Peak Translations

Tips to translate from English to Hindi and vice versa

India plays host to a colourful array of languages and of those 22 national languages, Hindi takes centre stage. This star player belongs to the Indo-Aryan language and not only plays the main language role in India, but also plays one of the top five leading fiddles on the world’s verbal language stage. So how do we translate from English to Hindi and vice versa? Let us take a look at the five tips below to discover what lies beneath these two languages:-

  1. Similar to German, the verbs in Hindi find their way to the end of the sentence and auxiliary verbs at the very end, unlike in English where verbs are placed almost anywhere within the sentence. E.g. ‘आप कैसे हैं’ (aap kaise hain) translates as ‘How are you?’ in English, but would literally translate as ‘You are how?’. This shows just how important it is to place the verbs correctly within the sentence in order to mirror the native language.
  1. English is a language where nouns do not take on a gender, contrary to many European romance languages like French, German and Spanish. Hindi, allied to its European counterparts, also takes on this role, where every single noun has a gender, either feminine or masculine. This therefore means that both verbs and adjectives will change according to the gender of the noun. E.g. वह अच्छा लड़का है [wah achchha larka hai] meaning ‘He is a good boy’ changes to वह अच्छी लड़की है [wahachchhilarkihai] when it is a feminine gender; ‘She is a good girl’. This highlights the importance in translation of ensuring that these genders or lack thereof are reflected appropriately in the target language.
  1. English does not differentiate between formal and informal address when it comes to the second person, whereas Hindi has three levels that represent varying forms of address; ‘tu’ is used for children, ‘tum’ is adopted for equals and ‘aap’ expresses respect). As mentioned in other translation language tips, adapting the text to echo these cultural nuances requires expertise to ensure that the same level of formality is maintained.

creative Hindi alphabet texture on an India county map silhouette

  1. The creative world of words in literary Hindi requires rather a lot of poetic licence when translating from Hindi into English as some words and phrases that at first appear straightforward are far more complex than meets the eye due to their incredibly culture-specific nuances. E.g. the word ‘purvaiya’ in the phrase ‘Tez purvaiya chal rahi thi’, demands far more commitment than a translation of one or two words in English. Its authenticity requires more of a fanfare in the form of a descriptive paragraph to relay the true meaning of this Hindi word. A native literary translation specialist in this instance would understand how to communicate this word effectively in the English language by adapting the phrase to best reflect its meaning in English (strong easterly breeze), whilst still maintaining as much of the original meaning as possible. However, like many words across the globe, some words are basically untranslatable and therefore the skill of the translator requires them to do the best they can in the given situation as some cultural connotations find great difficulty in crossing cultural borders.
  1. The alphabet is straightforward is it not? 26 letters and 5 vowels. Not so in Hindi, where the alphabet comprises 11 vowels and 40 consonants! This involves using several Latin letters in English to correspond with just one Hindi letter in such instances where place names or personal names are used. What is important to note alongside these language quirks is that in the process of translation, one English word can often require many Hindi words to say the same thing, which is why an English source text will expand in word count when translated to Hindi, e.g. a 50 word text could potentially increase to 75 words in Hindi.

When you get to the nitty gritty of translation, the key point to consider is that a native translator will safeguard the native fluency of a translation throughout its text, and if you add specialist subject proficiency to the mix, where correct terminology or creative adaptation is fundamental, the end goal is always the same; that the text reads as if it has been written by a native.

Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture”. (Anthony Burgess, English writer and composer)


 By Madeline Prusmann, Project Manager, June 2018





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