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The Translator’s Perspective Ian Mason Heriot Watt University.

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1 The Translator’s Perspective Ian Mason Heriot Watt University

2 Case studies - 1  Police investigation of train massacre in Spain, 11 March 2004.  Italian police place microphones in flat of suspect, Rabei Osman Sayed.  They intercept Osman’s conversations and translate them from Arabic.  The evidence is used by Spanish prosecutors.

3  Spanish translators dispute the Italian translations and accuse translators of “adjusting the translation to a context which did not exist”. –El Mundo 30.05.07

4 Italian version  “The thread of the Madrid operation was mine, you understand?...The trains… all were my group. I wasn’t actually with them but on the 4 th I contacted them and got all the details”

5 Spanish version  “All my friends have gone, some died in God’s path in Afghanistan. I won’t hide from you the Madrid operation they have just done… the Madrid train that exploded”.  “Ah yes”  “It was my people who did it… our people… I wasn’t with them but I knew about it but exactly what was going to happen they didn’t tell me”.

6 Legal perspective  A prosecution case is often based upon exact words spoken by an accused person.

7 Case studies - 2  Iraq War: case for Weapons of Mass Destruction.  US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, presented to the UN Security Council on 05.02.03 recordings of three intercepted conversations between Iraqi military officers, with an English translation.

8  “Modified vehicle”  “forbidden ammo”  “OK buddy”

9 Signs and sign values  What is the exchange value of these tokens in Arabic?  What is their exchange value within the restricted genres of the Iraqi military?  What was the set of indicators and assumptions available to the translator?  What is the value of the distinction between ‘ammunition’ and ‘ammo’ in English? What does (not) constitute ‘ammo’?  What ST sign triggered the TT distinction?

10 Assumptions about translation  In international diplomacy, business, public service and among general public: –Automatic; input = output  Among Translation Studies scholars: –Choice: range of possible versions. –Even the word “equivalence” is unsafe because it implies that such a thing is possible.

11 Dichotomies (in western translation studies)  Literal/free(traditional)  Formal/dynamic equivalence (Nida)  Semantic/communicative (Newmark)  Overt/covert (House)  Documentary/instrumental (Nord)  Foreignizing/domesticating (Venuti)

12 Formal and Dynamic Equivalence  Equivalence of form and content –Versus  Equivalent effect on readers of ST and TT

13 Overt and Covert Translating  Overt: –TT addressees not being directly addressed (by ST); –ST tied to SL community and its culture; –ST directed towards SL addressees but of interest to TL readers.  Covert: –ST not specifically aimed at SL readers; –TT enjoys status of an original in TL culture –ST and TT have equivalent purpose. House (1997)

14 Documentary and Instrumental  Classification according to TT function:  A documentary translation aims at reproducing in TL (aspects of) a communication between a SL producer and a SL audience.  An instrumental translation aims at producing in TL a new communication between SL producer and TL receivers, using (aspects of) ST as a model. Nord (1997)

15 Foreignization and Domestication  Domestication: –Aim = fluent syle; –Minimize strangeness of ST for TT readers; –Translator’s presence invisible.  Foreignization: –Retain foreignness of ST; –Break TL conventions; non-fluent style; –Register linguistic/cultural difference.

16 Question for discussion  In the light of these distinctions and  Remembering our rejection of the ‘Code model’ of communication:  How can we describe what has happened in the two case studies we began with?

17  These translators confuse instrumental with documentary translating  These pairs of strategies are not usually a matter of free choice: –Depends on design (interpersonal and intertextual) –Pragmatic focus: what was actually said?

18 Translators’ strategy  Some fields and genres: 1.The Bible/The Qur’an 2.A Government directive/ legislation 3.Websites 4.Press agency reports 5.Film subtitling 6.Instructions for assembly of equipment 7.Tourist brochures

19 1. Holy, ‘sensitive’ texts  Depends on purpose: –Preserve the “word of God” or –Communicate with, appeal to readers in a different cultural environment.

20 2. Government directives  Many governments have to interact with more than one language community.  TT has to be legally valid in each TL.  Concern to avoid any chance of dispute of the meaning of a text.

21 3. Websites  ‘Localisation’ –Many translation agencies say this is the largest part of their business; –Involves conforming to TL cultural norms and meeting user expectations; –May take place within one language, e.g. USA > UK.

22 4. Press agency reports  Localisation  Adjustment according to assumptions of mutual manifestness.  May involve deletions as well as additions.

23 5. Film subtitling  Target audience needs to follow the thread of a dialogue;  Target audience does not necessarily need to know what ST speakers actually said;  Focus can change when: –Jokes –Understanding depends on words spoken

24 6. Assembly instructions  Instrumental translating: –ST words are of no relevance to TT readers; –What counts is being able to assemble the equipment; –Focus on ‘perlocutionary effect’ or reader response. –Can be co-written instead of translated.

25 7. Tourist brochures  Instrumental translating –ST can be changed in order to appeal to TL community. –In some cases, what appeals within one cultural community is of less interest in another community –Example: Island of Jersey (UK)


27 Ethics of translation  ‘Foreignization’ largely an ethical recommendation by Venuti.  Similar ethical issues involved in other cases, e.g. dialogue interpreting.

28 Immigration interviews (Polish/English)  SL: skoły (‘school’)  TT: ‘an English course’; ‘a car mechanics course’

29 Medical consultation Pat. No this thing happens then depending on - on the circumstances - of life Int. (to Pat)Well at- at this particular moment do your life circumstances cause you pain once a week or- or more often? Pat. Sometimes more often Int. (to Pat) Sometimes more often. (to Doc) Once or twice a week maybe: and (to Pat) And th- this thing- this is related to stress right? Pat. Yes Int. (to Doc) Sometimes the chest pain is stress- related sometimes it’s exertion related. Bolden (2000)

30 Question  How do we know how receivers respond to particular translations?  Very little research into the effect on readers of different translations.

31 Example of European Parliament translation  Irish member of parliament expresses regret for what ‘we’ did in ‘my country (“we closed down our railways”) and suggests what ‘we’ as Europe should do.  French translation reduces mention of ‘we’, presents events as just happening (without a human cause) and introduces element of obligation (“the railways had to be closed down”).

32 Experiment: reader response  Multiple-choice test: ‘Who was responsible?’ –Answers depended on which version of text had been read.  Summarising test. –Respondents re-used structures they had read, even when not repeating content they had read.

33 Conclusion  All these examples and distinctions have relevance for translator training.  Need to reflect variety of genres and functions in pedagogical situation.

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