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English Borrowings vs. Russian Equivalents

We are now in the middle of a long-term EN-RU translation project, which involves constant feedback from the client’s in-country reviewer, in the form of edited files. Among other things, the reviewer has a tendency to replace original Russian words by their equivalent English borrowings. Here are a few examples:

  • Intranet (source) => интрасеть (our translation) => Интранет (edit)
  • coach => наставник => коуч
  • grade => разряд => грэйд

Or sometimes, they want to use English words in Russian translation directly:

  • Promotable => Подходит для продвижения по службе => Promotable
  • Well placed => На своем месте => Well placed

The reason why this happens is quite obvious: as an employee of a multinational company, this reviewer has a bilingual professional vocabulary. While this company employees in Russia are using Russian as their primary language in everyday work, various business activities involve active usage of English as well. These may include composing emails to affiliates in other countries, receiving instructions from higher management located outside of this affiliate, studying global policies, and so on. Through this type of repetitive activities, employees get accustomed to inserting English words in their Russian-based oral and written speech or thinking, whenever a direct Russian equivalent is unavailable or such equivalent is so clumsy that an English term appears more appropriate.

From a linguistic point of view, this is a natural process, because a speaker of any language looks for the most efficient way to convey their message. The downside of this process though is the negative impact it has on the target language in general, slowly depriving the latter of its uniqueness, making it more “globalized.”

Contrary to this project, some of the global companies are aware of this problem and take specific steps to reduce the negative effect. For example, Microsoft maintains a dedicated Russian language team, which is known for its commitment to finding the best equivalents that already exist in Russian instead of simply using borrowings. And their experience shows that a good equivalent can indeed be found in most cases. Some of my favorite translations include “брандмауэр” (firewall) and “веб-фрагмент” (web slice).

Personally, I prefer Microsoft’s policy of finding existing equivalents instead of coining new ones, because as a native speaker of Russian, I want my language to retain its unique feel. Still, I am convinced that, as end users of translation, clients are certainly in the position to choose whatever wording is preferred within their companies.

For more specific information about how Velior serves our clients, please see our case studies.

To make sure the translation you purchased is flawless, contact us for Russian translation editing.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.