It is widely known that being bilingual does not simply make one a good translator and interpreter. Indeterminacy of translation is often an issue that challenges and hinders good translation efforts between two language cultures. Although there has never been explicit instruction in performing perfect translation, some experts still believe that semantic equivalence can be achieved naturally in two languages.
The concept of indeterminacy of translation is a classic concept proposed by W.V. Quine in his study back in 1960. He explained that there is no way to make exact translations between two languages because the concept of words and objects in one language may never have the same sense of meaning in another language. He also indicated that there are always alternative translations that make the translation effort become inconsistent and error-prone.
According to his research, translators make more radical translations based on subjective judgments about meanings and concepts. This concept also underscores the process of assigning meaning that occurs by comparing the relationship of one word to another. In addition, language and cultural equivalence in the translation process is vulnerable and often raises concerns of cross-cultural misunderstanding.
An easy example is the translation of the word “sobremesa” in Spanish into English. Most Spanish-English translators would translate it as ” table talk” which does not exactly represent the correct understanding of the concept in Spanish culture.
In some texts that have high connotative expressions, translators often fail to produce the actual language intent of the source text. Litteral translation, which is one of the approaches repeatedly applied in this scenario, seems to be ineffective in producing acceptable translations. Therefore, there is a serious need for an alternative manual that can ensure a stable and constant translation process to avoid fatal errors in rendering meaning.
Although some linguists think that the indeterminacy of translation is an old concept, as translators, we have to admit that we are actually familiar with the difficulty of selecting and conditioning the best translation due to cultural and language barriers. This concept represents a real professional challenge that requires practical solutions for now and then. Therefore, it is still relevant to discuss this concept and find the best translation practices to avoid translation errors.
To be a professional translator requires not only in-depth knowledge of a particular field, either linguistic or scientific, but also the ability to identify specific intentions based on social and cultural situations.
The Implication of Indeterminacy of Translation Concept in a Specific Translation Project
Considering the traditional theory of meaning, meaning is referred to as an entity attached to words. In the field of translation, rendering a word into another language means communicating the same meaning and understanding that has been previously recognized in both languages. However, it should also be mindful of the concept that the language system that governs meaning should be above singular interpretation as mentioned earlier in consideration of the ever-changing dynamic and pluralistic language systems in society.
If it is true about dynamic systems, then it can be concluded that the meaning of a word or sentence is also inconsistent depending on the particular society that speaks it. This is often referred to as the contextual situation that provides the background to the speaker in uttering the sentence. This will also be the reason that creates the intention of an expression, so words or even sentences cannot be consistent on every occasion. For translators, keeping abreast of any changes in society and being aware of the actual contexts is a must so that they will leave no room for error in transferring meanings to other languages.
To fulfill this requirement, being a professional translator requires not only in-depth knowledge of a particular field, either linguistic or scientific, but also the ability to identify specific intentions based on social and cultural situations. This most important and fundamental requirement should be taken into consideration that a translator is not someone who is only bilingual, but a professional individual who is dedicated to developing themselves as a translator.