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How important is it to learn idioms?

Translating idioms is challenging for translators. Even if the translator happens to be very experienced, he or she will not find it easy to translate idioms. For a translator to properly translate an idiom it is important to have a strong knowledge about the target language and the culture of the country of the source language. It is important for the translator who plans on translating an idiom to have the ability to speak the source language like a native and he or she should also be aware about the context of the idiom. Needless to say, translators who do not have proficiency in both the source and target language will find it almost impossible to translate an idiom properly.


Learn the idiom

Translators need to learn idioms and to properly translate it, it is important for the translator to be skilled, willing and persevering. These are the attributes that will help them find the best equivalent of the idiom. They should also use proper translating strategies and in addition, they also need to come up with solutions that will help them translate the idiom without losing its meaning. It is imperative the translator knows how to translate into their native language and not in some other language. Only those who have thorough knowledge of the linguistic and cultural aspects of the idiom in the native language will stand a chance of translating idioms appropriately.


Translate in your mother tongue

When a translator is able to translate the idiom in his first language, he or she will be able to provide the correct cultural elements in his or her mother tongue. Translating idioms in the mother tongue is more important than translating into a second language because it takes a lot to translate an idiom into a target language. It is important for the translator to ensure that the reader in the target language is able to visualize and comprehend the text in terms of its culture.


Start by defining the idiom

Before a translator translates an idiom, he or she must first define and look at some important features of the idiom. Idiom is defined as an expression which functions as a single unit and whose meaning cannot be worked out from its distinct parts. When someone says he washes his hands of the matter, the idiom actually means that the person in question is refusing to have anything more to do with a particular matter. It does not imply washing of hands.


Different idiom classifications

When translating an idiom, it is important to classify it. There may be different types of idioms and each may be understood in a different way. The main categories of idioms are non-compositional, partially compositional and completely compositional. In the first case, there is no relation between the constituents of the idiom and its meaning. In the second case, there may be a few relationships between the constituents of the idiom and its idiomatic meaning. In the third case, the constituents can directly be mapped onto the idiom’s referents.


The bottom line is idioms can be difficult to translate. A language like English happens to be very rich in idioms. So, when translating these idioms, it is important that the translator be aware about its nature and type as well as usage. Translators need to go beyond recognizing an idiom. It is important they are capable of deciding the acceptability or non-acceptability of using it in certain contexts. Unless the translator recognizes and interprets the meaning of the idiom properly, they will not be able to do a good job of translating idioms.


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