Lexicographer v/s translator


I have taken an example of my working pair. Being in the field for 15+ years and having interaction with translators of some other languages, I found that this view applies to almost every language, worldwide.

When a client requests for localization in Hindi, they do not ask you to localize their product in languages (dialects of Hindi) like Bhojpuri, Magadhi Maithili, Pahari, Kashmiri, Rajastani, Haryanvi, Malvi, Kumaoni; most of the time they even don’t ask to localize in Gujarati, Bengali or Marathi (this is cost dependent). These all are either official state languages or major spoken languages in the states of the Hindi belt.

  1. Number of states where Hindi is spoken, called The Hindi belt:
    1. Bihar
    2. Uttar Pradesh
    3. Madhya Pradesh
    4. Haryana
    5. Rajasthan
    6. Himachal Pradesh
    7. Uttaranchal
    8. Chhattisgarh and
    9. Jharkhand
  2. Besides, the following territories also lie in this belt:
    1. Union Territory of Chandigarh
    2. National Capital Territory of Delhi
  1. The following states have large communities of Hindi-speaking people:
    1. Gujarat
    2. Maharashtra
    3. Orissa
    4. West Bengal
    5. Andhra Pradesh and
    6. Jammu and Kashmir

We have to localize the product keeping the above details in mind. Hindi is the state language of Uttar Pradesh; but still there are dialects in its core linguists. These are Hindustani, Khariboli (Kauravi), Braj, Lakhanavi.

When we select a translator, we say we are looking for a native speaker, and most of time, we get translators from Khariboli (Kauravi) “The Lexicographer”. Here we spoil interest of our client. Client expects Hindi localization for the Hindi belt, our pure Hindi translators churn out their linguistic knowledge and give us the cream in the form of terms, which hardly (perhaps!) can be understood by a person from their own dialect. Normally this happens when we chose a lexicographer in place of a subject expert. They provide content or translation, grammatically perfect with rich terms, and still difficult to understand for a user. They use such terms, which either are very rare in use or derived from Sanskrit or they are not at all in use. This is orthodox translation.

In literature translation, we are expected ‘just to transplant the Heart’; but in localization, we are expected not only to transplant Heart but also to translate the source so as, if it is translated back to source, it should fall near by the ‘source sentence’. In localization, we must keep in mind that the user is a literate person. Being National Language, we have many English terms in our day-to-day practice. Moreover, these are widely used in all Indian languages. For a century now, literate class is customary not only with technical English terms, but also we use verbs, adverbs, noun, pronouns, and numbers, from English in our day-to-day life. Therefore, you will find the user is familiar with English but not fluent, and also not affluent with Hindi. In his or her day-to-day life, they use many more English terms without a sense that they have their native term for this specific act or a noun or verb. On the contrary, these people read (with the help of a dictionary) write (with the help of a dictionary) and even speak (with good enough constructional mistakes) English, but with limitation. The translation should be free in nature.

Here is the role of a translator. Localization should be as such that the entire Hindi belt (consisting, more than 500,000,000 people) should understand it easily. This is a field where the user is the judge. They are customers and if not satisfied, they can ruin your client. We are here not to display our rich lexicon expertise but to assist users to understand our client.


This, I believe, is a model for every language worldwide. As an in-house translator, I have worked on end users feedbacks on translated content of products of some giants. What I saw and experienced from the feedback can be expressed as, Lexicographer v/s Subject expert, Modern v/s Traditional. This is a serious concern. I have tried here, to put in a few words.

It is a demand of time that translators and the organizations should take initiative to, structure and validate a language style and vocabularies to make localization more usable and the same time official. There should a language style in place, which may be called as, “simplified Hindi”, which will be a reference to validate any translation for its linguistic complexity. This will be milestone in Indian Localization sector. This will gear up motivation, will reduce review costs and to much extent, authenticate quality of translation towards it’s reader friendliness.


Author: sushan

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