How to Translate Slang

By Atlas LS

Language is a complex and fascinating subject, and every language has unique ways of expressing specific meanings. Whether it’s a word or a phrase that is unique to a particular dialect or an entirely language-specific term, these linguistic nuances can pose significant challenges for translators. Slang and idioms can make perfect sense to native speakers, but they can be challenging to translate into another language.

As a result, translators must have a deep understanding of the cultural context of the language they are working with and technical language skills.

This blog post will explore some of the challenges of translating slang and language-specific terms.

Three methods for translating slang terms

When it comes to translating slang terms, three main strategies are commonly employed:

Softening: when translating texts that contain slang terms, it’s essential to consider the target audience and how they will perceive the language used in the text. The translator must convey the slang terms’ intended meaning without causing offense or confusion.

This technique involves adapting the language so that it is still understandable to the reader while maintaining the original text’s style and tone. However, the translator must also be careful not to dilute or omit the slang terms too much, as this could fundamentally alter the character and feel of the text.

In addition, softening in translation aims to decrease the degree of vulgarity or offense conveyed by slang terms in the translated text. The purpose is to make the content more appropriate and understandable for the intended audience.

Literal translation: this approach involves the word-for-word translation of the source text into the target language. While this method can be effective for some phrases, it may not work for all slang or colloquialisms specific to a language or culture. Such terms may not have a direct equivalent in the target language, which can result in a loss of meaning or cultural context.

Stylistic compensation: the most common method of translating slang is through stylistic compensation. The original slang term is replaced with a culturally or contextually appropriate alternative in the target language.

This approach requires a nuanced understanding of both the source and target languages and the ability to find suitable equivalents that preserve the meaning and tone of the original text.

However, the choice of translation method may also depend on the context. When translating slang terms or swearwords in text, the preferred method is often stylistic compensation, using a similar phrase or word with a similar meaning in the target language.

How to translate slang