Translation techniques

We use, in order of preference, the following techniques:

1) If the concept exists in the target language/culture:

  - equivalence: a translation that covers the full meaning of the original concept. There are, in fact, concepts in Buddhism that already exist in our language/culture. For example, the Spanish term transitoriedad is fully equivalent to the key concept of impermanence, expressed in Tibetan as mi rtag pa (Sanskrit anitya);

       - contextual equivalent: term in the target language that refers to a concept that does not fully cover the Buddhist concept described by the Tibetan term. This technique involves enriching the target language/culture. For example, mente (mind) for sems (Sanskrit citta), consciencia for rnam par shes (Sanskrit vijñāna);
2) If the concept does not exist in the target language/culture:

  - creation: creating a new term for the target language/culture. This is an essential technique, as it helps to bring the reader closer to understanding the new concept than a calque or loan term would. Buddhism, for instance, defines three types of suffering. The first type of suffering refers to what we usually understand as suffering: all sorts of physical or mental pain. The second is suffering caused by the transitory nature of phenomena. The third type is the suffering that characterises all forms of conditioned existence. To avoid confusion with the other two types of suffering, we opted to translate the first type (sdug bsngal gyi sdug bsngal, in Sanskrit, duḥkha duḥkhatā), ordinary suffering, as sufrimiento por el dolor (suffering due to pain) rather than sufrimiento del dolor (suffering of suffering), the traditional calque, which struck us as not very illuminating, not only because of the repetition of the word ‘suffering’, but also because of the grammatical construction which, in Spanish, might seem to suggest that the suffering itself is suffering. Another example: in translating the key concept referred to as ma rig pa (Sanskrit, avidyā), if we start with the definition, i.e., ‘falta de conocimiento de la realidad tal y como es que mantiene a los seres atrapados en la existencia cíclica’ (‘unawareness of reality as it actually is, which keeps beings trapped in a cyclical existence’), it becomes clear that the traditionally used word, ‘ignorancia’ (‘ignorance’), which the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española defines as ‘Falta de ciencia, de letras y noticias, general o particular’ (‘Lack of knowledge, of arts or news, general or particular’), does not refer to the same concept. We therefore propose the newly coined term desconocimiento fundamental (fundamental unawareness);

       - calque: a literal lexical translation from the Tibetan or Sanskrit. Examples of calques from Sanskrit include the translation of bodhi (Tibetan, byang chub) as Despertar (Awakening) and vipariṇāma duḥkhatā (Tibetan, gyur ba’i sdug bsngal) as sufrimiento por el cambio (suffering due to change). It is important here to stress the difference between a calque, which is a technique used when the concept does not exist, and a contextual equivalent, a technique used when the concept already exists. For example, the term ‘suffering’ is a contextual equivalent since it refers to a broader concept, but at the same time it sometimes refers to the concept of suffering as we generally understand it. By contrast, ‘suffering due to change’ is a completely new concept. Finally, regarding calques, one of our goals is to rethink the calques from English that are traditionally used in Spanish texts dealing with Buddhism, which are actually barbarisms;

       - loan terms: this does not involve translating the Sanskrit term but rather generally adapting it to the target language’s system. Indeed, Sanskrit is traditionally the source language for the loan. Thus buddha becomes ‘buda’ to adapt it to the rules of the Spanish language, and it appears in that form in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española. In the same vein, we propose ‘bodisatva’ as an equivalent for bodhisattva. In this matter we follow Martínez de Sousa, who says that the loan can be either integrated, in other words fully adapted to the language’s phonological and spelling system, or transplanted, in cases where a form not fully compliant with the target language’s phonological and spelling system becomes entrenched through usage, as with the term ‘dharma’. Thus, we decided to accept integrated or transplanted loan terms that are already entrenched by usage, while choosing to integrate new loans when they are needed from now on.
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