Science + Magic = Translation

October 22, 2015

Translation is science + magic.

There is no other way to describe the majestic art form that is translation.


Masterfully bending words and meanings into a whole other language can be described as nothing less than an art form, an art form performed by true artistic geniuses that judiciously mix science and magic, otherwise known as translators.

Translation by nature must be scientific. It is precise, it is accurate. Translated content must convey the same register of language in the target language, a task which is only made possible through the translator’s scientific mind that so carefully lays attention to all levels of detail. For language is a living, breathing entity. And all of us bring a lifetime of experiences into our own language that ebbs and flows on a a daily basis. It’s in that precision, that science, that the true meaning of content is allowed to shine in the translator’s target language. Yet it’s more than that, because translation is also magic.

Magic happens beyond the conscious level of understanding. The dictionary describes magic as “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.” Many people scoff at the thought of magic for it cannot be scientifically explained. So how can translation be both science and magic at the same time? Only the translator intimately knows why and how this is true for translation requires the translator’s mind to shift into a magical realm of existence to allow magic to occur. Yet we as readers of translation know subconsciously that the translator has the power to influence us as readers, a power that can only be described as mysterious.

In an interview of Laura Watkinson by The Guardian, Watkinson is asked what Tonke Dragt‘s writing was like to translate, and whether the task presented particular challenges or quirks:

Watkinson states: “It was a joy for me to read her books – and an absolute delight to translate. I know if I’m going to get on with a Dutch book if I start simultaneously translating it and playing around with the words as I read it, and I was itching to get to work on The Letter for the King and its sequel, The Secrets of the Wild Wood. The words almost translated themselves.”

The “words almost translated themselves.” That is the magic and science of translation.

At INGCO International, we live and breathe by the magic and science of translation. With over 20 years of professional translating experience, we know what it takes to truly produce masterfully created translations. We hope you reach out to the INGCO team when you need document translation, on-site interpreting or global marketing services in over 200 languages, across the globe.