“Poetry is what gets lost in translation,” wrote the famous American poet Robert Frost. If you know both languages, you may understand the text and enjoy it. But the greatest challenge a translator faces is capturing the essence of the original. It simply isn’t done by picking out words that mean the same thing.
Don't agree? Try Google Translate for languages that aren’t close cousins. Machine translation tools work by chopping sentences into word clusters, translating them, and gluing them back together. Translations of individual words may be all right. Making sense out of the translated sentence, however, is often a tough task. What do machine translations lack? Context, which only a human can provide. Note, though, that machine translation is no problem when professional human translators carefully check over the results—we're not saying machine translation is entirely bad.
1. English and Malayalam have totally different structures.
The sentence structures in these languages are totally different. While the subject-verb-object sentence structure is common in English, Malayalam is typically subject-object-verb, making word-by-word translation impractical. The grammatical structures of the source language can’t be retained. If we try to preserve them, we’ll be left with a jumbled mass of words, and in the worst-case scenario, totally meaningless gibberish.
The idea of translation is to capture the meaning of the words. Malayalam translation services need to pay attention to the ambience of the words and try to recreate it.
2. The word order in Malayalam is flexible.
English has a rather rigid grammatical framework, even in speech. Malayalam, on the other hand, is flexible when it comes to the use of particles, suffixes and word order. For example, in English we say, "Lana reads stories," while in Malayalam we can say, ലന കഥകള് വായിക്കുന്നു, ലന വായിക്കുന്നു കഥകള്, or കഥകള് വായിക്കുന്നു ലന (Lana stories reads, Lana reads stories, or Stories reads Lana). Surprisingly, all these make sense in Malayalam, with only subtle differences in meaning. Malayalam also uses a number of particles and suffixes, most of which can’t be translated directly into English.
3. There is no one Malayalam.
Malayalam has a large number of dialects that vary depending on location, social class, religion and other factors. There is no one Malayalam that is officially accepted or spoken widely. Professional Malayalam translation services must be able to understand the nuances of these dialects and capture the flavor when handling such text.
4. Culture! Culture! Culture!
Idioms, imagery, quotes — all these are embellishments that add to the beauty of language, and Malayalam is quite a well-decorated language. The flip side, however, is that most of them are hardly translatable. Machine-led translations or Malayalam translation services that offer one-size-fits-all solutions won’t be able to represent these well in other languages.
Looking for a professional, native-speaking Malayalam translator who can navigate these problems?
You’ve come to the right place. Our professional Malayalam translation experts are capable of handling any Malayalam text — literary, academic or otherwise —without losing the “poetry” in the original. Feel free to get in touch!