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date: 19 June 2021

(p. xiii) Introduction

(p. xiii) Introduction

Gone forever are the days when translation was considered solely an act of mediated communication that entails “the reproduction or transfer of an invariant that is contained in or caused by the source text, whether its form, its meaning, or its effect” (Venuti, 2017, p. 6). The model underpinning such a view is named “instrumental.” It betrays a prescriptive stance as it assumes that translation “can and should reproduce a stable form and meaning inherent in the source text without hindrance or without the interposition of any difference worth remarking” (Venuti, 2017, p. 6). It follows that the translator’s task is to employ effective strategies aimed at maintaining formal, semantic, or functional correspondences across the source and the target text. And in so doing, she or he remains invisible because the translation is considered to be “effectively the source text” (Venuti, 2017, p. 6). So, the instrumental model purports the idea of translation as transfer and the inevitable loss of meaning resulting from the lack of equivalence between languages. Indeed, as Mona Baker (2018, p. 218) points out, “as hard as one might try, it is impossible to reproduce networks of lexical cohesion in a target text which are identical to those of the source text.” And every time the translator uses a word with a slightly different acceptation or different associations in a particular textual environment she or he introduces “a subtle (or major) shift away from the lexical chains and associations of the source text.”

Premised on instrumentalist assumptions are the recommendations made by Margherita Ulrych (1992, p. 306):

The nature of the cohesive ties within a text is closely related to meaning and stylistic effect. Translators therefore need to be sensitive to the web of lexical and grammatical semantic relations in the [source text] and to the way they contribute to the overall message of the text. Failure to recreate grammatical and lexical cohesive patterns in the [target text] could lead to misunderstanding and might well prejudice the pragmatic effect.

Whereas the instrumental model purports the idea of translation as transfer, the “hermeneutic model” purports the idea of translation as interpretation. Moreover, inherent in the notion of translation as transfer is the concept of invariance, and inherent (p. xiv) in the notion of translation as interpretation is the concept of transformation. As Lawrence Venuti explains, the hermeneutic model represents translation as

an interpretive act that varies the form, meaning, and effect of the source text according to the intelligibilities and interests of the translating culture. The variation is inevitable, driven in the first place by the structural differences between languages and by the differences in values, beliefs, and representations between cultures…. The process involves, on the one hand, a loss of intricate relations between source-language features and source-culture contexts and, on the other hand, a gain of comparable relations between translating-language features and translating-language contexts.

(2017, p. 8)

Consistent with the hermeneutic model is the pedagogy elaborated by Maria Tymoczko (2007) for the teaching of literary translation in the master of arts in translation and interpreting studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Tymoczko’s method embraces her proposed holistic approach to translating culture, which is underpinned by an enlarged notion of translation. Translation is viewed holistically as a form of three modes of cultural exchange, namely representation, transmission (or transfer), and transculturation. As a form of representation, translation can create an image that resembles or reproduces an idea, viewpoint, value, fact, or argument. As a form of transmission, translation typically relays, to various extents, the content, language, function, or form of the source text. Transculturation is the exchange of cultural characteristics from one cultural group to another.

From this perspective Tymoczko puts forward an enlarged notion of meaning that goes beyond conceptualizations focusing on semantics, and “includes meaning that the translator as reader brings to the process of translation, including any contextual, material, or functional meaning presupposed” (Tymoczko, 2007, pp. 283–284). Moreover, meanings emerge when the translator becomes the writer of the translated text (Tymoczko, 2007, p. 285); hence, translators can be creators rather than merely carriers of meaning. In order that students become aware of their role as meaning makers, Tymoczko engages them in the translation of a short text into whatever language they wish, using whatever strategy they consider best. The task may be undertaken in class, or it may be assigned as homework to be prepared for the next class, where the translations are shared with the rest of the group. Some background information about the language and culture of the source text may be given beforehand. Details about the rhyme scheme or the use of tropes may be provided in the case of a poem. After translating the text, the students make notes about their decision-making procedure, prompted by questions such as What elements of the text have you attempted to capture in your translation? When there were conflicts between translating specific aspects of the text, what elements did you privilege? Where in the text have you made choices? How have you handled dissonances? (Tymoczko, 2007, p. 269). In the final part of the teaching session, students compare and discuss their renderings.

(p. xv) Translation education is one of many socially relevant contexts where the concept of translation enshrined in the hermeneutic model can enhance our understanding of how translation as a mediatory act can bring about positive changes in society. The chapters in this volume amply demonstrate that translation is not merely the product and process of carrying meanings across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Translation is conceived as interpretation, negotiation, and transformation of meaning. An enlarged notion of translation such as the one advocated by the hermeneutic model and endorsed by Tymoczko’s holistic approach can empower translators to play an important role in the many spheres of postmodern societies that the contributors to this volume have examined with great insight. In so doing, they have raised awareness about the value of different forms of translation—written, oral, audiovisual—as social practices that are believed to be fundamental to achieving sustainability, accessibility, inclusion, plurilingualism, and pluriculturalism.

Baker, M. (2018). In other words: A coursebook on translation. London, England; New York, NY: Routledge.Find this resource:

Tymoczko, M. (2007). Enlarging translation, empowering translators. Manchester, England: St. Jerome Publishing.Find this resource:

Ulrych, M. (1992). Translating texts: From theory to practice. Rapallo, Italy: Cideb Editrice.Find this resource:

Venuti, L. (2017). Introduction: Translation, interpretation, and the humaniities. In L. Venuti (Ed.), Teaching translation: Programs, courses, pedagogies (pp. 1–14). London, England; New York, NY: Routledge. (p. xvi) Find this resource: