task: 15 minutes
Reading time: 15 minutes
Additional reading: 1
- 1½ hours
Other tasks: 1½
To provide a way of talking about what we do when we translate;
to use this framework to start thinking about how we translate
and how we can translate better.
First of all, quickly translate
these sentences from English to Spanish (or vice versa). Copy
the exercise into a new Word document and type in your translations.
You will need them later.
|1. "Take five." (i.e. have a short rest)
2. "¿Echamos una
siesta después de comer?"
3. "Pisto" (in a menu)
4. "Hay amores que matan"
(title of a pesticide catalogue)
5. "I've been living here
for about ten years."
6. "Átame" (title
of a film by Pedro Almodóvar)
7. "Total Quality Management"
8. "La administración
Sandinista llevó a cabo varias reformas en el campo
de la sanidad."
As we all know, good translation is not usually just a question
of translating each word in turn of the source text into the target
language. Nor does it (often) consist, however, of the translator
skimming through the source text, putting it aside and then jotting
down the general idea of it in his or her own words in the target
language. In between the two extremes there is a wide variety
of techniques ("strategies"), many of which translators will use
intuitively for any given text.
One widely-accepted list of translation
techniques is outlined briefly below. If you are interested, there
is a more complete description in Fawcett (1997:34-41) - the full
reference is at the end of this page.
This means taking words straight
into another language. Borrowed terms often pass into general
usage, for example in the fields of technology ("software") and
culture ("punk"). Borrowing can be for different reasons, with
the examples below being taken from usage rather than translated
This is a literal translation
at phrase level. Sometimes calques work, sometimes they don't.
You often see them in specialized, internationalized fields such
as quality assurance (aseguramiento de calidad, assurance qualité,
3. Literal Translation
Just what it says - "El equipo
está trabajando para acabar el informe" - "The team is
working to finish the report". Again, sometimes it works and sometimes
it doesn't. For example, the Spanish sentence above could not
be translated into French or German in the same way - you would
have to use technique no. 4...
This is the mechanical process
whereby parts of speech "play musical chairs" (Fawcett's analogy)
when they are translated. Grammatical structures are not often
identical in different languages. "She likes swimming" translates
as "Le gusta nadar" (not "nadando") - or in German, "Sie schwimmt
gern", because gerunds and infinitives work in different ways
in English and Spanish, and German is German (bringing in an adverb
to complicate matters). Transposition is often used between English
and Spanish because of the preferred position of the verb in the
sentence: English wants the verb up near the front; Spanish can
have it closer to the end.
Now we're getting clever. Slightly
more abstract than transposition, this consists of using a phrase
that is different in the source and target languages to convey
the same idea - "Te lo dejo" - "You can have it".
6. Reformulation (sometimes
known as équivalence)
Here you have to express something
in a completely different way, for example when translating idioms
or, even harder, advertising slogans. The process is creative,
but not always easy. Would you have given the name Sonrisas y
lágrimas to the film The Sound of Music in Spanish?
Here something specific to the
source language culture is expressed in a totally different way
that is familiar or appropriate to the target language culture.
Sometimes it is valid, and sometimes it is problematic, to say
the least. Should a restaurant menu in a Spanish tourist resort
translate "pincho" as "kebab" in English? Should a French text
talking about Belgian jokes be translated into English as talking
about Irish jokes (always assuming it should be translated at
all)? We will return to these problems of referentiality below.
Another model describes a technique
known as compensation. This is a rather amorphous term, but in
general terms it can be used where something cannot be translated
from source to target language, and the meaning that is lost in
the immediate translation is expressed somewhere else in the TT.
Fawcett defines it as: "...making good in one part of the text
something that could not be translated in another". One example
given by Fawcett is the problem of translating nuances of formality
from languages which use forms such as tu and usted (tu/vous,
du/Sie, etc.) into English which only has 'you', and expresses
degrees of formality in different ways. If you want to read more,
look at Fawcett 1997:31-33.
A Task: Getting
Used to the Terms
Here are eight sentences, together
with a possible translation. Which of the above techniques has
been used in each case? The parts of the sentences you should
look at are underlined - naturally, translating a whole sentence
may well involve more than one of the above techniques. A hint:
there is one example of each technique. Type your answers into
the Word document you started earlier.
1. Mi profesor es un cabrón.
- My teacher is a bastard.
2. His lack of experience is
obvious. - Su falta de experiencia es evidente.
3. Seguidamente, aflojaremos
el tornillo A... - Next, loosen screw A...
4. The documents are sent to
all departments. - Los documentos se envían a todos los
5. "Eh, jefe, has llegado tarde,"
dijó Marta. - "Hey boss, you're late," said Marta, in a
deliberately over-familiar way.
6. 'Some Like it Hot' - 'Con
faldas y a lo loco'
7. Prueben nuestra deliciosa
paella. - Try our delicious paella.
8. Your hard disk will be formatted.
- Se dará formato al disco duro.
What techniques can you spot
in the parts of the sentences that are not underlined?
Final Task: In
First, go back to your translations
from the preliminary task.
Now give examples of some strategies you would
use with the following texts (we are looking for a discussion of
techniques here, not a translation).
Text 1: English
As we embark on the second electrical
century, a "triple power shock" of technological, economic and
environmental trends could potentially push the energy system
further towards a more small-scale decentralized model. Some see
parallels with recent revolutions in the telecommunications industry,
which has been transformed by new technology and deregulation,
and in the computer industry, which has been completely realigned
by the rapid shift from mainframes to personal computers. In any
event, these new "micropower" technologies represent a dramatic
departure from the status quo. (S. Dunn, Micropower: The Next
Electrical Era, Worldwatch Institute, Washington D.C., 2000.)
Text 2: Spanish
De acuerdo con lo dispuesto en
el artículo 60 de la Ley 30/95, de Ordenación y
Supervisión de los Seguros Privados, se informa al asegurado
que el control de la actividad Entidad Aseguradora de [XXX] SEGUROS
GENERALES, COMPAÑIA DE SEGUROS Y REASEGUROS, S.A., corresponde
a la Dirección General de Seguros como organismo administrativo
del Estado Español, y que el presente contrato de seguro
se rige por lo dispuesto en la Ley 50/1.980, de 8 de octubre,
de Contrato de Seguro, modificado por la Ley 30/1.995, de 8 de
noviembre, de Ordenación y Supervisión de los Seguros
Privados publicada en el Boletín Oficial del Estado de
9 de noviembre de 1.995, así como por cualquier otra norma
legal futura de aplicación imperativa y por lo convenido
en las CONDICIONES GENERALES y PARTICULARES de este contrato,
cuyas cláusulas limitativas de los derechos de los Asegurados
son específicamente aceptadas por los mismos, como pacto
adicional a las CONDICIONES PARTICULARES. (The first sentence(!)
of a document outlining the conditions for an insurance policy,
1. Read the piece by Anthony
Pym on Two Kinds of Macro-Strategies.
This is not an optional reading, although the exercises are.
2. There are widely-differing
models for describing these processes. If you are interested in
finding out more about these, you could look at Peter Fawcett,
Translation and Language, St. Jerome, Manchester, 1997, especially
Chapter 4 on Translation Techniques. This is optional reading.
The summary above talks about
words and phrases, but bear in mind that translation works at
different levels - from words and phrases up to the level of the
whole text. Gouadec, who ought to know, says that the mark of
novice translators is that they only work at the lowest level
(words and phrases), so be warned.
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