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A History and Overview of Translation Techniques

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 3696 words Published: 22nd May 2017

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The art of translation reaches the times of antiquity, therefore is nearly as old as the introduction of writing, since every written text enhanced the need to distributing it to other nationalities. First writings, however, were written mainly in Latin or Greek and introduced to educated people. The lower classes, perceived as simple and uneducated, were neglected as far as writing and reading was concerned.

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The major twist in the field of translation studies emerged due to the outbreak of the First and the Second World War. People, especially connected with army and government, were interested in knowing enemies’ plans. Some schools devoted to translation were established in order to train soldiers in understanding foreign languages, both written and spoken. However, the need for translating enemy texts lasted till the invention of coded messages. Decrypted texts had nothing in common with proper texts written in a particular language.

Over the last three decades serious attempts were made to create a translation theory which would have included all answers connected with the human language. As Korzeniowska and Kuhiwczak (2006:28) have stated all of the previous translation theories were based chiefly on structuralist linguistics. The aim of the theories was not to present detailed description of the translation phenomena but to provide scholars with sentence structure rules. The 1970s and early 80s brought a breakthrough in understanding the language universals, which in turn influenced perceiving translation as a tool helpful in understanding language. These major changes occurred due to the work of Wilhelm von Humboldt and the introduction of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Refreshing for the understanding of the language though it was, Sapir’s famous statement, quoted in Korzeniowska and Kuhiwczak (ibid), “no two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality” gave straightforward answer that the translated text (i.e. target text; henceforth: TT) will on no account match with the source text (henceforth: ST). Sapir’s statement led to neglecting translation and, simultaneously, to raising scholars’ interest in linguistic studies.

Changes which occurred in the past thirty years had cast away translation from the academic discourse. However, nowadays one can observe growing interest in the art of rendering texts as well as the thorough investigations in the multiple translation theories in order to provide both teachers and students with one comprehensible theory.

Translation theory

As has been mentioned in the previous sub-chapter, scholars devoted to the field of translation studies have failed to establish a single and the most accurate definition of the translation theory. The reason for this is that a great number of the academic teachers are still engrossed with the linguistic approach towards translation theory. Majority of them still claim that translation is and will be an inevitable part of linguistic studies. Therefore, all aspects concerning translation theory are examined by means of linguistic theories. Those theories aim to create a view that the translation theory is an integral part of linguistics and must be used in accordance with linguistic rules and theories. The multiplicity of theories that are associated with translation were conceived on the basis of the human language studies. Bell (1991:4) points out that there are supporters of the view that translation should be perceived as a part of linguistic studies. Surprising as it may seem, there are also those who claim that translation should not be connected with language studies but, above all, with an art of taking the meaning from ST and converting it so as not to loose the main message. The choice of wheather one should perceive translation as an art or a science is dictated mainly by personal preferences. According to Bell (ibid) the theory is supposed to answer the question ‘why?’, which in turn is an explanation to the subject-matter under focus. Bell (ibid) presents three aspects which may be considered as separate translation theories or as logically-connected components to establish one logical theory. These include:

A theory of translation as a process – the theory of rendering a text

A theory of translation as a product – the theory of a rendered text

A theory of translation as both process and product – the theory of rendering and rendered text

The linguistic approach towards translation theory suggests only a description of the phenomena. On the basis of it one can only find the answer to the question ‘what?’. Korzeniowska and Kuhiwczak (2006:26) support Bell’s statement suggesting division of the theories into two categories: a category that aim to describe the phenomenon or category set to prescribe some restrictions and rules which are meant to be obeyed. Savory (1957:49) enumerates at least twelve rules for a translator to follow in order to render a text in a proper manner. The rules are as follows:

“A translation must give the words of the original.

A translation must give the ideas of the original.

A translation should read like an original work.

A translation should read like a translation.

A translation should reflect the style of the original.

A translation should posses the style of the translator.

A translation should read as a contemporary of the original.

A translation should read as a contemporary of the translator.

A translation may add to or omit from the original.

A translation may never add to or omit from the original.

A translation of verse should be in prose.

A translation of verse should be in verse.”

The above mentioned rules are but a small fraction of rules that professional translators are supposed to follow in order to fulfill the requirements of the target audience.

It may be concluded that it depends on the personal preferences of the translators to coin their own theory which corresponds to their work as professionals. This will eventually lead to the multiplication of translation theories. Unfortunately it is the only possible solution, since there is a lack of one which is comprehensible and covers all the aspects of translation phenomena.

1.3. The definition of translation

Trask (1997:299) states that translation is either the process of rendering the Source Language (henceforth: SL) into the Target Language (henceforth: TL) or the tangible outcome of this process. What is more, Trask (ibid) fails to provide a division between spoken and written translation. He, therefore, puts spoken and written rendition into the same category, which is translation. Tomaszkiewicz (2006:101) however, disagrees with Trask’s view on the subject of translation definition. She draws the attention to the division into oral and written translation. She states that rendering texts by means of writing should be referred to as translation (Fr. Traduction), whereas oral rendition of a speech is to be called interpretation.

Similarly to the translation theory, the definition of translation has caused different people from different spheres of study to coin their own definitions of translation phenomena. There appeared not only strictly scholarly definitions but more emotional, as well. Bassnett (1991:13) defines translation as a tool assembled to (…) transfer ‘meaning’ contained in one set of language signs into another set of language signs through competent use of dictionary and grammar, (…) involving a whole set of extra-linguistic criteria(…). Newmark (1982:7) states that every attempt to translate a text from one language to another causes some minor losses and modifications in the translated text. A more emotional definition of translation is presented by Margarita Brandes, quoted after Korzeniowska and Kuhiwczak (2006:25). She states that there are some (…) spiritual and practical (…) elements involved in the process of translation. Additionally, she relates translation to communication, making it an integral part of social relationships. She advocates that the process of translation must be associated with reproductive and secondary activity. Catford, quoted after Korzeniowska and Kuhiwczak (2006:25), presents a contrary view on the definition of translation. His own definition disagrees with the previous definitions since it suggest that the translation must under no circumstances transfer the meaning of the SL into the TL. He emphasizes the need to differentiate transfer from substitution. The former should be perceived as an integral part of translation.

With so many definitions of translation it is very difficult to choose the most appropriate one for the future professionals. This problem must be dealt with by individuals, since not all translators share the same view on this subject. The best definition is the one that matches with translators knowledge and skills.

1.4. Translation or interpreting?

Apart from different types of translation, the notion of rendering texts from one language to another can be divided into two distinct subgroups. These are, translation and interpreting.

1.4.1. Translation

The main aim of this sub-chapter is to briefly examine both of the subgroups. Let us first focus on the translation phenomena.

It has been stated in previous sub-chapters that translation should be mainly associated with written rendition of a text. Hrehovčik (2006:23) draws one’s attention to the fact that there are some authors who believe that the term ‘translation’ (…) is an overall category which encompasses both oral and written forms of mediated bilingual communication (…). He himself supports Tomaszkiewicz’s view that only a written text translated into a written text in another language should be referred to as the translation. Tomaszkiewicz (2006:101) emphasizes the fact that translation is not a productive activity per se but merely a reproductive one. She maintain that a translator is not the author of the text for his task is to grasp the main message conveyed in a ST and to reformulate it by means of stylistic devices present in a TT so as to match with the original text. Great stress is put on the notions of equivalence and faithfulness as far as translating or interpreting. The notion of equivalence may be particularly ascribed to the translation and translator since it requires a vast knowledge in the field of lexical items. In this connection one should bear in mind that written rendition of a text must be as faithful as possible. When translating a written text the translator has some time to process his thoughts and ideas, whereas interpretation requires quick thinking and lack of hesitation.

1.4.2. Interpreting

The notion of interpreting deals with the conversion of spoken language from one into another. When dealing with interpretation, there emerges the problem of bits of information to be received, processed, converted and distributed so that the message is not altered at any level. Hrehovčik (2006:24) points out that even though translation and interpreting are language-related they involve the use of different spheres of human brain. He, thus, maintains that people who are considered capable of thinking fast would find interpreting as a better way of rendering texts. Analogically, people considered as detail-oriented and devoted to scholarly activities would prefer translation, since it enables them to refer to a number of dictionaries or other reference books. Moreover, translation is mainly done in isolation when there is a time to rethink some problems before making a final decision. Interpreting is a tool for people who are not afraid of working under pressure, both time and surrounding. There is no time for an interpreter to refer to any sources because thinking may lead to loosing the main idea of the utterance delivered by a person. The high range of vocabulary as well as grammatical structures is of the utmost importance in order to fulfill the task of rendering spoken text orally.

Contrary to translation, interpreting can be categorized into at least eleven types. Hrehovčik (2006) lists those types accordingly to their importance, though he maintains that simultaneous, consecutive and whispering interpretations are the major ones.

An attempt will be made to briefly discuss all types of interpreting. Suggested types are as follows:

Simultaneous interpretation, considered as the most important can be best described as a real-time interpreting. The interpreters task is to listen to the speaker’s utterance and while listening the interpreter is supposed to provide the audience with the rendered speech. There is no time for the person involved to hesitate for even a single moment since it may cause that she will be at a loss. There is a possibility that the speaker may be in a different room, therefore it is required that the interpreter be a fast-thinking and decisive.

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Consecutive interpretation, considered a second important type of interpreting which differs from simultaneous interpreting in such a way that the speaker delivers the speech in fragments, they can be either sentences or paragraphs. The interpreter has to grasp the main idea of the passage, convert and deliver it to the audience. The speaker waits for the interpreter to finish. She then continues with another passage. It is advisable that the speaker should make a pause every 1-5 minutes so as not to overload the interpreter with the data. Interpreters are advised to develop their own way of making notes during the speakers presentation. It is done mainly by some symbols so as not to waste time for noting the entire speech. As Hrehovčik (2006:25) believes, (…)”the output is more idiomatic and less source-language bound.”

Whispering is a third type of interpreting. It corresponds, to some extent, with the simultaneous interpreting. The major difference between these two types is that whispering requires sitting close to the speaker and listener. The conversion of an utterance is done by means of listening to the speech and subsequently whispering already rendered text to the listeners ear. The need of using whispering is best performed during short meetings when there is the lack of specialized equipment to carry out simultaneous or consecutive interpreting.

The following types of interpreting are chiefly connected with conference interpreting.

Relay is a type of interpreting which involves the use of the third language. The interpreter’s task is to connect with a language booth that covers a language used by the speakers. It happens when the interpreter does not cover the language used by the speakers. She may connect with other interpreter, who covers the language in question, via audio link. There is no loss of the interpreted text because of the rapid connection between booths.

Pivot takes place when the language used by the speakers is less widespread. Interpreters who do not cover this particular language connect with those who cover and relay from them. The basic idea of a pivot is the ability to distribute a speech even though the audience and some of the interpreters do not cover the language. As can be observed there occurs a mixture of two types of interpreting. One might state that they complement each other.

Cheval (Fr. horse) is a very difficult type of interpreting since it requires a mastery of two languages on equal levels. Cheval is a person who is asked to interpret between two booths in two different languages. She must be able to shift between languages when there is a need. The idea of employing chevals aims to reduce the costs because it requires only one interpreter for two separate presentations.

Due to the development in the sphere of communication technologies such types of interpreting have recently been conceived:

Teleconferencing may simply be defined as a form of communication by means of audio stream even if the people involved are in different cities, countries or even continents. This type of interpreting enables all people to listen to the speech.

Audioconferencing this type of interpreting is based only on audio signal. There is no possibility to see the participants.

Videoconferencing requires the use of a video stream. It is vital that this type of conferencing require audio stream as well. This term comprises three separate types. They are:

Videophony – includes a mixture of a speaker’s image with a telephone call

Whiteboarding – can be either the electronic exchange or the ability to edit documents on a number of computers

Desktop videoconferencing – images delivered via PC camera; may as well include whiteboarding

Studio or room videoconferencing requires at least two, though more are possible, studios that are linked together by means of audio and video streams. The use of more than two languages leads to creating so called multilingual conferencing.

Sight translation is performed when an interpreter is given a text with some information in it and his task is to convert the text and deliver the content orally in a TL. These texts are mainly memos distributed at meetings and are to be rendered at a moment’s notice.

Although there is a great number of interpreting types, one should not be deceived that interpretation is more acknowledged than translation. Both types are equally perceived as vital in communicating between nationalities. Translation as well as interpretation have both its supporters and people with opposite views. The skills that are required are basically the same. The only difference, apart from the written or spoken form, is the individual predisposition of a person to render a text in a way she is able to.

1.5. Types of translation

Similarly to the types of interpreting, translation as well includes a number of subtypes. There are, of course, spheres of life which impose the translator to choose the most appropriate one. The most popular is, beyond any doubt, the sphere of commerce due to its rapid development. Korzeniowska and Kuhiwczak (2006) suggest also: the tourist trade, science, arts or even catering; as the most popular nowadays. However, the spheres that require a comprehensible translation are not going to be dealt with in this chapter. It is hoped that the following examples of types of translation will be thoroughly scrutinized. Hrehovčik (2006), provides a list of nine types of translation which find their applicability in every day translating. The list includes:

Word for word translation – the main goal of this type of translation is to render a text in such a way that the TT words match as close as it is possible with their counterparts in ST. Another characteristic feature of this type is that words connected with culture are rendered literally.

Literal translation – here, emphasis is put on finding grammatical equivalents in TT so as to convert the text from ST. The lexical correspondents are of minor importance. Moreover, they are very often out of context.

Faithful translation – it may be considered as the most desirable type of translation since it attempts to render a SL text so that it is comparable with a TL. All language deviations are transferred from one language into another.

Semantic translation – contrary to faithful translation, semantic one seeks not only faithfulness but also the aesthetic aspects of language. Not even the slightest language deviation is allowed.

Communicative translation – it aims at converting a text in such a way that the (…) exact contextual meaning of the original (…) is preserved and the text itself contains comprehensible and acceptable language and content.

Idiomatic translation – this translation type encompasses both the appropriate grammar structures and well-chosen lexical items. If a text should be translated by means of idiomatic translation, it would definitely sound like original one.

Free translation – the basic goal of this rendition is to convey the meaning without paying closer attention to the choice of words or grammatical structures. Some scholars advocate that the translated text is usually much longer than the original writing.

Adaptation – used mainly for poetry and plays, this translation type is considered to be free of rules and restrictions. The freedom of interpreting a text in whatever way the translator desires is referred to as unduly free. In addition, adaptation serves very often to invoke humor by changing, for instance, historical facts or character’s name.

Screen translation – the most common type of translation nowadays. It includes providing subtitles for films and dubbing original voices in a film with native ones. Subtitling is done even by inexperienced people who are not trained translators but merely gained some knowledge connected with foreign languages. In some cases they are able to create a flawless translations but very often their versions are feeble and full of mistakes. Dubbing, on the other hand, is done by professionals and simply read by actors assigned to a particular character.

The multiplicity of translation types gives a wide range of possibilities. However, one should bear in mind that mastering a particular type is not enough to convert a text. Other vital skills are required as well. They may be ascribed to various roles that a translator must choose in order to maintain the originality and faithfulness of the translated text. The roles of a translator will be examined in the next sub-chapter.


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