Why translation is a science
Wait, what? How can changing the words from one language to another be a science? Physics is a science, it’s got formulas, rules, and terms, chemistry is surely a science, you have to learn the periodical table, and write reaction equations. Translation does not have any of these components that make up a science. You are right, there is no rule in translation that says divide the number of English words in a sentence by the length and you will find its equivalent in Arabic. It even sounds ridiculous.
The other side of the coin
The problem is, we think of sciences as a combination of numbers and calculations. Geology is a science but it does not require a lot of calculations. “Okay, but they are fact driven,” you might say and there is not one way of translating a piece. Nor there is one way of looking at facts in Physics. What you are missing here is that in reality, there are rules in translation. Name one language that does not have grammar and vocabulary. You cannot because these elements define language. Translation deals with languages and boy, do languages have rules. Translators just like scientists know the heart and soul of their professional field. They excel in languages, and their knowledge is not limited to basic writing or to holding a casual conversation. You can trust them with the most complicated texts be it “Harry Potter” or the latest report on how NASA found 7 new planets. Professional translators know the grammatical and idiomatic differences of two or more languages. They do not just switch words from x language to y language. Similar to laboratory chemical experiments, translation requires diligent work and attention to details. Imagine a chemist skips one step of the experiment and does not add the necessary liquid. Boom – explosion, smoke, and faces covered with soot. A mistake in translation might not have visible consequences but it can lead to misunderstandings. Translation is a huge responsibility, there is no worldwide lingua franca but with the help of professional translators, the world becomes a smaller place. They enable the interaction between the speakers of different languages and in today’s globalized world, and it, undoubtedly, is essential.
Spice it up with some crafts and arts
Thanks to the science of translation, we are able to have a piece of text that makes sense in another language. However, we do not want it to just make sense, we need tone, context, beautiful and flawless language. So besides the scientific skills, translators need to add some artistic skills. Words need to be adjusted to the text and convey an the idea. There is absolutely no way that word by word translation can carry this duty. Above everything, those who translate literary works have to express their creativity in order to communicate the message of the original text.
What do we have so far
We figured out that we need to leave aside the stereotypes and consider translation science. If you think translation does not follow any structure, then you have the wrong impression. Although for the complete result translators need to bring some art and craft skills to their work. Not only does it gussy up their task, but also leads to an equally exquisite and insightful piece of text in all the languages. So, from now on let’s think of translators as arist-scientists and not people who just throw together a bunch of foreign words.