Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Exploring New Frontiers

Before coming to UEA I was very closed minded when it came to translation. For me translating was just about reproducing what the source text said, but mainly focusing on meaning. The most important thing was to get the meaning, and if you had to leave something out, it had to be the stylistic features.

When I arrived here, I came across so many different theories of how to translate that it turned out to be a little overwhelming, but after a while, I managed to adapt and I started to explore each of the theories a little bit more. When I was studying my B.A in Translation, we talked mainly about out-dated theories and authors, but here in UEA is all about contemporary authors and theories; which makes it all more interesting. The most fascinating thing I found while going through all the new information I was receiving, was the notion of foreignization.

Foreignization is the strategy of retaining information from the source text, and involves deliberately breaking the conventions of the target language to preserve its meaning (Gile, Daniel. 2009). The thing that caught my eye when I read this definition of foreignization is the part when it says that foreignization involves deliberately breaking the conventions of the target language to preserve its meaning, but what if we break the conventions to the extreme? Normally when talking about making a text foreign, people think that you are tacking the reader to the writer, which is true, but what if we not only take the reader to the writer, but also to the writer’s culture?

When practising foreignization, translators limit themselves to just leave certain words in the source language because either they couldn't find a word in the target language that suited perfectly or because they wanted to give the text that feeling of exotic and new, but why not going a little bit further?

Sapir-Whorf stated that there is a connection between the grammatical categories of the language spoken by a person, and the way this person sees the world, and that is true, our language limits us to conceptualize the world in a certain way, but it is also true that by learning a new language, you also learn a new way to perceive the world, because you are not only receiving the linguistic knowledge, but also a part of this new culture; therefore I think it is also possible for translation to provide the reader of the target language, with extra knowledge of the culture in which the text was written, and we can do that by using foreignization.

When we translate we come across all kinds of difficulties, one of them being the translation of proverbs. Normally a translator will try to find the equivalent of the proverb in the target language, but what if we use foreignization and leave the proverb as it is? If we do so we will be providing the reader of the target language with culture of the source language. It will definitely be a challenge for the reader of the target language to understand the proverb of the source language, but with the context and a little extra analysis the reader will be capable of comprehending and learning about the culture in which the work was written.

Foreignization is a technique that can be use to help the readers of a target language learn some culture about the source language through the translation of proverbs, and it will also make the target text more challenging and interesting for the reader, not to mention that the translator will gain visibility.

Andrea González Garza translates from English to Latin American Spanish and she is currently doing a master degree in Literary Translation at UEA. You can contact her in Ahndiee@gmail.com

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Where The Texts Come and Go

 If I'm honest, I had never read Walter Benjamin’s The Task of the Translator before coming to the UEA. Whilst I was an undergraduate student in Japan, I read several of Walter Benjamin’s essays such as The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and Critique of Violence.  During my undergraduate degree, I studied literature and creative writing, and, I think it would have been natural for a student of this subject to read a philosophical essay on translation such as The Task of the Translator; however, I didn’t. I don't know why.

After graduating from the university, I worked at an advertising firm as a copywriter. Also, I spent time translating the adverts and brochures of global companies from English to Japanese. I did this without translation theory but tried to keep the target text faithful to the source text, following requests from our clients, the guidelines of translation which the clients gave us and the advice given by my supervisors. The rules I followed could be ‘skopos’ for my translating, the ‘skopos’ depended on who the clients were. Although my background was literature, I enjoyed my responsibility for translating business material at the office. However, it was also true that I felt translating was a more or less rigid activity like those which machines do.

As a student of the MA in literary translation, I have been studying translation studies since September. For my course work, I read The Task of the translator, and I came across ‘pure language’, as termed by Benjamin. He said that the task of translator is ‘to release in his own language that pure language under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work.’ Apart from his intention to describe what a translator should do, this quote inspired me to address one question – how a translator exists ontologically and phenomenologically. After reading the essay, I sometimes think about what exactly happens when ‘pure language’ is generated. I have to consider how the text will be modified (by the mind?) at the point where the texts come and go, as though they were water going through a filter. When I translate text from English into Japanese or from Japanese into English, I try to listen to the internal voice of my mind at the same time that I try to listen to an external voice – the voice of the source text. Presumably, a translator is one who can face the birth of a new text.

To be honest, I don't have the confidence to have completely construed the meaning of what Benjamin wanted to say. I may misunderstand Benjamin’s ‘pure language’; however, I can stay optimistic, because as one Japanese writer said, ‘understanding is but the sum of misunderstandings,’.  I have got new insights into translation which break through the thoughts which I used to have and I find myself enjoying translation more and more.

Hiromitsu Koiso translates from Japanese into English, and from English into Japanese. He is currently studying towards the MA in Literary Translation. His literary interests include world literature, exophony and translation as a creative form of text making. Contact: hirokoikoi@gmail.com

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Words whirreds werdes

Did you have to pause to think about that title for a second or two? Did the second two words stand up, look you in the eye and demand to be noticed? If so, it’s because they were trying to get your attention. But we don’t always notice what words on a page are doing. Sometimes when we read, writes Margaret Freeman (2002), the physical words of the text ‘disappear’. It’s something we’ve probably all experienced as we greedily turn the pages of an engrossing book, the story’s universe forming itself somehow – mysteriously – in our mind. How does that happen? Where does it happen? Where do the words go? We certainly aren’t aware of every word on the page when we read quickly in this way, and yet the words and phrases we’re reading are all working, making us see and hear and feel, in ways that we sometimes don’t realise until we sit down with a metaphorical magnifying glass and have a close look at how the threads of the text are woven.

Of course, words don’t always affect us without us realising. There are some types of text in which the language makes itself a little more ‘opaque’, as Freeman puts it.  When we read poetry, words often insist on being heard. Gerard Manley Hopkins, for example, makes sure you can’t miss them. Try not listening to: “Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend/ His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score/ In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour/ And pelt music, till none’s to spill nor spend.” Punchlines do it too. Did you ever hear the one about the policeman who got called out to a nursery? A three-year old was resisting a rest. When language use is unexpected like this, it draws our attention to it; this is frequently the case with literary texts. But whatever it is we’re reading, if we’re about to translate it, we have to look closely at individual words and grammatical structures as we try to work out what the text ‘means’ (doing the MA in Literary Translation has taught me that ‘meaning’ is a slippery little word that doesn’t like to be pinned down, hence the inverted commas).

Translators have to look for some kind of meaning. They have no choice – they’ve got to produce a translation. To help them do so they might try to understand how the style of the text works on its readers to create the effects that it does – how it conjures up those mental images, those strong emotions, that (deceptive, of course) sense that there are real people speaking to us from a text, each in his or her own distinctive voice (Culpeper, 2002). An area of theory that might facilitate this is cognitive stylistics, one of the fields we have looked at as part of the Translation Theory module of the MALT. A cognitive stylistic approach to translation gives us a theoretical basis for examining how style affects us when we read, and in turn how a translator’s stylistic choices will affect his or her audience;  Jean Boase-Beier, discussing the application of cognitive theories to translation, points out that such theories might help make us more sensitive to ‘the interplay between the creativity and freedom of the translator and how this must always be affected by what the reader of the target text might do,  feel and decide’ (2006). Cognitive stylistics tries to explain how the words on the page interact with ‘the cognitive structures and processes that underlie the reception of language’ (Semino and Culpeper, 2002), linking the mysterious reading experience I described earlier to the language that generates it.

It’s exciting. It makes us think about thought. It explores why ambiguity in a text might make us uncomfortable, how we might perceive language sounds and patterns as ‘echoing’ what they represent in an iconic way, why metaphors might be central to the way we conceptualise and understand the world. Thinking about how these sorts of stylistic features work in the minds of readers of the source text, and trying to anticipate and recreate the effects of such features in the minds of readers of the translated text, has helped me as a theory and a tool in translation. I now try to analyse more carefully the techniques the source text is using and to what ends, which is useful for avoiding a ‘word-for-word’ approach to translation. In general, studying translation theory is making me more aware of the games words play – what’s with all the personification of words in this blog post, for instance? I’ll have to give it some thought. 

Romy Fursland translates from German and French into English and is currently studying for the MA in Literary Translation at UEA. She can be contacted at romy.fursland@googlemail.com.