What is the difference between literal and free translation?

The main difference between literal and free translation is that literal translations involve word-to-word translation, while free translations involve translation of the general meaning of a text.

Translate translates the meaning and context of a text from one language to another. Verbatim translations and free translations are types of translation. Literal translation is the translation of a text word by word from one language to another without considering the meaning of the entire text, while free translation translates a text so that it reflects the general meaning of the original text.

Key areas covered

1. What is literal translation - definition, features 2. What is free translation - definition, features 3. Difference between literal and free translation - comparison of main differences

key terms

Free translation, literal translation, translation

Difference Between Literal and Free Translation - Comparative Summary

What is literal translation?

Literal translation is the translation of a text from one language to another word for word without considering the meaning of the text as a whole. Literal translation is also known as direct translation or word-to-word translation. In translation studies, translators use literal translations for technical translations of legal, scientific, or technical texts.

Since the translator translates the text by looking at each word individually in this type of translation, the original meaning of the text can be changed or lost. This is especially true for the translation of non-technical texts such as literature. This type of translation can, for example, lead to incorrectly translated phrases , incomprehensible sentences or grammatical structures. Machine translations were known in the early days for this type of translation (mistranslation), as they only used a database of words and their translations into different languages.

Literal vs. free translation in tabular form

In addition, literal translations also play a role in the creation of pidgin languages. First generation immigrants often use literal translations when speaking their parents' mother tongue and the language of the new country. This results in a mixture of two languages ​​that is very similar to Pidgin.

What is free translation?

Free translation means translating a text so that it reflects the general meaning of the original text. In contrast to literal translation, free translation does not involve transferring the word-to-word meaning of a text. In addition, this type of translation may or may not closely follow the structure or organization of the original text. Additionally, it doesn't pay special attention to details and may involve adding or deleting content while keeping the general meaning intact. Translators typically make these changes to keep the content and language fluent and natural.

Literal and free translation - side by side comparison

Also known as creative translation, free translation is mainly used for non-technical translations - for example translations of literary works, marketing materials, etc. In addition, translators should have a very good knowledge of both the source and target languages ​​and their cultures in order to create a free translation.

Examples of literal and free translation

Now let's look at some French and English idioms to understand the meaning of literal and free translations. If we take the French idiom “ Chercher midi à quatorze heures”, its word-to-word meaning means “look for noon at 2pm ”, but in a free translation a translator would translate this as “overcomplicate things”.

Difference between literal and free translation

definition

Literal translation is the translation of a text word by word from one language to another without considering the meaning of the text as a whole, while free translation is the translation of a text in a way that reflects the general meaning of the text, without the original text Take word-to-word meaning into account.

method

A literal translation involves a word-to-word translation, and there are no additions or deletions in the original text, but free translations take the meaning in general into account and may include additions and deletions to keep the language fluent and natural.

Type of texts

While literal translations are suitable for technical translations of legal, technical or scientific texts, free translations are ideal for literary translations.

diploma

A literal translation involves a word-to-word translation, and there are no additions or deletions in the original text, but free translations take the meaning in general into account and may include additions and deletions to keep the language fluent and natural. So this is the main difference between literal and free translation.

Reference:

1. “ How to use the free translation correctly .” CCJK, March 19, 2020. 2. “ Literal translation - avoiding its pitfalls. "Bunny Studio, September 11, 2020.

Image courtesy:

1. " Xuexi Qiangguo in Google Translate " By John Pasden (CC BY-NC 2.0) via Flickr2. " Button-Internet-Languages-Keyboard-Translate-110777 " (CC0) via MaxPixel

About the author: Hasa

Hasa holds a BA in English, French and Translation Studies. She is currently reading for a Masters in English. Her areas of interest include literature, language, linguistics and also food.