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TRANSLATION EQUIVALENT. An expression from a LANGUAGE which has the same meaning as, or can be used in a similar context to, one from another language, and can therefore be used to translate it: for example, English I don't understand, French Je ne comprends pas, Italian Non capisco, Modern Greek Dhen katalaveno, Japanese Wakarimasen. Achieving such correspondences involves special bilingual skills to cope with the tendency among languages to ‘lack of fit’ (technically, non-isomorphism or anisomorphism). Thus, the source-language expression may be a single word, a phrase, or a sentence within a text, but its target-language equivalent may have to be rendered at a different level: for example, the English idiom It's pouring (with rain) cannot be translated word-for-word into German, but the meaning can be redistributed as Es regnet in Strömen (It rains in streams). Most bilingual speakers can supply examples of such equivalents, and bilingual dictionaries codify them in bulk, but it is the job especially of the translator and interpreter to decide whether a particular expression is a fitting match for a particular passage. A number of complex strategies are needed to find translation equivalents, ranging from literal procedures such as direct transfer, substitution, and loan translation to devices of free translation such as transposition, adaptation, and circumlocution (which aim to find the closest functional equivalent). The literal approach can work well when language pairs have a similar structure: for example English and German with mother/Mutter, Mother's Day/Muttertag: but see FAUX AMI. The free style, however, is demanded even in similar languages whenever anything close to idiom occurs: mother-country/Heimat (homeland), necessity is the mother of invention/Not macht erfinderisch (need makes inventive).

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