How does a translator know which equivalent to choose? When faced with a list of possibilities how does the translator make the vital choice? Appropriacy is as important as equivalence and relevance. Knowing how to make the ‘correct’ choice is just as valuable as the choice itself.

A fine illustration of this point are the problems faced by translators attempting to translate Polish geographical-administrative/local government terms into English. Let us list the terms most often faced by the translator:

gmina, wójt, burmistrz, powiat, starosta, województwo, wojewoda, sejmik

On consulting a range of source including dictionaries, glossaries, EU websites, the most common equivalents/translations appear to be:

Polish – English equivalent
gmina – commune, district, municipality
wójt – voyt, commune head, mayor
burmistrz – mayor, provost
powiat – district, county, poviat
starosta – starosta, district governor, county head, president of the county
województwo – voivodeship, province, region
wojewoda – voivode, provincial governor, governor
sejmik – provincial assembly, regional council

So how does the translator make the choice and decide which of these equivalents is more appropriate than the other? There are certain situations that call for the use of one equivalent rather than another. For example, the use of voyt or voivode may be appropriate in a historical context as opposed to mayor or governor. The bottom line, however, is the ability to know which equivalent is appropriate in a particular context and this comes with experience. Quite simply, experience is one of the most important tools for translators.


5 thoughts on “Decision-making

  1. Hello,
    Using the word ‘voivode’ or ‘voivodeship’ is rather inappropriate as far as modern context is concerned. At least that’s what I heard on interpreting classes.

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