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DO YOU HAVE A THEORY OF TRANSLATION? YOU BET YOU DO!

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DO YOU HAVE A THEORY OF TRANSLATION? YOU BET YOU DO!
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  DO YOU HAVE A THEORY OF TRANSLATION? YOU BET YOU DO! 1  By Sergio Viaggio Let us go directly to the point. Which of the b) texts can be considered “translations” of therelevant a) texts, and, if more than one, which may be considered the “better” translations!exts a)" !he problem has troubled translation theoryhistorically. #eople practiced translation, but werenever $uite sure what they were practicing.Los documentos deben estar verificadosfehacientemente. %o smo&ing'o not lean on the doors(very cloud has a silver lining!he goggles that will not ma&e a spectacle of yourself .  'ear #resident #*re+,  !he rain in -pain falls mainly in the plain.  !he price you/re as&ing is highway robbery. 0 !exts a)" !he problem has troubled translation theoryhistorically. #eople practiced translation, but werenever $uite sure what they were practicing.Los documentos deben estar verificadosfehacientemente. %o smo&ing !exts b.i)"  El problema ha perturbado históricamente la teoríade la traducción. La gente traducía, pero nuncaestaba totalmente segura de qué estaba practicando. Documents must be eri!ied so that there is no doubt about their authenticity. "o !umar  "o se apoyen en las puertas #oda nube tiene una capa de plata Las ga!as que no lo pondr$n en ridículo%uerido &residente &ére'( En Espa)a, la lluia cae principalmente en la pradera. El precio que pide es un robo a mano armada. !exts b.ii)"  El problema ha aque*ado a la teoría de la traduccióndurante toda su historia. Los traductores traducían, pero sin estar *am$s totalmente seguros de quéestaban haciendo. Documents shall be duly certi!ied. &rohibido !umar  1  or a more developed exposition of my theory, see 2iaggio, -ergio" “3 4eneral !heory of 5nterlingual6ediation,” ran& 7 !imme 2erlag, 8erlin 99:, here, or “!eor;a general de la mediaci<n interling=e”,#ublicaciones de la >niversidad de 3licante, 3licante 99, here. -everal additional papers on the sub?ect can be found in sergioviaggio.com. 2  !his text is the caption in an advertisement to an image of a pair of welding goggles that do not loo& li&egoggles at all, but, rather, li&e regular glasses @“spectacles”A). 3  3ctual heading of a formal letter addressed to then 2ene+uelan president Barlos 3ndr*s #*re+. 4  3 line from a song in the celebrated musical “6y air Lady,” in which professor Ciggins tries to teachBoc&ney girl Li+a 'oolittle to pronounce the “ai” diphthong DElaEFingGs (nglish, rather than the Boc&ney “HoiH.” 5  !he situation is as follows" !he interpreter/s client wants to buy this apartment, but is angry at what heconsiders an exorbitant price.  2 'o not lean on the doors(very cloud has a silver lining!he goggles that will not ma&e a spectacle of yourself.'ear #resident #*re+,!he rain in -pain falls mainly in the plain.!he price you/re as&ing is highway robbery.  "o apoyarse contra las puertas "o hay mal que por bien no eng  Las ga!as protectoras elegantes E+celentísimo Se)or( El rey que hay en adrid se !ue a -ran*ue'.    El precio me parece !rancamente e+cesio. !here are several possible answers"E @-ome or all of) the texts in column b.i) are not, strictly spea&ing, translations of thetexts in column a)" they are simply literal “transpositions.”E @-ome or all of) the texts in column b .i) are all @better or worse) translations of thetexts in column a).E @-ome or all of) the texts in column b. ii) are not, strictly spea&ing, translations of the texts in column a)" they are too “free” I even if they do wor&.E @-ome or all of) the texts in column b. ii) are translations of the texts in column a)regardless of their “liberties.”(ach of these answers and subEanswers @i.e., if not all, then which b.i) H b.ii) texts)will be based on a different theory of translationJ so, if you thin& you have an answer, thenyou do have a theory I much as the sheer idea may displease or surprise you. 5f you had notreali+ed it, it is because your theory is not explicit. !hat does not ma&e it “wrong,” but it does prevent it from being “critici+ed,” that is, confronted with practice, compared with other theories and IcruciallyI being perfected and developed if basically right, or discarded if totally wrong.Why would the b.i) texts not be considered translations !hey say “the same thing,”i.e., they convey the same propositional contentJ moreover, they do so in a way that is notungrammatical Ior even aw&wardI and they can be perfectly understood by any minimallysophisticated reader. 5f you agree, then, as mine, your theory says that the main Iif notnecessarily the onlyI re$uisite of translation is “sameness of meaning,” understood basicallyas sameness of propositional content" K  no “sameness of meaning” I no translationA5n this light, then, “  El problema ha aque*ado a la teoría de la traducción durantetoda su historia. Los traductores traducían, pero sin estar *am$s totalmente seguros de quéestaban haciendo ” is as much a translation of “!he problem has troubled translation theoryhistorically. #eople practiced translation, but were never $uite sure what they were practicing” as “  El problema ha perturbado históricamente la teoría de la traducción. La gente traducía, pero nunca estaba totalmente segura de qué estaba practicando .” !hedifference is that the former “sounds” better, which in turn has necessitated some liberties, but not too many" a little cheating is always to be expected. !his means that this latter textwould also count as a “translation.”5f you agree to both points above, then according to your theory a translation is such by virtue of its saying “the same thing” as the srcinal, and, barring translational “mista&es,”it will be better the better it “sounds” I i.e. the better it is as a text in the target language. 6  !he translation as used in the -panishElanguage performances of the musical in -pain and 3rgentina. Cere,#rofessor Ciggins is teaching Li+a to pronounce the “dH+” sounds at the end of 6adrid and 3ran?ue+. 7  “-ameness of meaning,” of course, can be defined much more broadly or minutely I but, luc&ily, as 5 hope toshow, this need be no concern of ours.  3 8ut, as it happens, b.i) translations are “better” for my specific purposes than b.ii)ones, since my point is, precisely, to show that they would be not as apt as the latter if their  purpose had been the same as that of the srcinals.5f you agree, then your theory says, also, that translations are not good or bad, better or worse in the abstract" What ma&es translations better or worse is not necessarily that they“sound” better, but that they better fulfil their intended functionality, or, less pretentiously,that they better fit the purposes pursued by the translator @on his own or on somebody else/s behalf). !he spea&er/s lapses normally corrected must be reproduced @ n.b. " reproduced, nottranslatedA) in ?udicial interpretation when the accused is being interpreted before the court.  Ditto  many factual or formal mista&es in sworn translations. 5f your theory made noallowance for this  caeat  , 5 suggest you better accommodate it.!his brings us to the translations of “  Los documentos deben estar eri!icados !ehacientemente .” 5n this instance, “'ocuments shall be duly certified” may be deemed too“liberal” with respect to “'ocuments must be verified so that there is no doubt about their authenticity.” 8ut the latter is too verbose is/0/is  the srcinal and, although it “explains”“  !ehacientemente ,” it does not $uite “say” it @because there simply is no e$uivalent in(nglish). 5n either case, we can vote for or against either text being a true “translation.”Which posits the rather uncomfortable $uestion" What is a translator to do Iespecially if absolute sameness of meaning is of the essenceI when there is no e$uivalent, and therefore,no altogether “faithful” translation, and he still wants the ?ob 5f some cheating is to beexpected, how much cheating is tolerated 5f your theory allows for as much cheating asnecessary in order to convey “the same thing” @even if with the croo&ed wal&ing stic& of afootnote or a clarifications in brac&ets), you are in business. 5f not, then either you switchtheories or give up the ?ob.n its part, there is, in principle, nothing wrong with “  "o !umar  ,” except that suchnotices in the target languageHculture normally read “  &rohibido ” M infinitive. unctionalityadvises, rather than necessitates a minor “manipulation” I the &ind of “cheating” that is, morethan expected, welcome or even demanded.What about “  "o se apoyen en las puertas ” H “  "o apoyarse contra las puertascombo ” Which one is a better Ior, if you prefer, more idiomatic or functionalI “translation”5f you answered b.ii) then you have never ta&en the 6adrid metro . 5f you chose b.i), ta&e the8uenos 3ires  subte  and be disabused. What may be idiomatic or functional to some users of alanguage may not be so to others, and the divides @there are $uite a few) are not necessarilygeographical" they can be social @professional, ageE and classErelated, etc.), or individual.-o far, then, most theories will converge on defining both texts b.i) and b.ii) as“translations,” whilst functional theories will deem b.ii) renditions “better” in the relevantcontext and linguistic theories will vote for their b.i) counterparts regardless of it. N  Oour answers so far will tell you which theoretical pole attracts you the most.8ut you may also deem that sameness of meaning is not enough" meaning has to beconveyed in such a way that it is properly understood. !his will lead you into rather mur&ywaters. 3re “ #oda nube tiene una capa de plata ” or, even more so, “  Las ga!as que no lo pondr$n en ridículo ” understood “properly” 5 submit not. %ot, that is, if “ #oda nube tieneuna capa de plata ” is meant to wor& collo$uially and understood “on the go” @the semantic P translation is not opa$ue at all, but it will ta&e some additional time and effort to process, plusit is pragmatically mar&ed in a different way" as bi+arre rather than collo$uialA). %ot, indeed,if “  Las ga!as que no lo pondr$n en ridicule ” is meant to wor& as a caption in an 8  5n the case of “  "o se apoyen en las puertas ”, it is not functionality in the 5berian context that would be thecriterion, but “faithfulness” to the srcinal. 9  #eter %ewmar& distinguishes it from literal translation in that literal tends to be unEidiomatic. -ee, for instance,his 3 !extboo& of !ranslation, #rentice Call, London, 1PNN,  4 advertisement whose purpose is, precisely, to “sell” the product to consumers in the secondlanguageHculture. 8ut, regardless of whether they wor& better as a rendition of a popular saying or a recreation of an ad, are “  "o hay mal que por bien no enga ” and “  Las ga!as protectoras elegantes ” a “translation” of “(very cloud has a silver lining” or “!he gogglesthat will not ma&e a spectacle of yourself”5f your answer is “yes,” then your theory says that, provided function is maintained,wellEnigh everything goes, since the only e$uivalence to be found between those two pairs of texts is the “goggles”H“  ga!as ”.!hings can get $uite rougher. 3s pointed out, “'ear #resident #ere+” was the actualheading of a letter addressed to then 2ene+uelan president Barlos 3ndr*s #*re+ that 5 had totranslate for a client, a #Q company retained by the #resident to boost his rather threadbare public image. 5n it, the experts explained the strategy they had developed to that effect. %ow 5 bet any minimally competent translator would be caught dead before formally calling “dear #resident #ere+” “ %uerido &residente &ére'  ” I and not only because this is not the way toaddress such a personality in the -panishEspea&ing culture@s)" 5t is not simply a matter of  perpetuating tradition, but of not antagoni+ing the potential reader I lest he will be “angry”and not pay due attention to the translated message, or, worse, chastise the translatorA 19 6aybe you had not $uite thought of it this way. 8ut why is it, in fact, that translators tend to“manipulate” form, almost invariably Iin -panishEspea&ing cultures, towards a more formalstyleI if not to cater to the potential reader/s acceptability criteria in order to ensure smoothcommunication I or protect their own butt 5n this specific case, most -panish translatorswould write “  E+celentísimo Se)or  ”, or, even, “ Su E+celencia, el &residente de la 1ep2blicade Vene'uela, don 3arlos -ndrés &ére'  ”, next, in a separate line, “  E+celentísimo Se)or  ”, andthen the letter proper. !he letter itself would be thereafter “manipulated” into a more formalstyle than the one we can surmise would follow such a heading in the srcinal. !his, as we&now, is basic stuffR or is itLet us leave the answer in abeyance for a while. %ext, by virtue of what theory can“  El rey que hay en adrid se !ue a -ran*ue'  ” be considered a “translation” of “!he rain in-pain falls mainly in the plain” (ither a very, very lax oneR or none at all, 5 submit. %othing whatsoever of the srcinal “meaning,” except, perhaps, the indirect allusion to -pain@which plays no function at all" “  El pe' que hay en La &a' no tiene pa'  ” @“!he fish in La #a+has no peace”) would have wor&ed as wellA) remains in the target text. 3ll that counts here isfunction" a) !he text must be “singable” to the same melody, b) it must ma&e some @anyA)&ind of phonetic point for c) a @in this case -panishE) language professor to teach to a @in thiscase lowerEclass -panishEspea&ing) lowEclass girl. #rovided these three conditions are met,literally anything goes. 5t is not, as some theoreticians Iand practitionersAI mista&enly thin& that this text is “untranslatable.” !here is absolutely nothing untranslatable about it Iwitnesstext b.i). !he problem lies elsewhere. !o wit, that a translation Iany &ind of “translation”AI would be absolutely aEfunctional I i.e., completely useless on stage. -ure, you may say,everybody &nows that tooA 'o they !hen why do so many translators adamantly see& totranslate texts when their “translation” is absolutely useless Iif not altogether selfEdefeatingAI for the purposes in hand3s we can see, the theory governing this “translation” is a&in to the one we followedwhen rendering the goggles ad I except that here there is no sameness of meaning at anylevel whatsoever. -till, one can find theoretical refuge in the fact that, one way or the other,what counts in either case is function, and function is preserved in both cases I even if at thecost of sameness of propositional content or, less euphemistically, at the cost of “translation.” 10  3t the %uremberg !rials, many a Imost notably femaleI interpreter simply could not bear reproducing thefoul language by some of the accused na+i criminalsR 6ind you, this was a trial and they were ?udicialinterpretersA  5 8ut have not all b.ii) texts striven to do ?ust that" preserve function in their context I the presumed srcinal contest 3nd have not all b.i) texts sought, also, to do ?ust that" preservefunction in their context I i.e. the context of my argumentation Would we not Iwittingly or unwittinglyI be falling prey to a theory according to which, provided function is preserved,anything, literally anything goes I whereby sameness of meaning is not a re$uisite of translation 3nd if you now bac&trac& with a disingenuous disclaimer to the effect that“everything goes sometimes” or that “not $uite everything goes all the time,” it will ta&e youa lifetime to find a way out of the theoretical ma+e" 5magine %ewton having discovered thatmost things are attracted to most things sometimes" he would have come up with the Law of ccasional 4ravitationA Oou may, of course, retort that you could not care less, since you will blissfully continue doing what you do and let obsessed theoreticians li&e me loc& abstracthorns on it.8ut there/s worse to come.!a&e “!he price you/re as&ing is highway robbery”" Let us assume that, in theinterpreter/s analysis, this could be a good deal for the buyerHclient if only his client @the buyer) can negotiate cunningly. What if the interpreter faithfully renders this outburst as “  El  precio que pide es un robo a mano armada ” !he seller ta&es offence, the communication brea&s down and the deal is off. 5s this in the clientGs interest Cardly. !he interpreter would be doing him no favour by interpreting “faithfully.” 3 rendition li&e “  El precio me parece !rancamente e+cesi o” would be definitely better for the client/s purposes in hiring theinterpreter in the first place" %ot simply understanding what the potential seller says or having him understand what he says, but buying the apartment at a reasonable price. 3 few paragraphs above 5 spo&e of “selfEdefeating” translations" here is a glaring case in pointA 11  f course, the interpreter would be assuming full responsibility for his “manipulation” I butcertainly no more than, say, a physician who, bearing the patient/s interest in mind, decides toamputate his leg. !his case brings clearly out the interest a good mediator should ta&e in themetacommunicative purposes and, therefore, success of communication I regardless of whathe may actually do on this basis. 1  Cere, loyalty to his client 1  @an ethical concern) ta&es clear  precedence over faithfulness to his “text.” 6y $uestion is" 5s this case of “manipulation”different from the “'ear #resident #*re+”H “  E+celentísimo Se)or  ” example 5 suggest it is, inessence, a matter of degree. 5n both instances the translatorHinterpreter would be catering tothe interlocutor/s acceptability criteria in order to ensure smooth, and eventually successful,communication. 5f your theory does not ma&e room for such interventions, 5, for one, wouldnever trust you with a letter to a potential employer or hire you to help me buy an apartment.5 submit, then, that all b.ii) texts “wor&” better in their presumed context than would b.i) texts, regardless of whether we consider them translations. 5nsofar as you stop agreeingsomewhere down the list, then your theory diverges from mine. !his would be a simpleacademic matter were it not for the fact that, governed by such different strategies, our “translations” would become themselves ever more different I which shows that everytranslation, or, more strictly, “act of translation”, good or bad, is the practical incarnation of atheory I more coherent and apt or less, conscious or unconscious, explicit or not. 5 venture to posit that your disagreement would be not so much on whether these renditions “wor&” 11  You may recall Brazilian president Lula´s interpreter sain! "is #oss´s $ace #y claimin!%at t"e e&pense o$ "is o'n% t"at "e did not (understand) Lula´s potentially em#arrassin!statement to t"e e*ect t"at +ami#ia ,t"e country "e 'as isitin! at t"e time- 'as soclean it did not loo. li.e /$rica 12  !his aspect is comprehensively analysed in my 3 4eneral !heory of 5nterlingual 6ediation H “!eor;a generalde la mediaci<n interling=e,” where 5 develop in this connection the concepts of convergent, compatible anddivergent face and their bearing on mediation. 3lso developed are the notions of overt and covert mediation. 13  -ee, for instance, %ord, Bhristiane" -&opos, Loyalty, and !ranslational Bonventions, !arget "1, pp. P1E119
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