The foremost issue, within the theoretical framework of translation-paradigm, has traditionally been considered the fact that the syntactical structure and semiotic mechanisms of Source Languages (SL) often prove irreconcilable with that of Target Languages (TL). Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that, while addressing the task of providing an adequate translation from one language to another, many translators face the challenge of choosing in favor of an appropriate translation-technique, which would alleviate the problem of SL and TL’s linguistically-semantic incompatibility. Nevertheless, given the fact that, while executing their professional duties, the translators are now at liberty to take practical advantage of a variety of different translation theories, the earlier mentioned problem cannot be referred to as utterly unsolvable. In this paper, I will aim to explore the validity of the above suggestion at length, in regards to what appear to be the foremost difficulties of translating the English text George Eastman into Russian, and what should be considered proper approaches to these difficulties’ effective tackling.
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One of the major problems associated with the process of English sentences being translated into the Russian language is the fact that; whereas the English language features a so-called ‘fixed-word-order,’ Russian language is being usually discussed as such that features a clearly defined ‘free-word-order’ of sentential structuring. In its turn, this explains why; whereas, in the English language, the nouns’ semiotic significance is being of essentially ‘functional’ nature (e.g., jellyfish), the semiotic significance of nouns in the Russian language is best defined as ‘attitudinal’ (it is specifically Russian nouns’ emotional subtleties, which account for the specifics of how these nouns are being perceived by native speakers).
Therefore, it would prove quite inappropriate to utilize the methodology of ‘natural equivalence,’ while translating the following sentence into English: “He was a high school dropout, judged ‘not especially gifted’ when measured against the academic standards of the day” (2005). The reason for this is simple – due to the earlier articulated reasons, in the Russian language, there can be no semantically matching equivalent for the term ‘dropout,’ by definition. In its turn, this is being suggestive of the fact that, while dealing with the earlier outlined translation-related challenge, translators may, in fact, be able to benefit from addressing it within the methodological framework of ‘descriptive/polysystemic’ or ‘functional’ translation-theories. This, however, would constitute a violation of Occam’s principle, which presupposes that is it is inappropriate to apply complex solutions to a particular problem for as long as the application of simplified solutions to this problem is believed to prove to be just as effective.
Therefore, it will only be logical, on our part, to resort to the provisions of ‘directional equivalence’ translation-theory within the context of striving to come up with a semiotically adequate translation of this particular sentence. According to these provisions, the rate of translational adequacy in TL is being reflective of the extent of how the translated sentence is being capable of triggering the same cognitive responses in targeted audience’s members: “The relationship between receptor and message should be substantially the same as that which existed between the original receptors and the message” (Nida 1964: l59). Given the fact that the Russian notion of ‘недоучившийся школьник’ is essentially synonymous to the English term ‘high school dropout,’ it would make a perfectly good sense to translate the earlier mentioned sentence as follows: “Oн был недоучившийся школьник, которого во время его учебы, даже не считали особо одаренным “(He was a high school dropout, who during the course of his studies, was not even considered a particularly bright individual). Thus, even though that the provided translation does imply a slight shift in meaning, it’s overall connotative sounding appears to closely match the sounding of the original SL’s sentence.
Another major obstacle on the way of translators striving to ensure the semiotic integrity of translated texts is the fact that connotative signifiers, contained in SL and TL, never cease remaining in the state of a continual transition. In its turn, this can be explained by the fact that the actual meaning of spoken/written sentences is reflective of currently predominant socio-cultural discourse. This is the reason why, even though in many cases it proves quite possible for the translators to be able to find cognitively equivalent idioms in TL, the discursive sounding of these idioms often appears to mismatch the discursive sounding of semantically equivalent idioms in SL. A good illustration of the validity of this suggestion can serve the challenge of adequately translating the following ‘easy’ sentence from the given text: “The camera was as big as a microwave oven and needed a heavy tripod” (2005). Obviously enough, while comparing Eastman’s first camera to a microwave oven, the author strived to emphasize the camera’s large size.
Nevertheless, there are good reasons to believe that the reason why the text’s author compared Eastman’s first camera to a microwave oven, as the mean to stress out the camera’s ‘largeness,’ is that at the time when he/she was working on this particular text, microwave ovens were indeed rather huge. However, given the fact that, as of today, microwave ovens had effectively ceased to emanate the connotative spirit of ‘hugeness,’ it would prove quite inappropriate for translators to resort to the provisions of ‘natural equivalence’ theory while translating this particular sense into Russian. Instead, they should give it a thought to proceed with translating this sentence alongside ‘descriptive/polysystemic’ theory’s guidelines, which imply that the extent of translation’s accuracy is reflective of the extent of its discursive ‘fitness.’ As was noted by Toury: “‘ Translatorship’ amounts first and foremost to be able to play a social role, i.e., to fulfill a function allotted by a community – to the activity, its practitioners and/or their products – in a way which is deemed appropriate in its own terms of reference” (1999: 198).
Therefore, in order for the translator to be able to ensure such a discursive ‘fitness,’ he or she would have to come up with a comparison-reference that would imply the notion of ‘hugeness’ within the context of what accounts for the realities of today’s living. Hence, the proposed translation for this particular sentence: “Камера была такой же большой как коробка из под плазменного телевизора“(The camera was as big as a plasma TVs cardboard box). It goes without saying, of course, that as the result of ‘plasma TVs cardboard box’ being used as a comparison-referential, the semantic meaning of a translated sentence appears qualitatively altered. This, however, is being compensated by the fact that, in the discursive sense of this word, the utilization of this particular comparison-referential appears much more appropriate.
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Very often, while addressing their professional duties, translators get to realize a simple fact that, in order for the translated texts in TL to represent an objective value, these texts must emanate the spirit of cultural ambivalence. This suggestion is being consistent with the conventions of ‘cultural’ theory of translation, the proponents of which assess the extent of a particular TL translation’s adequateness in regards to what appears to be this translation’s ability to negate cultural boundaries: “Translation is the most obviously recognizable type of rewriting, and… it is potentially the most influential because it is able to project the image of an author and/or those works beyond the boundaries of their culture of origin” (Lefevere 1992: 9). Therefore, it is fully explainable why, despite the following SL sentence’s seeming ‘simplicity’: “Beyond his inventive genius, Eastman blended human and democratic qualities, with remarkable foresight, into the building of his business.
He believed employees should have more than just good wages – a way of thinking that was far ahead of management people of his era” (2005), translating it into Russian would prove quite challengeable. The reason for this is simple – this sentence’s semantic overtones imply that the potential readers are as much affiliated with the values of ‘democracy’ and ‘free-market economy,’ as it happened to be the case with the text’s author himself. Nevertheless, given the fact that, as many contemporary sociologists are well aware off, the majority of Russians tend to adopt a strongly defined skeptical attitude towards the presumed ‘universal legitimacy’ of neo-liberal values, it would make so much more sense for the translators to go about translating the earlier mentioned sentence in a culturally ambivalent manner. That is, they would have to make sure that Eastman’s virtues are not being solely discussed in regards to the rationale-driven workings of his Anglo-Saxon mentality, but rather in regards to this individual’s strive to benefit humanity, as something that represents the value of ‘thing in itself.’
Therefore, I suggest that this sentence should be translated as follows: “Будучи наделенным изобретательским гением, Истман также никогда не переставал заботится о рабочих. Он знал, что простое обеспечение рабочих хорошей зарплатой не есть единственным способом гарантирования их лояльности – таким образом, Истман предвосхитил свое время“ (Being endowed with an industrious genius, Eastman never ceased taking a good care of his workers. He knew that by providing them with a good salary alone, he would not be able to win their unwavering loyalty – hence, proving himself being way ahead of his time). It is needless to mention, of course, that the suggested ‘culturally ambivalent’ translation would appeal to Russian audiences much more, as compared to what it would have been the case, had I chosen in favor of translating the sentence alongside translational guidelines, provided by ‘natural equivalence’ paradigm, for example.
As it was implied earlier, it represents a matter of crucial importance for the translators to be able to ensure cognitively perceptional integrity of translated texts in TL. Nevertheless, this often proves challengeable due to many translators’ tendency to utilize an intellectually simplistic approach while transferring a discursively bounded linguistic meaning into another language. Apparently, it often skips translators’ attention that they never cease being at liberty to provide translated texts in TL with interpretative undertones, which in turn makes it easier for the targeted audiences to ‘process’ the actual information. The earlier suggestion provides us with a preliminary insight into what should account for the proper translation of the following sentence in SL: “Eastman died by his own hand on March 14, 1932, at the age of 77.
Plagued by a progressive disability resulting from a hardening of the cells in the lower spinal cord, Eastman became increasingly frustrated at his inability to maintain an active life” (2005). The reason why, instead of making reference to Eastman’s death as the ‘death by suicide,’ the author of the original text utilized the ‘death by its own hand’ idiom, is that he/she strived to reduce the negative sounding of this particular connotation. After all, the original text is essentially the praise of Eastman’s numerous virtues. However, given the fact that, when translated into Russian, the idiom’ death by its own hand’ (смерть от своей руки) would still imply a strongly defined negativity, it makes a much better sense for the process of translating this sentence to be observant of provisions of ‘functional’ theory of translation, which presuppose translators being in a position to induce cognitively appropriate reactions in TL audience’s members: “Translational action is intentional behavior in a given situation…
In order to be able to establish this (author’s) intention, the translator receives significant assistance if he determines to which text-type and text-variety (relevant for translating) any given text belong” (Reiss 1999: 161). Therefore, I suggest that the earlier SL’s sentence should be translated as follows: “В конце своей карьеры, Истман страдал от того что он не мог вести активный образ жизни. Будучи не в силах противостоять депрессии, Истман умер в 1932 году, в возрасте 77 лет” (At the end of his career, Eastman used to suffer from his inability to lead a physically active lifestyle. Being unable to withstand depression, Eastman died in 1932, at the age of 77). Thus, even though the TL translation of this particular sentence appears intentionally misleading to an extent, it nevertheless correlates rather well with the text’s overall connotative sounding.
There many cases when it proves quite impossible for the translators to be fully aware of the factual meaning behind a number of sentences/idioms in SL, even though these sentences/idioms appear grammatically and stylistically sound. Consequently, they often experience a particularly hard time while trying to rephrase translated sentences in a stylistically correspondent manner with these sentences’ original syntax in SL. This is because, contrary to the subconscious cravings of people’s psyche, the semantic meaning behind many formally legitimate sentences/phrases/idioms appears to be of essentially illusionary nature. This idea resonates with the foremost theoretical premise of ‘indeterminacy of translation’ theory: “Mutually incompatible manuals of translation can conform to all the same distributions of speech dispositions. But the only facts of nature that bear on the correctness of translation are speech dispositions. Thus, mutually incompatible manuals of translation can conform to all the same overall states of nature” (Quine 1990: 50).
Quine’s point of view, in this respect, enlightens us on what should be considered a methodologically appropriate approach towards translating the following sentence from the provided text: “Eastman was a stupendous factor in the education of the modern world” (2005). Given the fact that the implicational meaning of the idiom’ stupendous factor’ can be interpreted from a number of different perspectives, it does not make much of a sense for translators to preoccupy themselves with trying to figure out what the author had in mind by this idiom, in the first place. Instead, they should proceed with translating this sentence in a manner that feels the most natural to them. I personally would translate this particular sentence as follows: “Истман внес большой вклад в дело просвещения” (Eastman contributed substantially to the cause of enlightenment). In full accordance with the provisions of ‘indeterminacy’ theory, the fact that the translated sentence in TL appears rather simplistic is simultaneously suggestive of its appropriateness as the meaning-conveying medium.
I believe that the earlier deployed line of argumentation, in defense of a suggestion that translators’ ‘intellectual flexibility’ (reflected by their ability to utilize different theories of translation at will) is the key to ensuring their professional success if being fully consistent with this paper’s initial thesis.
Kodak Corporation (2005) George Eastman [WWW]. Web.
Lefevere, Andre, Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (London & New York: Routledge, 1992).
Nida, Eugene, ‘Principles of correspondence’, in Lawrence Venuti (ed.), Translation Studies Reader (Florence, KY: Routledge, 1999) pp. 126-140.
Quine, W.V., Pursuit of Truth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990).
Reiss, Katharina, ‘Decision Making in Translation’, in Lawrence Venuti (ed.), Translation Studies Reader (Florence, KY: Routledge, 1999) pp. 160-172.
Toury, Gideon, ‘The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation’, in Lawrence Venuti (ed.), Translation Studies Reader (Florence, KY: Routledge, 1999) pp. 198-213.
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