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translation vs transliteration

Transliteration vs Translation- What is the Difference?

Translation and Transliteration are the essential parts of the language services and support industry. Customers may confuse one with the other which may lead to misdelivered services. It is necessary to know the difference between the two, so you have clarity of the services available for your project. Let’s delve more into the topic of “translation vs transliteration” to understand the difference between the two processes.

What is Translation? 

Translation means converting documents, books, or any other text from one language to another to convey the meaning of the translated text. The words and pronunciation will differ as the content of the source language is translated into the content of the target language, but the meaning and intent will remain the same. Let’s take the simple example of the color “red”, which translates into “rouge” in French, and “أحمر” in Arabic. Similarly, “pen” is translated into French and Arabic as “stylo” and “قلم” respectively. Now a solely English-speaking/reading or Spanish-speaking/reading person will be unable to decipher it. But an Arabic speaking/reading person will understand the former and the French-speaking/reading person the latter. 

Now, this is just an example of a simple translation. A deep and comprehensive translation will take into account grammar, syntax, and nuances like local culture, idioms, and themes. So, the end document reads as if a native speaker/writer of the target language wrote it. 

What Does Transliteration Mean? defines Transliteration as follows: It is the process of transferring a word from the alphabet of one language to another. Transliteration helps people pronounce words and names in foreign languages. Unlike a translation, which tells you the meaning of a word that’s written in another language, a transliteration only gives you an idea of how the word is pronounced, by putting it in a familiar alphabet. It changes the letters from the word’s original alphabet to similar-sounding letters in a different one. 

Let’s take the example of the color “red” again. We know from the above that its translation in Arabic is “أحمر” and in French it is “rouge”. The transliteration of these words in English will be ” ahmar” and “rouje” respectively. In the same way, the transliteration of the words meaning “pen” will be “Qalam” for Arabic, and “steelo” for French. So, as a native English speaker, if you want to buy a red pen from an Arabic or French seller, making sure that you pronounce it correctly, you will refer to the transliteration of those words. “Qalam Ahmar” from the Arab merchant, and “steelo rouje” from the French merchant. Notice that in transliteration, the spelling of the word does not have to match the correct spelling in the foreign language. What is important is to write the word in the way it should be pronounced and not how it is lingually correct, as is the case with “stylo” which is transliterated as “steelo,” and “rouge” written for the purpose of transliteration as “rouje.” 

Transliteration vs Translation

The translation is the process of converting the source language content to the target language. Replication of spelling and pronunciation to that of the source language does not matter at all. What matters is providing the accurate meaning of the original content to the readers/speakers of the target language. 

Transliteration on the other hand focuses on converting the source script to the target script so that the pronunciation and spelling of the content are nearly the same in both the scripts. Transliteration is not about the interpretation or understanding of the content of the source script but only about making it readable to the customers who read/speak the targeted script. 

Transliteration vs Translation- Uses 

Translation services are used when both or multiple parties must have a clear understanding of the content. Translation services are required in a wide range of fields to adapt content from one language to another. Some of these fields include international trade, global political and economic systems, international pacts and agreements, business, finance, the health sector, websites, software, games, e-commerce, and technical documentation among others. 

Transliteration services are generally used to adapt names, words, phrases, etc. to a target language. Transliteration services make it easier to read and pronounce these words to the intended customers of the target language. These services have proven to be very helpful in pronouncing and spelling foreign names of individuals, cities, and countries. They are also used for hoardings and neon signs, brand recognition, and research papers in libraries to make it easier to search content in different writing systems. 

Final Thoughts

So, this is a brief explanation of the difference between transliteration and translation. Both of which are essential services for a business or organization with their effective uses. Translation services help break the language and communication barrier in businesses and other fields, while transliteration services help spell and pronounce an unfamiliar language correctly. Transliteration helps prevents any faux pas in incorrect pronunciation and avoid unintended social gaffes. It also builds strong connections with potential clients and customers of different languages and cultural backgrounds. In conclusion, we can say that both translation and transliteration are equally important and will help you target and acquire potential customers belonging to different countries speaking different languages. 

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