Translation and journalism are not new bedfellows:

The first translations can be found in newspapers dating as far back as the 1600s.

But journalistic translation is a relatively new arena when it comes to being studied. It wasn’t until the 2000s that the first research on the field was conducted.

This couldn’t be better timed.

Because, thanks to the internet, we now live in a world in which local news stories can quickly become global phenomena…

What is the relevance of translation in the field of journalism?

The importance of translation in media – especially news reporting – cannot be overstated.

It’s easy to see why:

When you read a news story, you are reading about an event which may have happened halfway around the globe. It may have involved people from a completely different culture. The participants may have reported what happened in a different language to the ones you speak.

This makes the accurate portrayal of those events and people absolutely critical.

For all that the internet may have connected the world, it has also made it more vital than ever that these now-connected people – who speak different languages and who may not have a common culture to fall back on – can communicate clearly.

The features of journalistic translation

Journalistic translation has several factors which set it apart from other linguistic fields:

The structure of news reports

News reports and other journalistic texts have their own unique characteristics.

Any translator working on them should have an understanding of these in both the source and target languages and cultures.

Cultural and historical referrals

Sometimes, a translator working on a news report may have to think like a journalist themselves.

Does the writer of the piece make a cultural or historical reference which might not be as well known or understood in quite the same way by a reader from a different part of the world?

If so, the translator may have to expand on what has been written in order to make the point clear.

This was a major concern in our work translating The Financial Times into Chinese – you can read a case study about it here – as the differences in cultural touchstones between China and the FT’s other global audiences are significant.

Reporting the facts accurately

Probably the major concern and feature of journalistic translation should always be that the facts of a story are accurately translated into the target text.

Accuracy is always important in translation, of course. But translation techniques like reformation and adaptation – which are a massive boon for marketing text, for example, because they localise a message to closely match a reader’s expectations – can actually detract from the translation of news reports.

This is because the way in which someone has said something is often just as important as what they have actually said…

This can mean a poor media translation can make a clever person sound stupid, a knowledgeable person sound misinformed – and vice versa.

Translating news reports – achieving authenticity

It follows then that perhaps the most important consideration when translating news reports is authenticity:

  • Of facts and information
  • Of voice
  • When relaying the intent of the speaker

To do this, you need a skilled translator who can accurately convey the sense and nuance of what is being said – as well as accurately translating the words themselves.

This is why when we provide advertising, marketing and PR translation at Asian Absolute, we only rely on linguists who have experience and/or qualifications in the field.

That’s because the best journalism translators are usually journalists themselves.

The importance of translation in media

As technology and globalism advance, the world is only going to become more interconnected.

Plus, the demand for far-reaching global stories has never been higher…

This makes the role of translation in journalism larger than ever. For reputable media outlets, it also makes achieving authenticity and accuracy in the stories they report even more of a concern.

It’s lucky then, that translation and journalism are not new bedfellows.