Translation & Acculturation

Translation is a much more complex concept than most people understand which is why so many translations are ineffective.  Being bilingual helps but it doesn’t make one a good translator nor is it even one of the most essential aspects of a good translator.

The most important quality is writing ability; a decent translator must be a very good writer in the language into which he or she translates.  The better the writer, the better the translator.  That’s why most good translators decline translation in both directions.

The second most important quality is research ability.  Not only is language dynamic (today more than ever) but it’s a highly segmented and stratified concept with myriads of geographic and social components varying drastically with context.  Thus, elements such as register (social and tonal), socialect, dialect and code are essential and, because for phonetic and other reasons translation cannot involve mere word matching, the issue of compensation is critical.  Competent translation is an “idea” not a “word” based concept.

Mastery of multiple languages, while of great convenience, is only a tertiary factor.

In addition to the foregoing, given the fact that most translations are mission and audience driven, effective intercultural communication can be an even more important concept. Intercultural communication goals frequently deal with dimensionally challenging factors involving how to most effectively convey a given message to a specific target audience.  This involves a specialty beyond translation; in fact, one that violates a translator’s normal ethical norm not to change the original message.  It sometimes requires not only total replacement of original text with more culturally compatible compensation but may even require changes as drastic as replacing text with photographs or videos.  Effective intercultural communication may require “acculturation” rather than mere translation, a concept that Dr. Calvo and his partner, Julia Elena Calderon Beltran, a Colombian artist, writer and academician, understand profoundly.  It requires significantly more underlying knowledge and research as well as closer cooperation with the originators of the material to be acculturated (authors and clients) and thus is more expensive but the end product is significantly more effective.

While very simple translations require fairly minimal education, talent and experience and thus merely bilingual people can sometimes perform the required functions adequately, when the project is complex and critically important, an investment in retaining people like Dr. Calvo provides excellent returns.

For samples of translation and acculturation work undertaken by Dr. Calvo, please consider the following:

  • Samples of published articles available on the Internet in which Dr. Calvo collaborated on linguistic issues:
    • Luis F. Castillo, Manuel G. Bedia and Ana L. Uribe, A Multiagent System Socioconfiguration Recommendations Tool.
      http://www.springerlink.com/content/g33408116420413q/.
    • Mauricio Duce (Profesor Escuela de Derecho UDP).  Criminal Justice Reform in Latin America: A Panoramic and Comparative Perspective Examining Its Development, Contents, Results and Challenges.  (Click here for overview)
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