Problem of literal translation in Hindi

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Just like problems in every language translation, English to Hindi translation also has its share of problems of literal translation. We will try here with a few examples how literal translation of English phrases or sentences kill the real meaning of the source and also block the fluency and readability of the language.

Let us take one example, “The book is a sequel to that.” Many translators tend to translate this as “यह नई किताब उसके बाद की है।” But in our opinion the Hindi sentence needs to be elaborated a bit to bring the real meaning of what the original writer wanted to convey. However, there is always scope for improvement, this particular sentence could be better written as “यह नई किताब उसके बाद का खंड है।” However, some reviewers will tend to delete the word ‘khand’ and put comment that extra word has cropped up in the translation.

Another example. “Once the army starts using the same, the private sector will start showing interest.” Here a novice translator will tend to include the word ‘same’ in his translation which has to be treated differently here. The translation should be “सेना एक बार इसका इस्तेमाल करना शुरू कर दे, तो फिर निजी क्षेत्र भी इसमें रुचि लेने लग जाएगा।” You may have noticed the literal translation of same is not in the sentence, rather it has come as ‘its’.

Let’s take another example in this category. The sentence is “Everything can wait, but not agriculture”. Here we should be careful about the use of the word ‘wait’. ‘Wait’ is frequently used in English language but its use in Hindi is to be made with some restraint. The translation should be – हर चीज़ रुक सकती है, लेकिन खेती नहीं रुक सकती। In English when there is rush in a doctor’s clinic the attendant may ask the patient to ‘wait’. But when he expresses the same feeling in Hindi he will say sir, toda rukiye. Toda intejar kijiye is the correct literal translation, but seldom this is used in actual situations. In actual situation what is said is “thoda rukiye, doctor sahib aane hi wale hain”.

Here is another example of good versus literal translation. “Universally, journalists, especially print journalists, have to work in real time, thanks to the Internet.” Some translators will tend to translate “Universally” as सार्वभौमिक or वैश्विक. And the word ‘thanks’ may also contribute its share of confusion. We would suggest its translation as “दुनिया भर में हर जगह पत्रकारों को, खासकर प्रिंट के पत्रकारों को घटनाओं के घटते समय ही काम करना पड़ता है, और इसका कारण है इंटरनेट।” The phrase ‘real time’ is translated in a number of ways in Hindi according to context, and use of literal translation ‘vastavik samay’ is also acceptable many times. Similarly for ‘real estate’ many translators transliterate the term while many use the term ‘zamin jaydad’ and it seems both are acceptable.

Those who translate from English are advised to use good English resources like and to grasp the real meaning of the English phrase used and then go for its translation in Hindi. Use of is also highly recommended.

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