Q: Thinking about your main target language, what would you say are your biggest challenges when translating from English into that language?

A: The biggest, classical, problem in English to Yoruba translation is the problem of one-to-one equivalents. There are expressions in English that cannot be rendered with the same number of words in Yoruba (“I’m sorry” is one). There are also tones of those in Yoruba as well, that you can’t express in English without having to write an epistle. (“pẹlẹ” is one such, or “ẹ kú ilé).

It is a “problem” easily surmounted if the target text allows for it. But while translating for mobile communication, or computer/software jobs, it forces one to be creative, since the client usually requires one-to-one translation as much as possible, and there is usually not enough space to elaborate.

The other problem is that of diacritics – the fact that tone and vowel markings in Yoruba need to be present to avoid ambiguity. While most computers can be manipulated to place the tone marks on the translated words, many software may not be able to process them, and some clients don’t have need for them, so the translator is forced to send in products that are unsatisfactory and can cause ambiguity.

Read more of my interview with Translate Africa, on my work in translation, the #tweetYoruba project, language attitudes, among others, here.


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