Humanitarian / English Essay


Types of Translation Theories

The types of translation theories are enormous in number due to the attention of nations and languages in translation and intergroup communication of distinct cultures and communities. Translation also emerged as a result of the importance of trans-language communication. That is, the need to communicate with a set of people in their distinct language.

The types of translation theories hence take many forms. By this, the translation which is both verbal and written are interpreted based on the understanding of the languages by the translator, the linguistic elements of the languages involved and the idea behind the message of the source language which may be and may not be distorted after translation to the target language.

What is translation?

Translation can be described as the transfer of a text or word, written or spoken, from one language (which is called the Source Language) to another language (which is regarded as the Target Language). The word “translation” originates from Latin words which are “translatio” (trans and latio/latus). While “trans” means “across”, “latio” means “to carry” or “to bring”. Hence, “translatio” means “to carry across” or “to bring across” which forms the basis of the meaning of the word.

Translation has evolved —since the beginning of mankind— throughout several ages. The need for translation came from the logic of communicating with different communities that speak different languages. At this, oral communications were instituted before textual translations emerge from religious texts.

That is, from modern history, Imperial nations signed treaties with colonies nations. The language barrier during this period gave a significant rise and importance to translation and language.

However, with religious translation of dialects, differences between cultures begin to wane and since the difference in communication which is the bedrock of human existence has been breached, translation began to foster communication between different cultures.

Translation science emerged as a science that studies the act of transmitting a text from the source language to a target language in full details, evading distortion. At this, several translation theories emerge; some emphasize that translation takes the route of creativity, that it isn’t mere science or mechanical process; it’s also emphasized that translation differs in approach and it depends on the word that is to be translated, as well as the target language's linguistics.

However, different approaches will be considered to give a clue to the dimensions translation can take in ensuring communication in another dialect.

Types of translation theories

The Levy Theory to Translation

Levy is a scientist who considers the translator, the translation process and the form of the translated text in the same way he considers the written text in the target language. That is, he considers it important to devote communicative elements and significant properties of the source text to the foreign or target language. The idea behind a literary work should be retained even after translation.

To Levy, the goal of translation should be to retain the original message and the comprehension of an idea as source language speakers would comprehend it. Although translation is a recreating process, the translation must conform to the source language. Levy agrees with the faithful translation method which is the attempt to reproduce the exact contextual connotation of the source language even within the impediments of the target language linguistics.

At this, the transfer of cultural words preserves the degree of grammatical and lexical abnormality which could be tantamount to deviation from the source language’s norm after its translation. By this, Levy agrees that language translation should be faithful and when the language of a target language does not provide linguistic elements to protect the source language’s originality, the cultural words should be preserved and not translated.

The Koller Theory to Translation

Translation is an interpretation of art. He hence provides that phonological, morphological and syntactic units need to be transferred to the target language with a linguistic interpretation. At this, the translator must internalize the source language in both structural and semantic basis before he seeks equivalent patterns in the target language linguistics to retain the original idea.

In other words, a translator must transfer texts to the target language by keeping the equivalence of the idea. This can be done even by the translator’s distinct style which means that a translator can use target language items founded on his criteria to transmit the thoughts of the source language author by adding specialty to his words. By this, the original thought is retained but the translation isn't faithful.

The Kloepfer’s Theory to Translation

This is the prioritization of texts through which the idea of the original text may not be transferred to the target language in the same manner as the source language. He defines translation as a creative writing and not mere rewriting in a random tradition. He regards it as the writer-ship of the writer.

Hence, a translator should reflect the language and culture of the source text in the target text yet symbolic meanings in the source text should not be translated causally. He believes that translation is the photocopy of the original text. That is, the beauty of the original text must be retained after translation even if it involves retaining some striking cultural luminance of the source text in the target text language. This is also in favor of the faithful translation method.

The Apel’s Theory to Translation

Apel holds that the understanding of a text is important, hence, a translator must give importance to content, style, and meanings of indicators in the source language. When these elements are not ignored, translation reproduces the artistic value of the source text.

The Reiss and Vermeer’s Theory to Translation

According to them, the “skopostheoric” method should be adopted. “Skopos” is a Greek word meaning “target” or “goal”. Hence, the skopos of translation is that the target text translation is a purpose achieved by the translation to a target text by translating the source text to the target cultural setting.

This theory holds that every translation is an action and every action has an aim. The translator should examine the cultural aspect which contributed to the source text formulation and in his translation, he should assess the different aspect of the target culture through which his translation retains significance. His translation is thus produced having the target cultural platform in mind, not the source text cultural platform.


There are other translation theories/methods that should be noted. These are word for word translation which means that the source language word is preserved, hence translated singly by their most common meanings in the target language which may also be out of context.

The literal translation is applied when the source language grammatical constructions are translated into the nearest target language equivalence but the lexical words are translated singly which could still be out of context from the original idea.

Faithful translation, as explained above, still retains the cultural and linguistics element of a source language in the target language if the translation will distort the context and idea of the source text.

More method includes semantic translation; adaptation; free translation; idiomatic translation; communicative translation etc. The aim of translation, however, is to bring languages and cultures together by permitting communication between them.


Translation Theories by Professor Lokman Tanrikulu notes from Nevsehir Haci Bektas Veli University

Equivalence in Translation from 3rd International Symposium on Language and Teaching in Rome

Translation TheoriesTypes of Translation Theories, Strategies and Basic Theoretical Issues by Prof. A.S. As-Safi from Petra University

Types and Methods of Translation from

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