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Practical use of theoretical writing about translation
Thread poster: RustransX
RustransX
Local time: 00:09
Russian to English
Jan 5, 2004

I am writing an essay on whether theoretical material written about translation is useful to translators. I suspect that such material plays a limited role in the work of a practising translator, but would very much value the opinions of real life professionals.

By “theoretical material” I have in mind the translation models and writings of Nida, Benjamin, Catford, Toury etc. Are these figures and their writings familiar to the modern translator? Are they of any practical use in the professional environment? Do translators who have received no real formal training know anything about particular translation theories and models? Indeed, how many professional translators have received formal training?

ALL personal opinions and observations are most welcome)


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Kaxia
Poland
Local time: 01:09
Chinese to Polish
+ ...
depends :) Jan 5, 2004

I learnt the theory of translation, and now I teach it at the university. Generally, I think it's useful. The theory can prepare you to understand the obstacles that you may encounter during translating. The thing which I find very important is to teach both theory and practice. In this way, teaching theory of translation makes sense. Some students don't realize that the translation problems, they have, are very common. Theory of translation makes them realize that there have already been people trying to solve these problems. I could write more...and more...


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RustransX
Local time: 00:09
Russian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Agree :-) Jan 5, 2004

Yes, it's very easy to dismiss the theory without seeing it in action. Everything must be seen in direct relation to the practical side if it's to be of any use.

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Vladimir Dubisskiy  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:09
Member (2001)
English to Russian
+ ...
you must be joking Jan 6, 2004

I have learned 'theoretical materials written about translation' - the other popular name Theory of Translation ot Translation Theory in the course of my 5 year formal training at the university.

Same as doctors, engineers, laywers, other people who have higher education. evene artists learn theory (anatomy, more).If you think that, say, engineers or doctors do not need theoretical knowledge, than translators don't need it as well.





[quote]RustransX wrote:

I am writing an essay on whether theoretical material written about translation is useful to translators. I suspect that such material plays a limited role in the work of a practising translator, but would very much value the opinions of real life professionals.

And you remeber Nida, but what about Retsker, Scherba, Komissarov, Kashkin?

All the best,

Vladimir


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:09
German to English
+ ...
Practical use of theoretical writing about translation Jan 6, 2004

Anything that makes you think about what you are doing and why is useful.

Marc


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JoGunn
Local time: 00:09
English to Icelandic
+ ...
Theory works for me Jan 6, 2004

Theory has helped me become a better translator. Reading, and especially translating works on translation theory has made me think more about what I'm doing. I find myself applying theory to my translation work without even thinking about it.
Theory isn't just about theoretical translation systems and high-flown ideas, it is also about tested methodology and practical solutions to translation problems.
In my opinion, theory is especially important in helping translators overcome obstacles they come across in their work - for example how to render supposedly untranslatable things like puns, idioms and other forms of wordplay which can be a serious stumbling blocks for translators. A translator may only see two possible solutions to a problem, while theory may provide her with several more, each suitable for a particular type of text and audience.
Reading theory in combination with practice can advance a beginner faster towards true proficiency than just doing translation work with no theory. This is not to say that theory provides all the answers, you always need to practice as well.


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Deborah Shannon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:09
Member (2002)
German to English
Its value increases when you have some experience Jan 6, 2004

RustransX wrote:

I suspect that such material plays a limited role in the work of a practising translator, but would very much value the opinions of real life professionals.



I find translation theory far more relevant today, with five years of translation experience to hang it on, than I ever did when I was studying languages or just getting started in the profession. Not that I didn't try to read theoretical works at the time, far from it. But my most pressing need at the beginner stage was plenty of hands-on practice and honest feedback from someone more experienced, and I tended to view the reading as overload until I basically knew what I was doing.

These days, though, I nearly always have a translation-related book to hand. Regardless of what I think of the particular writer and their theories (and I don't always find the theoretical works the easiest of reading, alas!) the main value is in putting my experience into a broader perspective and, as Marc expressed it in a nutshell, "thinking about what we do and why".

I especially appreciate books where the examples are taken from languages and cultures I wouldn't ordinarily be exposed to. This is a great incentive to question the assumptions and cultural bias we bring to the task of translation.


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LuciaC
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:09
English to Italian
+ ...
Check this book Jan 6, 2004

"Can theory help translators?"
A dialogue between the Ivory Tower and the Wordface.
by Andrew Chesterman and Emma Wagner, St Jerome Publishing 2002

I found it really interesting.


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Glyn Haggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:09
German to English
Theory as basis for practice Jan 6, 2004

I think it is important for a practising translator to realise that translation theory is not an end in itself but is useful only as a basis underpinning the practice of translation. Over the years, I have worked with a number of people who have translation diplomas and degrees from leading universities who have experienced serious difficulties in turning their (often substantial) theoretical knowledge into useful and convincing translations in the practical environment. That said, it might be of interest to treat the (academic) theory of translation and translation as a practical necessity as two separate disciplines, each wholly legitimate in its own right. As someone who obtained the Diploma in Translation from the Institute of Linguists after a number of years' practical experience as a translator, I have often thought it might be interesting to be a "fly on the wall" at one of the university translation courses, just to see what sort of emphasis is placed upon theory. I think it would also be interesting to look into how many teachers of translation have purely academic backgrounds and how many of them have actually been "on the sharp end" as translators themselves.

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RustransX
Local time: 00:09
Russian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Can theory help translators? Jan 6, 2004

Thanks, I'll check the book out

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RustransX
Local time: 00:09
Russian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Fly on the wall Jan 7, 2004

Yes, I especially agree with you about treating the theory of translation and translation as a practical necessity as two separate disciplines

I don't believe that great emphasis is placed upon theory on university translation courses. I know from personal experience that modules on "Translation Theories" are not always compulsory, and such theory is rarely, if ever, touched upon during lessons of "practical translation" where emphasis is solely on producing the best translation possible.

I think all the teachers have translation experience to some extent. Again from personal experience, I know that many translation teachers from academic backgrounds are involved in translation work on a part-time basis. Lessons on "practical translation" are more often than not taken by full time professional translators who certainly spend much of their time "on the sharp end".


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:09
German to English
+ ...
Surprised Jan 7, 2004

I am actually surprised that so many of you find theoretical writings on translation useful.

I think the degree of emphasis placed on theory in different translation schools depends on the school. I am a graduate of an MA program in translation at a US school (Monterey to be exact). We had very little translation theory emphasis in the program - a little "skopos" theory at the beginning and then one theory class, which consisted mainly of discussing different translation techniques rather than getting too heavily into cultural studies or linguistics.

This practical approach served me well, and I was able to "hit the ground running" in my first job. I basically felt that I knew my way around the industry somewhat - who's who, which companies were doing what, how to go about doing a translation project from the practical standpoint, the basic pitfalls, etc.

That said, I think that I could definitely revisit the theoretical aspects of translation now to put my practical work into more of a general framework. However, back then, I needed to know how to be a translator and survive, and I certainly got that from the practical aspects of the program. Maybe if more translation programs focused on the practical aspects rather than theory we wouldn't see so many threads from translation school graduates who don't have a clue how to get a translation business started?

In short, both are useful in some sense, but I can't say that I really refer to writings in translation theory in my regular day-to-day work.

(I think I'll look up some books now, though, just out of curiosity since so many of you spoke highly of these writings!)


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Glyn Haggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:09
German to English
Article which may be of interest Jan 9, 2004

I've just come across Peter Newmark's column in the latest edition of "The Linguist" (December 03 - January 04), which actually has a section headed "The theoretical and the practical in translation", which may be of some interest to you.

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RustransX
Local time: 00:09
Russian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Peter Newmark's article Jan 10, 2004

Wow! Sounds good. I'll certainly try and get hold of a copy, thanks

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Lorenzo Lilli  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:09
German to Italian
+ ...
Not much Jan 10, 2004

I studied just a bit of translation theory at the university, and I didn't find it so useful. To be honest, I forgot in a short time what I had learnt and have never found myself regretting it. I'm not saying as a general statement that translation theory is useless, but I've always had a very practical approach to translation as a job, thanks to my teachers (professional translators for leading Italian publishers, the EU etc.). However, linguists with no practical experience in translation run the risk to waffle when talking about translation theory. That's why I like, just to give an example, Umberto Eco's essays: of course he's not a full-time translator but I really appreciate his competence (eg his translation into Italian of Queneau's Exercices de style) and the fact that he never forgets practice, even when writing about theory.

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