Using English In The Target Language When Translating

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A big issue with many languages when translating from English, is when is it OK to use English words within the target language? The answer of course is that it depends. Using English in the target language can be trendy and appropriate in some languages, but may be inappropriate in others.

Translation purpose

The purpose of the translation is also important here. Does using the English word benefit the reader or not? Does it fit the purpose of the translation? If you include English words within a Chinese document, will a Chinese reader who doesn’t understand English know how to read or pronounce the word? Almost certainly not.

Adopted foreign language words

English often adopts words from other languages into common everyday use. In recent years for example we have had the word “tsunami” come into regular English use. Of course this was a direct impact on language of the tragedy of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

English has many adopted words from Latin and French which have been in the language for centuries.

Choosing terminology

Generally translators will use the target language word if there is one. However, it may be appropriate to use the English term. For example, Spanish has a perfectly good term for e-mail, “correo electronico”. However, you won’t hear it used these days. The English term “e-mail” is the commonly used term. 

Using English in the target language

There is no simple rule about when to use an English term within the language and when not. This is where the professional judgement of the translator is very important, as is the context and purpose of the translation.