Translation: Art, Mathematics, Intuition or Instinct?

background, abstract, pattern, circle, impression

It is well known that art is creation. But so is language, the use of words can just refer to the process of free creation. As Noam Chomsky stated, “Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation”. Language is an important part of life we can’t give up, and everything inside or outside us seems to be art. Life is indeed free creation, and it gently ties with intuition and instinct. It is indeed an art in choosing the perfect linguistic match for an ambiguous term or idea, and here interfere the principles and rules on one side, and the free creation, intuition and instinct on the other side. What about translation and mathematics? R. L. E. Schwarzenberger stated in “The Language of Geometry”: “My own attitude, which I share with many of my colleagues, is simply that mathematics is a language. Like English, or Latin, or Chinese, there are certain concepts for which mathematics is particularly well suited: it would be as foolish to attempt to write a love poem in the language of mathematics as to prove the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra using the English language“. But is language mathematics? Indeed, there are grammar rules in each language, but there’s no valid formula. And the machine translations can prove that mathematics has an important role in the translation process, but they don’t offer a correct finality. In mathematics, and even in logic, one plus one can be proven to be one. But how can a translator prove that red is blue, or that two paragraphs are actually one? Can a translation be carried out in a mathematical manner? I would say it partially can – based on the concept of universal grammar, but not completely, it would have no finality and no linguistic understanding. The machine translations are for one by one term translation, without connection, but for keeping the meaning you’d still have to use the free creation, intuition, instinct, and knowledge in languages and certain fields. Translation as intuition could be logically explained only based on linguistic knowledge and experience. But intuition is a sixth sense and there are persons who have language learning and understanding in their genes, I would dare to say. It can’t be logically or mathematically proven, but that sense is there, making us wonder how there can be persons who speak more than thirty languages at an academic level. I would say this is the language intuition. But a translation can’t be carried out only based on this. And it’s the same when it’s about language instinct. Steven Pinker believes that humans are born with an innate capacity for language, and he states that “language is an instinct”. It is indeed an instinct, but not completely. The translation is a complex process that involves linguistic knowledge and expertise in a certain field, but it is partially also art, mathematics, intuition and instinct, each having its own essential role, and in combination lead to a correct and fine translation.