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Many German translators escape the need to deal with the subject of style. Document translation, such as medical documents, legal documents and technical documents tends to focus on translating content as accurately as possible. In fact, German NAATI translators avoid adopting a different style as much as possible when it comes to these sorts of tasks. However, literary translators and marketing translators must also focus on style as much as they do content.

What is meant by ‘style’?

Any search in a dictionary for the meaning of the word ‘style’ delivers multiple possible meanings. Encarta, the online dictionary, for instance, offers up 11 different interpretations of ‘style’. English German translators will be most interested in the definition which relates to the linguistic sense of the word. Style refers to ‘how’ a writer writes, rather than ‘what’ they write. The latter is basically the content of the text and is certainly important as far as the translator is concerned. However, many writers write to convey their feelings about a topic. This is where the style of the text is important.

How should the style be dealt with by the translator?

It is not the translator’s job to change the meaning of a piece of written work, whether it is a fictional book or a marketing message. This means that the translator must endeavour to interpret the style – to capture what is being conveyed – and convert that into the target language. This is not an easy task and it means that the literary translator, in particular, tends to become specialised not just in the type of text they translate but the genre and even the author of the material to be translated.
In many ways, this is no different from the task of the technical or scientific translator who attempts to translate the highly technical language of the document they are translating. It depends on familiarity with the terms being used. It takes time and a willingness to learn the terminology in both the original and the target languages. This is the same challenge for the literary translator who has to read as much as possible and as widely as possible, especially material that is similar to the type of text they choose to translate. The aim is to achieve a translated text that appeals to the readers in the second language as much as the readers in the original language and for the same reasons.