An Evergreen Challenge for Translators – The Translation of Idioms

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Abstract

Translating idioms has always been a challenging decision-making process for translators mainly because not all idioms have direct equivalents in the target language. Translators usually and ideally have a solid knowledge of the target language and its cultural aspects, but even so they cannot match the ability of a native speaker in deciding when – i.e. in what context and text type – an idiom would or would not be appropriate. This study aims to explore the main characteristics of idioms and the difficulties which might occur when translating them. A needs analysis will also be presented, where the various solutions which a group of translator trainees chose while translating certain idioms from the novel “A Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin into Hungarian are examined. Their strategies and the appropriateness of their choices are analysed and compared with the options of the experienced literary translator (Tamás Pétersz). We consider this an important endeavour because, based on our experience, we believe that the topic of the translation of idioms should be included into the curriculum and appropriate materials and tasks should be designed to develop the translator trainees’ knowledge and skills in this domain. Therefore, the aim of this analysis is to obtain a clearer view of the difficulties they are dealing with and bear them in mind when designing teaching materials for them.

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