Literal Translation vs. Free Translation

Literal translation and free translation are two main methods employed by translators in conveying ideas between languages. As the name suggest, literal translation is word for word translation. For example, the movie British Patient is translated into Simplified Chinese as 英国病人, using exactly the literal style of translation. This way of translation is a generally preferred over the other style (free translation), since it’s easier for both the English to Chinese translator and also the intended audience as well.

On the other hand, compared to literal translation, free translation is much less a translation than really a recreation. The the following English-Chinese translation example:

Pursuit of Happyness  >> 当幸福来敲门

We can see that the Chinese wording are not reflected the English original titles, rather it focus more on the content of the movie. Sometimes it makes more sense to the target audience, but it might be hard for them to associate the name with the original English version, unless they watched the movie in the first place.

4 thoughts on “Literal Translation vs. Free Translation”

  1. There is another type of translation–recreation. Could you give me some explanation about it?

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