Diamond Translation

As we have seen in previous entires, translation theory often uses metaphors to describe translation, the translation process and sometimes even translation quality. An interesting metaphor is comparing translation and translation quality assessment to the analysis of diamonds.

The quality of diamonds is usually assessed according to the system most commonly known as the four Cs:


Carat refers to the weight of the diamond, colour refers to the diamond’s hue, clarity refers to the number of defects within the diamond, and cut refers to the way in which a polished diamond is created from a rough stone.

These four Cs could easily be superimposed onto a matrix for translation quality assessment where:

carat = information
colour = style
clarity = fluency
cut = accuracy

This gives us a neat guide for quickly analysing the quality of a translation. Thus, a good translation should contain and will be marked by high quality in each of these categories. In other words, the translation will contain:

(1) relevant information
(2) appropriate style/register
(3) fluent language (without errors)
(4) accurate, polished language


13 thoughts on “Diamond Translation

  1. I must say that I didn’t think about translation in this way as it is here written. Comparing translation to the diamond’s categories sounds like something new and worth trying to make use of. Thanks!

  2. Hmm… this is a completely different approach to translating. A compact reminder for the translators. Simplicity is the key I would say;)

  3. It is an interesting metaphor indeed. And if it is true that diamonds are forever (according to a famous slogan promoted by De Beers) so, by analogy, an outstanding translation is timeless as well. Considering sublime translation of poetry done by Barańczak I’d say we can reach immortality.

  4. I like the comparison very much. It will be easier for me to remember how to check a translation if I keep in my mind diamond’s category. As Marylin Monroe said, “Diamonds are a girl’s best frind.”

  5. Great and very interesting comparison!!I have never heard of it before,but it shows qualities of translation in an artistic way. I like it veeeery much!!

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