Why is Register important when translating?

Professional translators need to take register into consideration when translating. It is not the same if a translator is translating a novel for children, a scientific article or a poem. It goes without saying that every audience is specific and the texts need to be adjusted to the audience’s professions, levels of maturity and needs.

If you are a translator or need to get some documents translated it is important to know what register really is and how it affects the quality of your translation. The register, or the tone of the language, changes as you change the purpose of your writing or translating and it depends on who you are writing to or translating for.

Translators at TheWordPoint company are well versed in translation, so using the right register comes naturally to them. Obviously, years and years of translating various texts and applying the knowledge they gathered about translation at universities paid off in the end. Now they are professionally trained experts who don’t use machines for their translation, just the knowledge and experience gained throughout the years.

When it comes to register, different registers are used on a daily basis, depending on the social setting we are in. If we talk to our parents, we will probably be respective yet friendly, however, when we talk to our boss, we will probably try to use fancier words to sound smarter. All people are aware of the fact that first impression does matter.

All these unwritten rules apply to translation. Earlier, formal register was the only register that was accepted and appropriate, so the translators had to modify the texts so they sounded more formal and ceremonial. Nowadays, the situation has changed to a certain extent. Sometimes, it is crucial to stretch the rules, and go with the flow. In modern times, not all businessmen wear suits, ties and briefcases, but are more modern and follow the trends. This is a great metaphor for how translation evolved over the years.

A professional translator needs to emulate the register of the original text and the author’s style, and at the same time, adapt it to the target audience. When a translator gets a large chunk of text, which needs corrections, editing and polishing, the first thing he needs to ask himself is – Who is going to read this? If the answer is doctors, lawyers, scientists, the obvious thing is that the translator will use terminology, specific terms, the text will be without idioms or collocations and will focus more on facts or statistics. If a text is going to be read by a child, the translation and the text needs to be simple, engaging and fun to read.

A translator needs to have a good grasp of both languages so that he manages to adjust the formality, technicality and difficulty of the text to a specific target audience. Also, the type of the text plays a great role in choosing the appropriate register. Depending on the purpose of the written text (to inform, to promote, to persuade, to invite) the tone of the translated text has to change. The intention of the text is important in the translation process. Appropriate register is like a mediator between language and the situation.

For instance, when translating a literary text, the translator encounters two dimensions of language. The first dimension is the information about the language user, so a professional translator has to obtain information about the writer’s life.  It can make a difference when deciding what register to employ. It is useful to know whether he was born into wealth or poverty so information about social class, whether he suffered from any disease or mental illness or if he was addicted to medication, drugs or alcohol. The next dimension is the translator’s ability to be consistent in using register. This is a tool all writers need to master. One rule that has to be followed is to never mix formal and informal register and try to be as convincing and realistic as possible when translating from source to target language.