Principles of Translation
Throughout the history of philosophy and linguistics, the essence of translation and its importance have been misunderstood, as an art form, a way of expressing meaning and a method of interpreting being. Even the term translation has not been properly translated to our understanding.
Translation brings to the fore what a hidden in language, by opening a space.
The Invisibility ff Translation
The sheer volume of texts of all kinds continues to increase, exponentially as long as there is a need, to transmit those texts over linguistic boundaries. Yet, despite this surge in world knowledge, the invisibility of translation persists.
Heidegger explains; "in its invisibility, the good translator disappears from view, even while preserving the text."
All reading is a kind of translation, a search for meanings in a text written by someone else. When reading a Shakespeare play, one can only wonder what happened to thoet words over the centuries.
The most important question is: Is translation possible? At one end of the debate, nothing is communicable of translation; at the other extreme, everything is translatable into any language, as long as humanity recognizes that a degree of approximation is an acceptable human characteristic.
All forms of literature and speech can be translated including novels, movies, poetry, speeches, and non-fiction, with different areas varying in difficulty. Scholarly texts are translated by skilled professional translators, Metalanguage works, that discuss language can he very difficult to translate usefully. Sometimes the metaphorical use of a word is more common than its literal use; idioms cannot be translated accurately. Comic texts are notoriously difficult to translate. Poetry is close to impossible to translate accurately because it depends on from as on meaning. Non-fiction, on the other hand, is often very straight forward to translate, as meaning is all that is important.
The Translation Process
Translation theory is the study of proper principles of translation. Based on a solid foundation of understanding of how languages work, translation theory recognizes that different languages encode meaning in differing forms. Yet, it guides translators to find appropriate ways of preserving meaning, using appropriate forms of each language. Translation theory includes principles for translating figurative language, dealing with lexical mismatches, rhetorical questions.
There are two competing theories of translation. In one, the purpose is to express the full meaning of every word in the original. In the other, the purpose is to produce a result that moves in its new dress with the same ease as in its native rendering. In the hands of a good translator neither of these two approaches can ever be entirely ignored. Translators should meet three requirements: they should he familiar with:
- The source language
- the target language
- the subject matter
The translator discovers the the meaning behind the forms in the source language and does his best to produce the same meaning in the target language - using the forms and structures of the gadget language. Consequently, what is supposed to change is form and the code and what should remain unchanged is the meaning and the message.
Translation is therefore a process based on the theory that abstract the meaning text from its forms and reproduce that meaning with the very different forms of a second language.
Types of Translators
There are different groups of translators. There are translators employed in companies where they do clerical work and translate documents in various languages. There are freelance translators who work inside and outside the publishing industry. Freelancers, are highly independent, have little organization, and work on their own or network with colleagues
Translators who do not work for publishers are often called technical translators, even if they do not deal with technical texts. Translators who work for publishers are often called literary translators, even if they deal with non-fiction or scientific texts.
Simultaneous translators are not textual translators translators are; but rather interpreters. Their job consists of listening and verbally translating a voice as it is being spoken.
Types of Translations
There is variation in the types of translations. Some translators work, only in two languages an d are competent in both. Other work from their first language to their second language, and others from their second language to their first language.
Two translators may be translating from the same source text and into the same target language, yet the results may be very different. There is no one correct translation of given text. Reasons for this variation include;
- the purpose of the translation
- the translation team itself
- the target language audience for whom the translation is intended
The results are three translational philosophies. Literal (word-for-word) translations follow very closely the grammatical and lexical forms of the source text language; idiomatic (thought-for-thought) translations are concerned with communicating the meaning of the source text using the natural grammatical and lexical items of the receptor language. Translations that add to the source text or change certain information for a specific effect are called unduly free, or free translations.
Ad Verbum vs. Ad Sensum:
Transition is an old activity that has been practiced by man since ancient times, with only very few writings on the subject in the pre-linguistic age. Such writings were devoid of systematic approach. Translation was based upon personal impressions and subjective inclinations.
The famous debate over translation ad verbum (according to the verbal expression) and ad sensum (according to the meaning) originated in Roman times: Cicero, Roman statesman., orator and writer, translated many Greek works into Latin. Cicero's approach to translation was sense for sense and not word for word. That means a translator should bear in mind the meaning of the source language and render it by the target language words which does not sound strange to the target language readers. Pliny the Younger practiced and propagated translation as a literary technique. Unlike Cicero, Pliny tended towards word for word translation. Regarding the importance and usefulness of translation, he wrote: "the most useful thing, which is always being suggested, is to translate Greek into La:in and Latin into Greek. Jerome in the fourth century, like Cicero was a representative of the latter method. In his famous "Letter to Pammachius", he remarks translation conceals the sense". Despite those powerful words, Jerome advocated two different methods of translation depending on whether the original was a secular text or a sacred text. Jerome defended liberal translation whenever a highly authoritative text such as the Bible was at issue.
Boethius in the sixth century adopted Jerome's literal translation position, with respect to the works of renowned philosophers such as Aristotle: he translated word for word. Boethius’ translation strategy was followed in the Carollingian Renaissance by Eriugena, who made the philosophical and religious doctrines of. the Greek fathers accessible to Latin readers.
Yet, these early translators were not introverted copyists. They were true scholars who understood what they were translating and possessed the ability to converse with their contemporary scholars.
The First Published Principle:
One of the earliest attempts to establish a set of principles for translation was made by French translator Dolet, who in 1540 formulated the "fundamental principles of translation". The should:
- understand perfectly the content and intention of the author whom he is translating
- have a perfect knowledge of the languages from and into which he is translating
- avoid the tendency to translate word for word
- employ the forms of speech in common usage
- produce a total overall effect with appropriate tone
The seventeenth century witnessed a spurt in translations of Greek, Latin and French classics into English. The introductions written to the translations of these works discussed various translation techniques. In 1611, King James I if England commissioned scholars to translate The Bible. The King James Version of the Bible went on to have a great influence on the English language and literature.
Seventeenth century poet and translator, Cowley, advocated freedom in translation. He treated word-for-word translation as one mad man translating another.
- Metaphrase - involving 'word by word' and 'line by line' translation
- Paraphrase - involving 'sense for sense' translation
- Imitation - involving variance from words and sense by abandoning the text of the original as the translator sees fit
In 1791, Scottish jurist and historian Sir Tytler published his "Essay on the Principles of Translation", in which he describes a good translation to be: "that, in which the merit of the original work is so completely transfused into another language, as to be strongly felt, by a native of that language as it is by those who speak the language of the original work."
Tytler suggests rules to be used to guide translators and or judging the efficiency of their translations. According to Tytler, the ideal translation should:
- give a complete transcript of the ideas and sentiments in the original passage
- maintain the character of the style
- have the ease and flow of the original text
The ideas of Tytler give inspiration to modern translators, particularly his open-mindedness on quality assessment and his ideas on linguistic and cultural aspects in translations.
With the flourish of modern linguistic studies, the literature on translation becomes more systematic. Modern translation theory has moved away from a purely linguistic perspective toward the methodology of incorporating non-linguistic disciplines, most notably Semiotics (the systematic study of signs) to supplement existing theory.
In 1964, linguist Nida claimed to separate translation studies from linguistics, since one can translate without knowing anything about linguistics.
Knowledge of the linguistic and stylistic characteristics of language varieties, however, can be of great use in translation. With such knowledge, one can then search for the equivalent variety in the target language. According to Nida, a translator:
- analyzes the message of the text into its simplest forms in the source language
- transfers it at this simple level to the target language
- restructures it at this simple level to the target language, appropriately for the audience.
Such a summary encourages translators to concentrate on what is important, and to restructure the form when it is necessary to convey the meaning. This is also helpful where communication is difficult, because it is better to transmit a minimal core content, rather than to produce a formal equivalent that does not work at all.
Dynamic Equivalent Translation
Although the principle of dynamic equivalence has been in existence for a long time, it was first given that name and formulated as a systematic translation principle in the seventies by Nida.
According to Nida, "language consists of more than the meaning of symbols and the combination of symbols; it is a code in operation, functioning for specific purposes. Thus we must analyze the transmission of a message in terms of dynamic dimension, since the production of equivalent messages is a process of reproducing the total dynamic character of the communication.
Linguists developed this theory to spell out in detail the differences between form and meaning, the differences between different languages, and the kind of practices that lead to sound translation. Central to the theory was the principle of translating meaning in preference to form.
Dynamic equivalence, or functional equivalent translation seeks to represent accurately in good target language grammar, style, and idiom,which the words and constructions in the source language conveys to the original recipients.
By contrast, a formal equivalent translation seeks to translate from one language to another using the same grammatical and syntactical forms whenever possible.
The Ideal Translation
Translation is the accurate rendering of a document into another language so that it is suitable for its intended purpose. To be effective a translation must be complete and accurate, reflect the correct use of grammar, appropriate writing style, and terminology consistent, the ideal translation should be:
- accurate - reproducing the meaning of the source text
- natural - using natural forms of the target language and being appropriate to the kind of text.
- communicative - expressing all aspects of the meaning and understandable to the intended audience