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Foundations of Translation - Notes from Lesson 4
Thread poster: Riccardo Schiaffino

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:47
Member (2003)
English to Italian
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Oct 25, 2006

I've just posted the notes from Lesson 4:

Lesson 4 - Translation in practice

I'll post the notes from the last lesson as soon as possible.

Comments or questions are welcome, both here and on my blog.



[Edited at 2006-10-25 04:17]


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Joost Elshoff  Identity Verified
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Spanish to Dutch
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A lot of theory missing Oct 25, 2006

The course description says you're teaching a introduction to Translation, theory and practice. So where's the theory?

So far most of your classes have ended up in a description of how to go about translating a text, specifically non-literary texts. It's a shame really that you don't include the more theoretical issues like translation policy, a society's attitude regarding translation and so on.

As I'm currently taking a course Introduction to Translation Studies (University of Utrecht, the Netherlands), I find that a lot of stuff they're teaching over there is missing in your notes.

Models of how translation is supposed to work in the brain, what kind of psychological steps a translator takes when working with his source text and target language. I know those things don't necessarily teach you to be a better translator, but those things do help you to understand your future or present work.

Do you teach about Gideon Toury, Cristianne Nord, St. Jerome, Bible Translation (which is in fact the foundation of all western traditions in translation), translation of literature?

It's not like translation is just a difficult trick anyone can master or a trade you can teach like arts & crafts or masonry.


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
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Local time: 07:47
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Theory Oct 25, 2006

Joost Elshoff wrote:

where's the theory?

[...]It's a shame really that you don't include the more theoretical issues like translation policy, a society's attitude regarding translation and so on.

As I'm currently taking a course Introduction to Translation Studies (University of Utrecht, the Netherlands), I find that a lot of stuff they're teaching over there is missing in your notes.

Models of how translation is supposed to work in the brain, what kind of psychological steps a translator takes when working with his source text and target language. I know those things don't necessarily teach you to be a better translator, but those things do help you to understand your future or present work.

[/quote]

Hi Joost:

Thank you for your interesting comments.

It is true that I ended up concentrating on the practice of translation rather than on theory. The choice wad dictated mostly by the time I had available for the course (15 hours in all over five weeks) and also, at least in part, by the type of instruction a college is expected to provide versus what a university does, at least here in the States: more "practical" in a college than in a university.

Also, I think we should not be confusing an introduction to translation studies (which is a theoretical discipline) with an introduction to translation (mostly a practical endeavor) - when I studied translation at Trieste (many years ago) the emphasis also was more on the practical side than on the theoretical, and I believe the same is true of other excellent schools for translators, such as Geneva or Monterey.

I believe that translation studies and theory have a place in translation instruction. To my students I recommended as an interesting introduction Andrew Chesterman's "Memes of Translation", and also Andrew Chesterman's and Emma Wagner's "Can Theory Help Translators?".

But I also think that theory may be more interesting and insightful only once one has at least started to get his or her hands dirty with the practice of translation.


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:47
English to German
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Missing the process of translation itself Oct 25, 2006

Your course description says:

"It will concentrate on the fundamentals that all translators should know: A deep knowledge of one’s own native language and of at least one foreign language is a necessary prerequisite, but, alone, it is not sufficient. To become a translator one should also fully understand the subject-matter of the text to be translated, and have knowledge of things such as translation tools, reference materials, translation processes, and, above all, self-knowledge - knowing what one knows as well as an awareness of what one does not know."

What you describe here is what any bilingual person may very well know. What is actually missing, as far as I could see from your notes, is the knowledge of the complete process of translation itself, which in the end makes the difference between a translator and a bilinguist.

How do I find out, what meaning of an expression is actually relevant within a given context? How do I express this meaning in the target language, taking into consideration style, technical level, intended readers of the text, etc.

Honestly, I think there is a lot of superficial information about the where and why and what, but the how, in my opinion, is completely missing, so far.

When will you come to this?


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
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Process or processes? Oct 25, 2006

Claudia Krysztofiak wrote:

Your course description says:

t you describe here is what any bilingual person may very well know. What is actually missing, as far as I could see from your notes, is the knowledge of the complete process of translation itself, which in the end makes the difference between a translator and a bilinguist.

How do I find out, what meaning of an expression is actually relevant within a given context? How do I express this meaning in the target language, taking into consideration style, technical level, intended readers of the text, etc.

[/quote]

Hi Claudia:

I find it interesting that you talk of the "complete translation process" (singular), while I (for example) mention "translation processes" (plural).

I believe there can be many different ones, depending on many factors - the type of text to be translated, the SL and TL involved, the reference materials available, the translator's own linguistic and subject-matter knowledge, the purpose of the translation - even the underlying idea of translation (in the sense that every translation act has, behind it, at least an implicit theory of what the resulting translated text should look like).

One thing I did during the course, was to have the students start to externalize what they were doing: have them select passages for translation in their language pair, describe what difficulties they thought they were going to have in translating them, and how they planned to overcome these difficulties, then (after they had translated the material), describe how they approached the translation in practice, how the difficulties they encountered differed from what they had expected beforehand, how they had actually dealt with them, etc. i.e., start to think about the process of translation from outside.


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:47
English to German
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Processing processes and proceeding to procedures Oct 25, 2006

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:

I find it interesting that you talk of the "complete translation process" (singular), while I (for example) mention "translation processes" (plural).

...

i.e., start to think about the process of translation from outside.


Seems you are talking about "the process" as well.

What always helped me to get a better understanding of the process(es) of translation was the question: What do we translate? Words, terms, sentences, or what? I found this a very useful question to start with. It gave rise to other very useful discussions.

By the way - the answer we arrived at was not "words".


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:47
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Words, terms, sentences, etc. Oct 25, 2006



What always helped me to get a better understanding of the process(es) of translation was the question: What do we translate? Words, terms, sentences, or what? I found this a very useful question to start with. It gave rise to other very useful discussions.

By the way - the answer we arrived at was not "words".


There is a very intereseting overview of how the pendulum has swung back and forth between "literal translation", "free translation", etc. in the Andrew Chesterman's "Memes of Translation".

I agree that the answer is not "words" (although words are the roots of so many of our problems and excuses, from "but I found that word in the dictionary" to "what's so difficult about translation: you just have to put Italian words instead of the English ones").


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Foundations of Translation - Notes from Lesson 4

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