gained in translation: equivalence at word level

the concept of equivalence in translation has long been a bone of contention. this article provides a number of examples of situations in which producing equivalence in translation may be a challenge, e.g., when faced with culture-specific words, differences in expressive meaning between languages, differences in form, or words not (yet) lexicalised in the target language.

some of the strategies of producing what the translator considers equivalence include using a cultural substitution, a loanword, a loan translation, a less expressive word, a paraphrase, or an explanation. The translator may even choose to omit an aspect of meaning which, if transposed into the target language, would merely distract the reader from the key message.

overall, it seems that equivalence in translation is not something that exists, but something the translator has to create.


for further reading

  • baker m. in other words. a coursebook on translation. Oxford: Routledge; 1992.