In English and many other languages the word for transla- tion is a two-headed beast. ‘A translation’ names a product – any work translated from some other language; whereas ‘translation’, without an article, names a process – the process by which ‘a translation’ comes to exist. This kind of double meaning is not a problem for speakers of languages that pos- sess regular sets of terms referring both to a process and to the product of that process (as do most Western European languages). Speakers of English, French and so forth are quite accustomed to negotiating such duplicity and can play games
with it, as when they say walk the walk and talk the talk. More specifically, words derived from Latin that end in English in -tion nearly always name a process and a result of that process: ‘abstraction’ (the process of abstracting something) alongside ‘an abstraction’, ‘construction’ (the business of building struc- tures) alongside ‘a construction’ (something built), and so on. In a related kind of word-use, the teacher of a cordon bleu cookery lesson hardly needs to explain that the French use the word cuisine to name the place where food is prepared (the kitchen) and the results of such preparation (haute cuisine, cuisine bourgeoise, etc.).
David Bellos gained his doctorate in French literature from Oxford University (UK) and taught subsequently at Edinburgh, Southampton and Manchester before coming to Princeton in 1997.. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything