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How Do We Trust Translation?

How Do We Trust Translation?

Friday, 9 September, 2022 - 09:00
Book, translation trust.

A popular proverb says: “Those who see are not like those who hear”. And, those who speak about translation– in all its interrelated facts – from inside the translation world are not like those who speak irresponsibly and generally without references.


The translation efficiency is tightly linked to the source and target languages. Language is a framing structure that forms a base for our special view of the world. Arabs, for example, see the world in a different way than the English, French, German, Japanese, and Chinese people. Language carries this view, and every new language we learn is a reformulation of our view of the world driven by the reformulation of our brains on the biological level. There are fundamental differences that cannot be reduced to express one idea in different linguistic contexts, therefore, we should accept the existence of divergences among the translated texts. I don’t like to speak about the “inevitable infidelity in translation” because it’s not more than a dramatic expression of a basic fact. Therefore, we must emphasize the following facts:


1. Translation is a negotiation between languages (according to Umberto Eco) in which each language compromises a fraction of its expressional existence.


2. Every human being has their own emotional language that doesn’t resemble that of anyone else.


3. A person who doesn’t know more than one language ignores their mother language, because they lack references for comparison that usually enriches nontraditional grammatical and semantic contexts, according to Goethe.


4. Every translated text parallels the original one. The idea of matching in translation is a pure illusion for substantial reasons that aren’t linked to the skillfulness of the translator.


5. Every translated text carries the print of both the writer and the translator. A connection between the translated text and the translator cannot be dismantled.


Translation cannot be seriously discussed without reading the action of translation, and its connection with syntactic and semantic structures of the language. I believe that linguist and cultural anthropologist George Steiner was the best to cover this topic in his book After Babel Aspects of Language and Translation (1975). For the technical aspects of translation, the references and books are many including Dr. Mohammed Annani’s “Art of Translation”, late philosopher Paul Ricœur’s “About Translation”, and Dr. Safaa Khoulousi’s “Analytical Translation” and “Translation in Light of Comparative Studies”.


In the following, I will be discussing details that accompany every translation process, and all translators must have experienced them.


First, I must mention the trust of the translated material. How does this trust happen? I have two answers:


1. A general answer like when we ask, “How do you trust a dentist? a professor? a vendor”. We often say, “Experience is the greatest evidence”, so try and assess your result. Some of us might say that every profession has ethics and rules, but this is not sufficient because an active conscience and decency are valuable characteristics and a decisive factor in every human practice. Based on this, we can read translated texts recommended by a great number of readers, but recommendations alone are not enough, and a personal standard must be considered. And now comes the second answer.


2. Try to compare a translated text to its original reference, or it might be easier to compare a translated article to its original version. Assess all the aspects of the translation and audit the context the translator adopted, and how he structured his translated expressions. Study the grammar and the semantic context of the translated expression and compare it to the spirit of the original expression.


We should make efforts to verify the objectivity and credibility of any translated work. This procedural approach requires the reader to have a good knowledge of the language from which the translator had translated their text.


This view of translation requires the explorations of some topics:


· The uniqueness of literary translation and its difference from other types of translation, because it’s more complicated and requires more effort and patience. This is because literature focuses on the semantic value more than any other topics. But it’s worth noting that the technical indication here refers to literary texts and not literary studies.


· The need for geographic experience. It’s a trick that some slackers want to spread to break promising translators. Those argue that some works, especially the literary ones, use terms that are only recognizable by people who live in the geographic locations that use these terms.


· Translation from an interlanguage. The basic rule in translation is to translate the text from the original language in which it was written. But in some cases, we can use an interlanguage, why not? What harm could this cause? Why lose time waiting for the appropriate circumstances to translate the work from its original language.


· The translation specialization. Some believe that professional translation should only be practiced by translation graduates. But we also learned that passion is the first requirement for every work that needs personal immersion in detail. How can we guarantee a translation graduate would have this type of passion? And we should not forget that the best Arab translators were English literature graduates.


· Revenues of translation. Those who work in translation don’t wait for a great financial return or fame. This is the reality of translation in our Arab world. Passion is the first and last driver for every translator. We know many great, Arab translators who worked and died without award or appreciation.


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