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Scientific Lexicography: Earlier, contemporary and prospective!
1/16/2021 11:30:08 PM

Dr. Pragya Khanna

The importance and connotation of translation in our daily lives is more multidimensional than we apprehend. While it is true that English is a language that is pretty much universal. Being the third most widely-spoken language in terms of native speakers and including the people who can speak English as a second language, it is undoubtedly the most popular language in the world. So you might ask why translation would be even necessary today.
As the world is growing at a fast pace in all capacities, other languages are beginning to grow in significance. Developing countries are beginning to take their place within the global economy and their inhabitants are gaining access to the Internet and the world around them.
In years to come, English may not be the top language in the world given the competition to stay ahead and to make oneself more visible in terms of culture, traditions, native language, cuisine etc. just like Latin lost its status as the scientific lingua franca. This is why we need translation to stay alive so we are able to accommodate all languages as a global community.
However, in the field of Science things are still different. Nowadays, anyone who wants to share their ideas must publish their work in English. Even many scientific textbooks aimed at students in non-English speaking countries are written in English, and these students are required to have proficient English in order to pursue degrees and eventually careers in the sciences.
The fact that English has become the language of science isn’t likely to change any time soon. But having an awareness of the ways in which scientific papers can be made more available to those who speak English as a second language can enhance communication and smoothen the arena to ensure scientists around the world can be heard.
Having said that, it is imperative to know that scientific translation is different, it goes further than just interpreting words from one language into another. It is somewhat a tool that helps people around the world to advance and evolve in the field of science. Thus a translator needs to confirm a precise delivery of information and shows accuracy and promise to the source and the target language, so that the translated information can be used easily and help in developing scripts in vernacular languages.
One of the primary glitches that translation trainees may face is how to deal with translating scientific terms from English into any language, and in picking the best method to achieve a high quality translation of those terms which may enhance that language.
The translators must have appropriate linguistic knowledge (qualifications) in the subject areas they work in; they in no way should compromise with the quality of the script and are adept to use latest translation technology such as translation memory tools etc.
Translation not only plays its vital traditional role as the means that allows us access to literature originally written in one of the countless languages we cannot read, but it also represents a tangible literary presence with the essential capacity to ease and make more meaningful our relationships to those with whom we may not have had an association before. Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unconceivable at the moment.
As science and technology advance, new English words used to prompt new ideas, techniques and inventions come into existence. These words have developed more swiftly during the last decades and dictionaries could by no means stimulate. This development has brought to Science some thoughtful linguistic problems of articulation and diction. This constantly expanding wave of newly founded concepts and techniques is very interesting but for these no equivalents exist in any vernacular languages. However, this problem is being overcome by mean of coinage, borrowing, transliteration and other means of transfer, although translation of full technical texts from English into any other language still poses a major intellectual challenge.
In scientific works, subject-matter takes precedence over the flair of the linguistic medium which aims at expressing facts, experiments, hypothesis, etc. The reader of such scientific works does not read it for any sensuous pleasure which a reader of literary work usually seeks, but he is after the information it contains.
All that is required in fact is that of verbal exactitude and rationality of expression. This is applicable to the translator’s language as well. Scientific words differ from ordinary and literary words since they do not accumulate emotional associations and implications.
This explains why the translation of science material is supposed to be more direct, freer from alternatives, and much less artistic than the other kinds of prose. The language of scientific and technical language is characterized by neutral style, simpler syntax, use of acronyms, and lucidity.
The need for a large new vocabulary dealing with technological and scientific matters is, however, the least interesting feature of the new lexical development; more fascinating, though more elusive, is the evolution of new words for intellectual concepts.
The major problem facing translators at present is terminology standardization and propagation in the sphere of Biology in particular.
Finally, science does not have its own grammar only, but also its own terminology. And we have previously hinted at the significance of the understanding of this terminology resting on a solid foundation of previously acquired knowledge on behalf of the translator. Therefore, it is not the language itself which is special, but certain words or their symbols.
But the problem is more complex if your language is poorly acquainted with the fast-developing world of science. French, German and Spanish have large, established scientific communities that have translated even the most technical terms. This is unlikely for a regional Indian language, for example.
Nonetheless notwithstanding its difficulties, localising science by reporting in native languages in print, radio or television is critical to get information about science to wider audiences, allowing communities to learn about scientific developments in a meaningful way.
Making sure you translate scientific terms and ideas as accurately as possible is perhaps the most important and difficult part of reporting science in another language. Poorly translated science leads to erroneous and sometimes misleading stories. Even a small mistake can shake readers’’ trust in the whole story and discourage them from seeking local science coverage in future.
Don’t depend on just one dictionary of scientific terms. They are not always great quality so look for consensus by checking your translation in at least two dictionaries. If these aren’t available, or new terms appear too often, then gradually compile your own. The time and effort involved in documenting your own accurate translations will pay off.
If you’re struggling, contact local experts and ask them to help with the translation. It’s also a good opportunity to check you’ve understood the idea correctly. A pool of local experts willing to help with translation is an invaluable tool.
When using a term that will be new to your readers, include the English beside your translation so that interested readers can look it up.
Some terms defy translation and you’ll have to use English. If this happens, define the word once in your language then continue using the English term, you don’t want your readers distracted from the point of the story by lots of references to its definition.
And don’t forget: a picture is worth a thousand words. Illustrations and videos can help explain difficult terms.
Just because you want people to read about science in their local language doesn’t mean they want to. As with any kind of writing, you must make your stories attractive to your audience. This is all the more difficult if local science reporting is infrequent: people may not be used to reading about it.
A good way to grab readers’ attention is to give your stories a local context, what problems in their daily lives could this research ease (or worsen)? Only choose the most relevant stories and think hard about the angle you will take.
For example, in an area where crops are often damaged by pests, people will be more interested in a new plant breeding method if you link it to the possibility of breeding pest-resistant crops. Reported simply as a step forward for plant breeding, it could be overlooked.
To do this you need to know your audience. Find out what concerns them and monitor which articles resonate the most.
“The translator, like the witness called to trial, should be compelled to raise his hand and swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth”. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
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