Hebrew Translation: It Can be Done!

English to Hebrew translation can not always be an obvious. This article will discuss five difficulties that accompany the task of Hebrew translation. You may find it helpful, or you may decide you need a professional translator.

These five difficulties can also be five different reasons that you should consider hiring a Hebrew translation professional:

1) One reason that you would want to consider hiring a Hebrew translation professional is that many of the Hebrew 1st person, 2nd person and 3rd person pronouns are gender specific. For instance, according to an article1 that I found online, you need to know the gender of a noun so that when you come or hear– the pronoun you can understand what it is referring to. This may sound strange to English speakers who are used to gender-less pronouns (except in the case of singular 3rd person pronouns) and use word order to keep references to nouns under control. However, if you want to learn more about Hebrew and Hebrew translation, you will have to understand that Hebrew just isn’t quite as word orderly as English at least in a grammatical sense. Of course, a native speaker of Hebrew who could speak English might be able to handle the job but a translator could most likely do it faster.

2) In Hebrew, word order means far less than it does in English. For instance, in Hebrew you could say brown kangaroo jumps or jumps kangaroo brown and it would project basically the same idea to a modern Hebrew speaker. In contrast however, an English speaker would probably become confused when reading jumps kangaroo brown especially if it is in the middle of a sentence that would normally require the brown kangaroo jumps version. This is simply another reason that you would want to find a Hebrew translation professional who you could trust to get the grammar right and make quick translations by fast-paced deadlines.

3) Another thing that must be understood during Hebrew translation is the difference between identifying direct objects. For instance, in English, a direct object can be identified from the word order of the sentence. In the sentence, Fred kicked the ball, the ball is the direct object because it is being acted upon and it wouldn’t quite be proper if you wrote kicked Fred the ball, especially if it were part of a larger whole. So, you are probably wondering how a Hebrew speaker would identify a direct object if they can say things like the ball kicked Fred, when really what they mean to say is that Fred kicked the ball.

The trick is this: modern Hebrew speakers use the word “et” to identify the direct object. So, in Hebrew you could say Fred kicked “et” ball, kicked “et” ball Fred, or “et” ball kicked Fred. Sound a little confusing? It can be. That is why it is so important to look for a Hebrew translation expert especially if you are involved in a document localization project.

4) During English to Hebrew translation there is also the issue of translating English style questions to Hebrew style questions.  Again, in English, word order is also usually important when asking questions, especially when those questions are on paper. For instance, if you saw the following question written on paper it might seem fairly odd in English:

My money is safe in the bank of England?

Sure, eventually the reader would catch on that this declarative sentence wasn’t actually that declarative but afterwards–unless the context happened to be ideal in this particular instance–his or her mind would probably back track and think that the question was a bit odd. He or she might even think that the question should have been written as follows:

Is my money safe in the bank of England?

In Hebrew, questions can be identified with voice inflections or with a tag (if you know Spanish the concept of a tag will be familiar to you). The tag word is nachon which means correct. So in Hebrew you could say My money is safe in the bank of England, nachon? You could of course use the tag correct in an English phrase but it wouldnt be as common.

5) This is just a guess on my part, but I was reading an article about doing business in Israel and it mentioned that many people have the opinion that Israelis are arrogant, aggressive and pushy when in reality many Israelis are simply honest and direct. In my opinion, the issue of cultural values (e.g. being direct rather than polite) plays a big part in A-1 Hebrew translations. Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that the values of a country and the way that they verbalize in everyday communication would play a part in the way that they write to each other? This is another reason you might want to consider hiring a Hebrew translation professional as he or she will most likely have experience with the best way to right to a specific cultural group without offending anyone. Translation should dissipate ideas, not aggregate negative emotions.

About the Author: Marci Crane is a web content specialist for 10x Marketing in Orem, Utah. For more information in regards to Hebrew translation, or document localization, please feel free to contact a MultiLing Hebrew translation representative.


This entry was posted in Misc. Bookmark the permalink.