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Summary of Week 1

Summary of Week 1
© Cardiff University

This week we have seen that translation can be defined in various ways.

We started with the commonly held view that it is a transfer of meaning from one language to another and saw how this view is rooted in the history of the word for ‘translation’ in English and other European languages.

We then explored words for ‘translation’ in other languages and discovered very different images and metaphors that correspond with the words: from bridging and carrying the sense across, to a creative retelling, to turning over an embroidery, to giving a new life.

Later we introduced a three-fold definition of translation by Roman Jakobson, which includes inter- and intralingual translation, as well as intersemiotic translation.

We first focused on translation between languages or interlingual translation and a popular distinction between more literal and free translations. It was also suggested that there are many types of translation depending on content, purpose and media and they are normally approached in different ways.

Then we looked at how translation happens within one language, for instance between registers, as in formal and informal speech, or between regional varieties of English. We also mentioned intersemiotic translation, or the move between different types of language, such as verbal and visual codes.

Finally, we looked at the notions of culture and cultural translation, examining how cultural factors can affect translation, from simple everyday contexts like the social norms associated with drinking coffee to complex phenomena such as localization.

At the end, we provided an example of the way in which intercultural communication can be incorporated into a code of conduct for interpreters. The final quiz asked you to think about how a conception of translation that goes beyond linguistic transfer can affect our understanding of the role of an interpreter or translator.

We have included our bibliography for this week, which can be downloaded from the downloads section below.

As a follow up to the quiz, why not start up your personal checklist on what makes a good translation and perhaps share your ideas with others using our comments section.

Here are a few tips from us, to get you started.


  • Always think of translation as a complex task – even when it looks very simple.
  • Pay attention not just to the linguistic but also to the cultural meanings of a text.
  • Think of your role as that of a cultural or intercultural communicator – and always remember to check your own assumptions.
© Cardiff University
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Working with Translation: Theory and Practice

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