Copyright © ProZ.com, 1999-2021. All rights reserved.
What does define a good translation and what norms and standards should apply to it has been the subject of many debates in conferences and specialised journals in translation studies. Should a translation read fluent in a foreign culture other than the one of the target readership, and if so what is to be compromised and to what extend? In order to get a valuable insight on this matter I propose an analysis of the transparency as a fundamental characteristic for the fluent and readable translation. Furthermore I will examine the translation transparency in regard to its fluency and readability according to three learned theorists, namely, Perrot d’Ablancourt, Friedrich Schleiermacher and Antoine Berman. Finally, I will attempt to define the fluent and readable translation in light of the contemporary translation theories.
2.0. DEFINING THE NATURE OF TRANSPARENCY AS FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTIC OF FLUENT AND READABLE TRANSLATION
Venuti emphasizes that invisibility is a “phenomena” that has resulted from the manipulation of English language by three groups, namely, the translators who answer the readers’ expectations of how the text should read, as well as UK and USA evaluators of these translations. The influential role of these groups on translation decision is underlined by Venuti who considers them as the authority which set out their criterion for what is a suitable translation. According to this criterion the transparency of the translation could be achieved when the text reads fluent, lacks linguistic style and so gives the illusion that is as the original. Therefore under these expectations, the translator is concerned with making his/her translation sound “natural” producing an effect of transparency which is an illusion of the original text which Venuti does not call anymore a translation. However, commenting on readability Anthony C. Yu points out the pressure the contemporary translator faces leaving him/her no choice but to comply to “current usage”, considering as absurd to keep the foreign text targeted to another readership in the past. Therefore he considers as successful a translation which is keeping account of the present target readership.
Another reference to readability and fluency was made by Wallace Woosley when commenting on the importance of translator’s connection with the original. He considered it as essential element in achieving a near original version of the book. Woosley compared the importance of ear in translation with a tin ear to a tone-deaf musician.
However, the fluency in translation is not applicable only to literary texts, but is also appreciated in more specialised areas of translation as those covered by the Chartered Institute of Linguists (IOL) which are mentioned by Munday in his case study.
Excepting the transparency of the translation, one should take in consideration the transparency of the translator whose translation is many times even not acknowledged being quoted as it would be an original. Such a practice was noticed in different publications such as newspapers .
3.0. TRANSPARENCY OF TRANSLATION WITH REFERENCE TO ITS FLUENCY AND READABILITY ACCORDING TO NICHOLAS PERROT D’ABLANCOURT
Even though d’Ablancourt does not refer directly to invisibility and transparency, his notions of putting together and cutting out parts of the text are clearly directed towards the adjustments he makes in translating Tacitus in order to make it readable by the target readership. In his commentary on translating Tacitus, d’Ablancourt testifies that in his interest to keep the argument clear and to preserve the beauty of the language, whenever Tacitus lacks fluency in his argument, he exercises his freedom to edit that particular phrase and to arrange the parts of the content in order to accomplish the purpose of the book.
However, he defends his faithfulness toward the original text throughout the work with rather submissive words “Everywhere else I have followed him step by step, and rather as a slave than a companion, although I might have allowed myself more freedom since I was not translating a passage, but a Book, every part of which must be linked together and fused in the same body.” Though, he states that the best translations are those which are less faithful to the original due to his believe that sometimes the translator has to bring clarity to the text and so add more information. But in order to smooth out the text the translator is encouraged to cut out from the text.
A good example of d’Ablancourt’s editing touches which makes the text readable and fluent is illustrated in the same preface to Tacitus, “I shall add only that I have not observed any of these rules so exactly that I did not occasionally exempt myself from it, either to avoid the awkward pronunciation of a word, or for some other reason.”
4.0. TRANSPARENCY OF TRANSLATION WITH REFERENCE TO ITS FLUENCY AND READABILITY ACCORDING TO FRIEDRICH SCHLEIERMACHER.
In his essay on Translator’s Invisibility, Rendall points out Schleiermacher’s understanding of the ideal translator. This is the one who is not fully comfortable in the foreign language and who is looking to induce in the reader the same experience as his own for whom the particular foreign language is both comprehensible but also unfamiliar. According to Rendall Schleiermacher considers that the translator who is over familiar with the foreign text would produce just an impression of naturality and familiarity in the reader. To clarify further his position on translation, Schleiermacher distinguishes two approaches toward translation. The one he supports states that the translator moves the reader towards the author, which implies foreignizing. The second one articulates that the translator brings the author to the reader which involves domesticating. Commenting on Schleiermacher’s choices, Berman considered Schleiermacher’s position in favour of foregnizing as a purpose of providing a place of expressing a cultural other, though this otherness could be expressed only in terms of the targeted language. Schleiermacher firmly discourages the overlapping of the two methodologies considering them dangerous as the author and reader might fail to notice each other in such a translation.
Bassnett and Lefevere point out Schleiermacher’s position in foreignizing translation in their description of Schleiermacher’s model which appears in his lecture On the Different Ways of Translating. According to them Schleiermacher demands that “translation from different languages into German should read and sound different: the reader should be able to guess the Spanish behind a translation from Spanish, and the Greek behind a translation from Greek.” On the grounds of this statement one may conclude that Schleiermacher is not a supporter of readability and fluency in the terms we understand it today.
However, as a theologian he valued the imaginative element which cannot be observed distinctively and cannot be restrictive. This is very well illustrated in the following comments on consciousness and self-consciousness. “The subsequent translation into thought depends on whether one is willing in the consciousness of his own weakness to be lost in the mysterious obscurity, or whether, first of all, seeking definiteness of thought, he cannot think of anything except under the one form given to us, that of religious consciousness or self-consciousness.”
5.0. TRANSPARENCY OF TRANSLATION WITH REFERENCE TO ITS FLUENCY AND READABILITY ACCORDING TO ANTOINE BERMAN
In order to deduct Berman’s reference to the visibility of the translator in his/her work I will review some of his comments which appear in his analysis of translation where he describes twelve “deforming tendencies” in translation.
He formulates the link between these deformations and the large mixture of the prose that the writer loads in his work which is very well define in the following statement.
The lack of control derives from the enormous linguistic mass that the prose writer must squeeze into the work – at the risk of making it formally explode. The more totalizing the writer’s aim, the more obvious the loss of control, whether in the proliferation, the swelling of the text, or in words where the most scrupulous attention is paid to form, as in Joyce, Broch, or Proust. Prose, in its multiplicity and rhythmic flow, can never be entirely mastered. And this ‘bad writing’ is rich. This is the consequence of its polylingualism.
Though, he points out that these tendencies might not be comprehensive and equally applicable to all translating, they are valid for the western tradition. The deformation of the text through punctuation and putting the ideas in particular order is summed by Berman through rationalism. Another tendency identified by him is that of clarification, namely, when the translator decides to impose the definite there where in the original text is not emphasized. The attempt of the translator to give an explanation of something that is not revealed in the original text and the trial of clarifying what is not intended by the author is also considered a deformation by Berman.
Mentioning the rethorization as one of the deforming tendendencies, Berman touches the issue of fluency and readability consisting of producing “elegant” sentences and basically rewriting the text in order to avoid the complexity and the awkwardness. He specifies that this tendency is present not only in the literary texts but also in the human science. In the same manner Edwin McClellan had referred to the clarification attempt of the translator, pointing out that due to the frustration of being forced to deal with a material produced by someone else, the translator in his search to escape the limitations of the original adds or cuts out from the original text.
When referring to replacement of terms and expressions, cutting out words, destroying the rhythm by revising the punctuation, Berman points out other means through which the translator affects the original text. Destroying the subtext which contains hidden dimensions, as well as the linguistic patterning (including syntax), dialect and idioms is a play that affects the text as well.
6.0. TOWARDS DEFINING FLUENT AND READABLE TRANSLATION IN LIGHT OF A FEW CONTEMPORARY TRANSLATION THEORIES
Fluency and readability are two dimensions that affect contemporary translators, publishers and readers in both literary and non-literary translation and therefore have been the subject of many debates among the people in the field of translation studies. In order to obtain a contemporary point of view on the direction of translation practice I will review some of the views on what is expected to be found in a contemporary translation.
Firstly, I will have a look at the highest expectations of translation quality set by the IOL for the candidates of Diploma in Translation Studies in order to be awarded Distinction. The aspects of performance that are assessed by this examination are the following: 1. Comprehension, accuracy and register; 2. Grammar, cohesion, coherence and organisation of work; 3. Technical aspects: punctuation, spelling, accentuation, transfer of names, dates, figures, etc. I shall point out the statement concerning the aspects of grammar, cohesion, coherence and organisation of work expected from a candidate eligible to be awarded a Distinction, which I believe highlight the fluency and readability expectances. “The translation reads like a piece originally written in the target language. The sentence structure, grammar, linkages and discourse are all entirely appropriate to the target language.”
However, Venuti tries to clarify the target language fluency concerns in regard to the ethnocentric violence. His call for action in The Translator Invisibility: A History of Translation of both translators and readers to seek and acknowledged the linguistic and cultural differences in the foreign text is an innovative call in refining the translation practice. He urges that translators and writers should oppose the leading trends and norms of the culture which requires from them to exclude the foreign elements of their works. Steven Rendall points out that Venuti considers that fluency and transparency overshadow the value of translators’ work which according to him should be made obvious by the use of neologism, archaisms, foreign words, etc. As Rodica Dumitriu reviews Venuti’s resistive appeal, Venuti’s call for the contemporary translator is to fight the “authoritative, domesticating” through the “foreignizing, resistive strategy” which he/she should adopt even at the risk of having the translated work labelled as “strange” by the target culture.
On the other hand, the temperamental dimension of Venuti’s view was criticised by theorists as Munday who attacked his lack of methodology in his analysis of translation illustrated by Philip Burton when commenting on Venuti’s choice of study as being sometimes “opaque” .
However, Munday offers some suggestions on how Venuti’s premises about foregnizing and domesticating translation strategies as well as of the invisibility of translator could be investigated .Venuti’s appeal of fighting domestication promotes cultural defence as well as a perception shift in reader’s approach of a translated work and that is to be appreciated. Despite of Venuti’s appeal of fighting domestication, in practice there is still a general expectation from the book market of both non-literary and literary works that translated literature should read fluently and without any difficulties for the targeted reader.
The interest of translator in producing relevant works for the target cultures is very well reflected in Rendall’s replies to Venuti’s call for resistance to domestication, in his article. Rednall maintains that even though he does not attempt to suppress everything that is foreign in favour of the domestic values, he will still produce “generally fluent, readable” translations.
Venuti’s strategy of evaluating the foreign element in a translation, namely, by detecting foreign words, neologisms, archaisms, etc can be considered quite superficial in the light of Reiss’s evaluation strategy of a translation, which propose that the evaluation of translation should not focus on specific aspects in the section but first should define its text type. She points out that only after such a method was established then the degree to which the translator has confined to that criterion can be properly assessed.
Referring to norms in translation in connection with the history, Pym pleads for a reorganisation of norms as they are currently studied due to aspects as stability, lack of attention given to contradictions between the practice and the theory of translation and cultural differences. In the same respect, Bassnett and Lefevere call for a new approach to translation of texts that constitute the cultural resources from other societies so that these translations would retain some components of their specific nature.
Defining a good translation in regard to the contemporary norms and standards and in particular to how fluent and readable these texts should sound is still a current debate in the field of translation practice. Through this study I considered a variety of opinions on the relationship between translation invisibility in regard to readability and fluency. Started with the editing notes of Perrot d’Ablancourt on Tacitus and reaching to the call for action of Venuti the transparency of translation took a variety of forms.
Through revisiting these opinions on translation practice of translators and translation theorists in the history and in the contemporary time, one can notice that today’s translators and translation theorists are open to consider a new approach on translation across culture which will attempt to preserve the specific nature of the cultural element in translating cultural resources from other societies. However, in practice these standards of fluency and readability constitute a powerful force in the field of translation practice which is influencing the relationship between publishing houses, translator and readership expectances.
In the light of the present study and the current attention to the cultural element in translations I can endeavour to define a transparent translation as the translation that does reveal the cultural component without of course affecting the understanding of the text by its readership.
Lawrence Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (Abingdon: Routledge, 1995; reprint, 2002), 1.
Anthony C. Yu, “Readability: Religion and the Reception of Translation,” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) 20 (Dec., 1998): 92, [online], Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0161-9705%28199812%2920%3C89%3ARRATRO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-E, Accessed on 15 December 2007.
Wallace Woolsey, “The Art of Translation,” The South Central Bulletin 34/4 (Winter, 1974): 167, [online], Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0038-321X%28197424%2934%3A4%3C166%3ATAOT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F, Accessed on 15 December, 2007.
Chartered Institute of Linguists, Official Website, [online], Available at http://www.iol.org.uk/, Accessed on 15 December, 2007.
Jeremy Munday, Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications (London: Routledge, 2001), 30.
L. Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility, 8.
Nicholas Perrot d’Ablancourt, Preface to Tacitus, trans. Lawrence Venuti, The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti, 2d ed., (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005; reprint, 2007), 32.
Steven Rendall, “Changing Translation,” review of The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation, by Lawrence Venuti, In Comparative Literature 48/4 (Autumn, 1996): 361, [online], Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0010-4124%28199623%2948%3A4%3C359%3ACT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-B, Accessed on 15 December, 2007.
Friedrich Schleiermacher, On the Different Methods of Translating, trans. Susan Bernofsky, The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti, 2d ed., (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005; reprint, 2007), 49.
L. Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility, 20.
Susan Bassnett & André Lefevere, Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation (Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd, 1998), 8.
Freiedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, trans. John Oman (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1958), 98.
Antoine Berman, Translation and the Trials of the Foreign, trans. Lawrence Venuti, The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti, 2d ed., (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005; reprint, 2007), 279.
Edwin McClellan, “Translation as Implicit Commentary,” The Journal-Newsletter of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 2, 1/2 (May, 1964): 18, [online], Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0004-5810%28196405%292%3A1%2F2%3C18%3ATAIC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A, Accessed on 15 December 2007.
Chartered Institute of Linguists, IOL Educational Trust, Diploma in Translation, Handbook and Advice to Candidates, 2006, p. 12, [online], Available at http://www.iol.org.uk/qualifications/DipTrans/DipTransHandbook.pdf, Accessed on 15 December 2007.
L. Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility, 41.
Steven Rendall, Changing Translation, 362, [online].
Rodica Dumitru, The Cultural Turn in Translation Studies, Seria Traductologie (Iaşi: Institutul European, 2005), 130.
Philip Burton, review of The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation, by Lawrence Venuti, In The Review of English Studies, New Series, 49/193 (Feb., 1998): 118, [online], Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0034-6551%28199802%292%3A49%3A193%3C118%3ATTIAHO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-U, Accessed on 15 December 2007.
J. Munday, Introducing Translation Studies, 156.
Steven Rendall, Changing Translation, 363, [online].
Katharina Reiss, Translation Criticism - The Potentials & Limitations (Manchester: St. Jerome, 2000), 46.
Anthony Pym, Method in Translation History (Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1998), 115.
S. Bassnett & A. Lefevere, Constructing Cultures, 11.
Bassnett, Susan & André Lefevere. Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd, 1998.
Berman, Antoine. Translation and the Trials of the Foreign. Translated by Lawrence Venuti. The Translation Studies Reader. Edited by Lawrence Venuti. 2d ed. Abingdon: Routledge, 2005; reprint, 2007.
Burton, Philip. Review of The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation, by Lawrence Venuti. In The Review of English Studies, New Series, 49/193 (Feb., 1998): 118-119. [online]. Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0034-6551%28199802%292%3A49%3A193%3C118%3ATTIAHO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-U. Accessed on 15 December 2007.
Chartered Institute of Linguists, Official Website. [online]. Available at http://www.iol.org.uk/. Accessed on 15 December, 2007.
Chartered Institute of Linguists, IOL Educational Trust, Diploma in Translation, Handbook and Advice too Candidates, 2006. [online]. Available at http://www.iol.org.uk/qualifications/DipTrans/DipTransHandbook.pdf. Accessed on 15 December 2007.
d’Ablancourt, Nicholas Perrot. Preface to Tacitus. Translated by Lawrence Venuti. The Translation Studies Reader. Edited by Lawrence Venuti. 2d ed. Abingdon: Routledge, 2005; reprint, 2007.
Dumitru, Rodica. The Cultural Turn in Translation Studies, Seria Traductologie. Iaşi: Institutul European, 2005.
McClellan, Edwin. “Translation as Implicit Commentary.” The Journal-Newsletter of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 2, 1/2 (May, 1964): 18-20. [online]. Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0004-5810%28196405%292%3A1%2F2%3C18%3ATAIC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A. Accessed on 15 December 2007.
Munday, Jeremy. Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. London: Routledge, 2001.
Pym, Anthony. Method in Translation History. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1998.
Reiss, Katharina. Translation Criticism - The Potentials & Limitations. Manchester: St. Jerome, 2000.
Rendall, Steven. “Changing Translation.” Review of The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation, by Lawrence Venuti. In Comparative Literature 48/4 (Autumn, 1996): 359-364. [online]. Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0010-4124%28199623%2948%3A4%3C359%3ACT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-B. Accessed on 15 December, 2007.
Schleiermacher, Friedrich. On the Different Methods of Translating, Translated by Susan Bernofsky. The Translation Studies Reader. Edited by Lawrence Venuti. 2d ed. Abingdon: Routledge, 2005; reprint, 2007.
Schleiermacher, Freiedrich. On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. Translated by John Oman. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1958.
Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation. Abingdon: Routledge, 1995; reprint, 2002.
Woolsey, Wallace. “The Art of Translation.” The South Central Bulletin 34/4 (Winter, 1974): 166-168. [online]. Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0038-321X%28197424%2934%3A4%3C166%3ATAOT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F, Accessed on 15 December, 2007.
Yu, Anthony C. “Readability: Religion and the Reception of Translation.” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) 20 (Dec., 1998): 89-100. [online]. Available at http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0161-9705%28199812%2920%3C89%3ARRATRO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-E. Accessed on 15 December 2007.