we put the source-language content in a framework that the target-language reader can understand.

Even terminology presents special challenges to the translator. A meter is a meter the world over, but other terms denote concepts that are more language- and culture-specific. For example, Russians routinely call cars “machines” (the context makes it obvious what kind of machine), but that choice would be distracting or even confusing in English. Natural wording is critical in keeping the train of thought moving smoothly.

Finally, the grammar of another language offers tools that English lacks, and vice versa. A good translation doesn’t mimic the grammar of the original—that would be unnatural. For example, Russian uses far more passive constructions than English. A document written largely in the passive voice doesn’t “work” in English. So when we translate from Russian to English, we replace many of these passives with actives. That way, the reader gets the sense that the document was written in English in the first place, not translated from some other language.