Translation fallacy

In linguistics, the translation fallacy is the concept that essentially no word, phrase, text or speech in one language can be reliably translated into another language without loss, addition or other change of meaning.



The phase Kung Hei Fat Choi (literally congratulate happy grow rich, used by the Chinese as a greeting in Chinese New Year), can never be translated accurately into English due to fundamental difference in grammar between the 2 languages.


For example the sentence "I am eating." in English, is translated into German as "Ich esse". (lit. "I eat") because German lacks a continuous present tense. The translation fallacy is demonstrated here because "I eat" can be considered a generalised statement of fact ("I also eat from time to time"), and has gained a new meaning.

This could be clarified by writing, in German, "Ich esse jetzt" (lit. "I eat now"), but this then becomes ambiguous as it could be considered to mean that the speaker is eating at this point in time, is about to eat or (although it is illogical) has never eaten before but eats "these days".

Translation fallacy in popular culture


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