How to translate? (from English to Hindi and vice versa)

Translating in English is a powerful exercise to improve your level: it helps us to notice the differences and similarities between our native language and our target language, to learn to express our ideas using other linguistic tools . We become more observant and therefore a better learner. What’s more, it’s an exciting activity that can become your profession! It is for these reasons that today’s article is dedicated to translation, and more precisely to translation as an exercise to improve your English !

When to translate?

To translate well, you must already express yourself well in English . And to express yourself better in English, you have to learn to formulate your ideas and not translate them word for word .

It must therefore be clear from the start: translating is not the best way to speak English. If you try to think in Hindi when you speak English and just translate your thoughts, it will take more time, more energy and you will end up speaking haphazard English. If you want to improve your oral expression, I would recommend that you read our article: How to speak English well?

The purpose of this article is therefore to show you how you can use translation as an exercise to learn how to find equivalents of your ideas in English.

How to translate? (from English to French and vice versa)

 

How to translate from Hindi to English

First, why would a Hindi-speaking person want to translate from Hindi into English? Here are some reasons:

  • to practice (theme)
  • to help someone who doesn’t understand English (at work, or a friend)
  • to do a professional translation (if you want to become a professional translator)

And now: what to do, how to translate to practice your English?

  1. Simplify : Your goal is to communicate a message effectively. You will notice that most of the time, we can omit several words in a sentence while respecting its meaning. Learning to do this will be particularly useful at the beginning, when you are not yet high enough to express everything in English accurately.

Let’s take the sentence “I listened to this song over and over”: how would you translate it? If you don’t know the English expression for saying loop , you could simplify the sentence and say I listened to this song many times .

  1. If you don’t know the exact word (or it doesn’t exist!), feel free to rephrase the sentence .

    • “I dared not speak.” = I was afraid to speak.
  2. Use reliable dictionaries . WordReference, for example, is a good multilingual dictionary that I use a lot. Once you have found a word / expression, you have to check if your new term is used well in the context and the language register you were thinking of. For this, I recommend the following resources:

    • Wiktionary : Wikipedia’s built-in dictionary which is very comprehensive, regularly updated, with lots of reliable and useful information, such as phonetic transcriptions , etymology and audio recordings.
    • Your Dictionary : to find example sentences.
    • Youglish : to see / hear the word or expression used in a natural context, spontaneously.
    • Linguistic corpora
  3. If you’re completely lost and don’t know how to say a certain thing in English, you could consult an automatic translator for some inspiration. In this case, we recommend that you try DeepL ! We did a little experiment by translating 100 sentences using different automatic translators. Result: DeepL correctly translated 93 sentences, while the others obtained an average result of 70/100.

  4. Be curious ! Ask yourself the question: “Do I know how to say this in English?” as soon as you talk with friends, watch TV or read a book in Hindi. Finally, it becomes a reflex, so we recommend that you add Wiktionary and Youglish to your favorites bar now!
 

Translation exercises

Here are some idiomatic expressions in Hindi; how would you translate them into english?

  • He has a viper’s tongue.
  • She is soup with milk.
  • I fell in the apples.

I recommend that you follow tip number 1: simplify! . You already understand the meaning of the expression and you know in what context it is used, so you can rephrase it and translate the simplified version ; for example :

  • He has a viper’s tongue. ⇒ He likes to speak ill of people. ⇒ He likes to talk badly about people.
  • She is soup with milk. ⇒ She gets carried away easily. ⇒ She gets angry easily. or She loses her temper easily.
  • I fell in the apples. ⇒ I passed out. ⇒ I faked. or I lost consciousness.

This is your first option; however, if you prefer to keep the emotion and connotation of the original language, you will have to find an equivalent idiom . Here are some helpful resources:

  • WordReference contains many expressions, proverbs and slang terms, as well as example sentences that will help you understand if the English term is used in the same way as its Hindi equivalent.
  • Parallel corpora, such as Reverso or Linguee to find passages of texts, films, articles, etc. in English and Hindi.

Keep in mind that many idiomatic expressions have direct equivalents in English, since they come from the Bible. Expressions like:

  • There ‘s nothing new under the sun.
  • Move mountains = Move mountains.

Once you are aware of this tendency, you can easily find a similar expression in the other language!

But now back to our sheep: our example sentences! What equivalents can we use to translate them and to convey the same message in our target language? Here are some ideas:

  • He has a viper’s tongue. = He has a vicious tongue.
  • She is soup with milk. = She’s short-tempered.
  • I fell in the apples. = I faked. I passed out.

Of course, there are not always equivalent expressions ; it is sometimes necessary to translate in an explanatory way.

 

How to translate from English to Hindi

Even if it is essential to speak both languages very well, I would say that it is even more important to have a perfect command of the language into which you are translating. If you come across a word or phrase that you don’t know, you can always use a dictionary to check its meaning. On the other hand, it takes years or even decades of practice to reach a language level that will allow you to communicate clearly and naturally in a foreign language.

You have certainly noticed that our passive knowledge of a language is better than our active knowledge ; in other words, we understand more than we can produce ourselves, including in our native language.

Translation in this sense will help you above all to:

  • identify gaps in your knowledge of the language. 🔍

It is important to establish the difference between the two main ways of translating, namely translating and interpreting .

  • Translating , translation and the verb to translate refer to a written translation.
  • Interpreting , interpretation and the verb to interpret concern oral, simultaneous translation.
 

Examples

There are some things that are notoriously difficult to translate , or often mistranslated. In this section of the article we will see them, talk about them and give you ideas of how to approach them.

Idiomatic expressions

Idiomatic expressions are pictorial, metaphorical expressions, carrying in their entirety a certain meaning and which should therefore not be translated word for word . If we are not aware of being faced with such an expression, it can give bizarre or even incomprehensible translations, such as “break your leg!”.

Here are some interesting idioms in English; how would you translate them into Hindi?

  • Break a leg!
  • piece of cake
  • call it a day

The first step is to realize that you shouldn’t translate the expression literally: that’s already half the job! (or almost…)

Then, how to translate these idiomatic expressions into the other language? Your first option is to explain the meaning of the expression :

  • Break a leg! ⇒ Good luck! ⇒ Good luck!
  • It’s a piece of cake. ⇒ It’s easy. ⇒ It’s easy.
  • Let’s call it a day! ⇒ That’s enough for today! ⇒ That’s enough for today.

To do this, you can use a monolingual dictionary to read explanations of the meaning of the English expression in English. We recommend Wiktionary .

Here are some ideas if you want to use equivalent expressions:

  • Break a leg! = Shit ! (because wishing good luck to someone who is about to go on stage would be bad luck!)
  • Piece of cake = It’s child’s play. / I can do it with my fingers in my nose.
  • Call it a day = Let’s leave it at that for today. / It’s enough for today.

Example of a bad translation in English:
why you should not translate word for word!
How to translate? (from English to French)

 

Comparisons

What are some popular similes used in English when wanting to exaggerate or speak idiomatically? This is something that also differs by culture, so here is our first example:

  • myopic as a mole

When we want to say that someone does not see very well (or not at all) in English, we do not use the word mole (mole) but rather the word bat (bat)! The comparison would therefore be: blind as a bat .

Here are some other interesting examples, how would you translate them into Hindi?

  • as busy as a bee
  • as mad as a hornet
  • as poor as a church mouse
  • use someone/something as a guinea pig
  • as dead as the dodo

Answers:

  • industrious as a bee
  • berserk
  • poor like Job
  • guinea pig
  • dead and buried

Observe the similarities and differences between the two languages ! Sometimes the same idea is expressed with the same simile; for example to say that we are very busy, we say as busy as a bee or busy as a bee . Other expressions clearly have a common origin: to say very poor , one can say as poor as a church mouse or poor as Job .

 

Jokes

English-speaker humor relies heavily on wordplay ( puns ), given the large number of homophones in English. These jokes are obviously untranslatable in Hindi.

The solution is to replace the joke with another (similar), to translate it (if it still makes sense in Hindi, perhaps with additional explanations) or, a practice of interpreters who have to think quickly, we can say that it is an untranslatable joke.

Find out how to make humor in English , to be well prepared for such a situation!

 

Flatshares

Collocations are words that are often associated and used together. There are differences between the two languages, especially in describing somewhat abstract actions. Verbs such as to have or to get are extremely productive in English and are often combined with nouns to modify their meaning, whereas in Hindi they are often translated as a single verb .

Do you remember the example of the verb to draw from our article How to think in English ? Here are several ways it can be used:

to draw with a pencil = to draw with a pencil
to draw a bath = to run a bath
to draw out a gun = to draw
to draw a card = to draw a card
to draw the curtains = to draw the curtains
to draw a portrait = to draw the portrait from someone*

Here, we can observe a mixture of the meanings draw and draw*, just like in English!

In all these cases, the verb is translated differently in Hindi. Maybe the meaning is quite clear when you see the expression in English, but when you want to translate it the other way, you don’t necessarily think of this verb.

Here are some other interesting examples, how would you translate them into Hindi?

  • to pay attention
  • to break the rules
  • to take a nap
  • to do a favor
  • to make a call

The difference between to do and to make is difficult to learn, so I invite you to discover our draft: Do or make ? .

Here are the answers :

  • be careful
  • break the rules
  • take a nap
  • to serve
  • to call

It’s the little details that will make your translation natural!

Prepositions

In continuity with the previous category, prepositions are a big challenge in each new language, so keep in mind that it is very likely that these little words will not be translated literally.

Some verbs require certain prepositions that you have to remember by heart, or check each time until it becomes a reflex.

Here are some examples :

  • You have to be careful what he says. = You have to pay attention to what he says.
  • I am interested in translation. = I’m interested in translation.
  • respond to someone = answer someone (no prepositions!)

We can observe small interesting nuances at the level of the meaning, when we opt for another preposition:

  • I’ve heard about it. = I heard about it, someone told me about it.
  • I’ve heard of it. = I have heard of it, I am aware that it exists.
 

Phrasal Verbs

Particle verbs or phrasal verbs are a difficult part of the English language because, as we saw in the last two sentences, if you change the preposition, it will change the meaning of the sentence.

It’s good to keep this in mind when translating from English (to be sure to have understood the meaning of the sentence), but also when translating into English: we tend to forget that these verbs to particles exist and we choose synonyms, which however are most often used in a rather formal language register .

Some examples :

  • to hang out with = hang out with, hang out with
  • to hang on = wait
  • to hang up = hang up
 

Fake friends

False friends are learners’ greatest enemies and often result in poor translations. Hindi and English share a large number of words which are at first glance similar (even, identical!) but whose meaning is very different.

Here’s a fun example:

  • He said he would come back to me eventually. ⇒ Will he answer or not?!

This is an interesting example, because the word eventually in English has an almost opposite meaning to that of the word eventually ! In English, if we say that something will eventually happen, it means that it will happen sooner or later, but with certainty. The English phrase then means He said he would answer me later.

You can imagine all the bad translations that could arise from such misunderstandings!

Then find out about some of the most common false English friends !

Translation techniques

There are many techniques that professional translators use in their work. Now, we will see a small list of some popular approaches. You may find it helpful to keep these techniques in mind:

 

Lexical borrowing

By learning a new language, you also discover a new culture. Inevitably, this culture is rich in words that serve to describe dishes/foods, clothing, traditions and concepts that do not exist in our native language . Since these are new concepts, we tend not to translate them, and just borrow the words.

This is how we ended up having words in Hindi like pizza, hamburger, cappuccino, karate, sushi, yodeling, but also other terms of less obvious foreign origin, like philosophy or democracy which both come from the Greek.

We also have the option of reformulating the name of a tradition or a food to give it meaning:

  • Thanksgiving = Thanksgiving , or Thanksgiving
  • yogurt = yogurt or curd

Proper nouns are generally not translated unless they carry an important meaning that one wants to keep. If this is the case, we could reformulate and adapt this name in the target language. Here are some examples that you are certainly familiar with:

  • Severus Snape, the famous character from the Harry Potter series , is called Severus Serpent in Hindi.
  • Pippi Långstrump (Pippi Longues-chaussettes) who became Pippi Brindacier in Hindi so that readers immediately think of her long socks.
  • Of kings and queens, think of Louis XIV, the Sun King is called Louis XIV, the Sun King in English.
  • Saints.

English is a hugely influential language and it’s hard to avoid anglicisms, so we recommend you check out The Language Help Bank . The Office québécois de la langue française also offers an online dictionary that allows you to look up specific terms.

You can also find lots of advice on the Académie Française website to avoid certain words and express the same notions in Hindi. Find out how to avoid neologisms & anglicisms .

 

Layers

Layers are another interesting practice that translators use:

Form of borrowing from one language to another consisting in integrating a foreign word or expression in a translated form (Larousse)

Layers are used all the time and everywhere. It’s good to be aware of it, so you can use it from time to time. Here are some fairly common layers of English origin:

  • skyscraper ( sky-scraper )
  • native speaker _
  • internet meme _ _
  • light year _
  • role -playing game

Discover other layers in Hindi from English words !

There are a lot of layers in English from Hindi formulations too, of course. Here are some interesting examples:

  • by heart
  • point of view
  • That goes without saying

How to translate? (from English to French and vice versa)

 

Rewording

When translating, you have to constantly reformulate and adapt so that the result is natural and close to the original.

Our goal is therefore not to translate word for word but to find other ways of conveying the same message, using different tools such as language registers, grammatical structures, word choices, etc.

Here are some examples in English, how would you translate them into Hindi?

  • You can say that again!
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

These are two idiomatic expressions that do not have exact equivalents in Hindi. It will therefore be necessary to find other ways of expressing the same ideas.

For the first expression, You can say that again , the idea is that we completely agree with the other person. You could say in Hindi Absolument , You said it or, to reinforce the meaning, It’s the least we can say! even the slang expression A little, my nephew .

As for the second expression, it is often used to say that by seeking better, we risk losing what is already good. The expressions We do not change a winning team or The best is the enemy of the good would be good equivalents.

 

Compensation

We must constantly compensate when translating, that is to say, we must find ways to express ideas that do not exist in our language .

Here are some examples of challenges when translating and some ideas for compensation:

  • tu/vous: in English both translate to you . It can therefore be difficult to bring out the nuances at the level of the language registers .
  • the word vous in Hindi is of course also used to address a group of people, a pronoun that does not exist in English. The solution: we can simply translate it by you or, if the context clearly indicates that it is several people, we can use formulations such as you two , you all or even y’all which is dialectal .
  • the singular they or the pronoun they used in the singular. This formulation is used when we do not know someone’s gender, when it is not important, or in the case of non-binary people. Anyway, this pronoun is increasingly used to describe a single person . What would you do in this specific case? Some solutions are he / she , someone , anyone , whoever tonight , a person , the pronoun on , etc.
  • If you remember our article How to think in English? , we talked about an interesting tendency in English, that of mentioning the direction of a movement. A phrase like The house burnt down would translate to La maison a brûlé entirely .

Did you know ? The singular they was the word of the year 2019 in the United States!

Adaptation

We can sometimes adapt certain phrases, expressions, proverbs, etc. so that they sound better in the target language.

  • Take the example of the English proverb Beer after wine and you’ll feel fine; wine after beer and you’ll feel queer. which can be replaced in Hindi by White then red, nothing moves, red then white, everything is off . So we adapt to the culture of the language so that it makes more sense.

  • Adaptations are often made when translating the titles of English films into Hindi. Discover the original titles of some famous films that have been replaced by other titles, still in English, for the Hindi public: topito list .

  • Slang and colloquialisms: you have to find an equivalent that not only conveys the same message, but uses the same register of language. Take for example the verb to dig used in slang:
    I dig that. means I like it , but to also respect the context in which we would use this expression, we could for example translate it by Je kiffe ça , to show that it is a slang term.

Resources for translating into English

We have mentioned several useful resources for translating into English, now here is a complete list:

  • Wiktionary , English monolingual dictionary
  • WordReference , multilingual dictionary, Hindi-English
  • DeepL , the best automatic translator, with an accuracy rate of 93%.

Linguistic bodies:

  • Reverso , parallel corpus, Hindi-English
  • Linguee , parallel corpus, Hindi-English
  • English corpora , unilingual linguistic corpus, very complete, with examples taken from films, series, newspapers or articles.
 

The technique of a polyglot who speaks 11 languages

Translation is a great exercise to improve your skills in English or any other language. The proof is the famous Italian polyglot Luca Lampariello , who often talks about his approach called bidirectional translation . He claims to have learned 11 languages by applying this technique. He described his approach in detail in a lecture:

 
 
 

How to use translation to progress in English

Now, a little summary of his technique. It consists of three steps:

  1. Understand the text
  2. Translate the text, from the target language (L2) into the native language (L1)
  3. Translate the text, from the mother tongue (L1) into the target language (L2)

Step One , Understand

The first step, just like in our own checklist presented at the beginning of the article, is to decode and understand what you have said (or written). The best way is to find multilingual texts or phrases, such as the Click & Speak monologues . It is above all a question of comparing the two languages and their specific way of expressing the same ideas. For languages that are relatively close to each other, such as English and Hindi, this approach can be extremely effective. We can often guess what it is, especially thanks to the large number of common terms.

The advantages of this technique:

  • no dictionary
  • one observes and analyzes grammar patterns and acquires them passively
  • we learn words, expressions and collocations in context
  • we take advantage of materials that we can understand

Second step , translate from L2 to L1

After having decoded the sentence or the text written in the target language, it is time to translate it into Hindi, even if the translation is available. It helps you to personalize the content, to attach to it. By spending time on a text or certain content, you increase your chances of retaining it.

Third step , translate from L1 to L2

Translate the same text from Hindi to English a few days later. On Click & Speak for example, you don’t need to set yourself a reminder, because the spaced repetition will do it for you.

By translating the same sentences into English, you will do it with your words. You will not memorize things by heart but learn to express yourself in certain situations.

Then, you can compare your new translations to the original sentences, to self -correct: you will receive feedback to avoid memorizing incorrect things, but without stress, since it is only for you.

According to Luca, translation may not be the ultimate technique for mastering a language, but at the beginning it definitely puts us on the right track. It helps us learn basic vocabulary, important grammatical constructions, and how to use them in context.

What to translate for practice?

After all this information, ideas and discussions, you are surely eager to start translating to progress in English! In this part of the article, you will find ideas of things to translate to practice English :

 

How do you practice written translation?

Let’s start with written translations, which are easier because you have more time to think and choose your words:

  • Click & Speak monologues and dialogues : it’s practical, because the content you will find in this training is focused on useful vocabulary and natural expressions. This exercise will help you automate the words, you will be able to easily receive feedback on your answers and, thanks to the spaced repetition that the training offers, you will be able to revise the contents on a regular basis.
  • Wikipedia articles : many articles on Wikipedia are already translated into several languages and since English and Hindi are among the most widely spoken languages in the world, the same article will usually be available in both. This will allow you to verify that your translation is correct. Another advantage is that we can choose topics that interest us, related to our personal life, hobbies or work, which will help us talk about those important topics for us more fluently.
  • The lyrics of your favorite songs ; it’s a less daunting task than translating entire articles, and for most songs one can already find translations that allow us to gauge our understanding of the original message.
 

How do you practice oral translation (interpreting)?

  • For those who already have an advanced level in English, you could try simultaneous translation and try to translate videos , dialogues from series / films or podcasts . It is an extremely demanding exercise because it requires several skills to work at the same time: our understanding, our attention, our ability to simplify when necessary, to decide which information is important, to rephrase, etc.

The last exercise can be done in two ways:

  • at the beginning, one can translate the content into segments ; if you choose to use the materials suggested above, you could simply pause after each sentence, translate, identify interesting words/phrases or gaps in your knowledge of the language, and continue.
  • if your level allows it, you can listen and translate at the same time , just like professional interpreters, like this lady here:

Example of simultaneous translation

It doesn’t have to become your profession, of course, we can do this just for practice like this boy does:

 

The checklist

You know, checklists are the optimal way to organize yourself to do a good job , whether it’s remembering to buy eggs or launching a rocket. It helps to break down our work and analyze the different parts: it helps us understand what we have to do and makes the task less daunting. Here is our checklist for a good translation :

  • Read and understand : Whether translating a novel or a simple sentence in English, it is essential to understand the message. This is another reason why translation is a powerful exercise: when you read in English , you are often satisfied to understand the general idea, which remains a rather superficial understanding. On the other hand, to translate well, one must fully understand the message. Translating from English will therefore help you improve your understanding of the language .

  • Remember the meaning : especially if you do a simultaneous translation, orally, you have to be able to identify the most important information.

  • Choose the vocabulary : to be well understood and to succeed in transmitting our message well in the other language, a meticulous choice of words is essential.

  • Respect grammar : make sure everything is grammatically correct.

  • Express the message

  • Choose a natural formulation : the most complex task is to find a natural way to express the same idea in a foreign language. This requires a lot of experience in the target language, but in this article you will find resources to help you shorten this integration time.

Follow these steps and you will certainly end up producing a good translation!

Translation is not only a profession for those who have already mastered the English language, but also a complex exercise that will help you become multilingual in English . You can even do it during your next walk and translate little phrases in your head to practice. Try to do this exercise regularly, preferably every day, even for 5 minutes: a big thing is made of little things!Hindi HHI