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ASPECTS OF TRANSLATING PROCESS
Description of the translating process is one of the major tasks of the translation theory. Here we deal with the dynamic aspects of translation trying to understand how the translator performs the transfer operation from ST to TT.
Psychologically viewed, the translating process must need to include two mental processes - understanding and verbalization. First, the translator understands the contents of ST, that is, reduces the information it contains to his own mental program, and then he develops this program into TT. The problem is that these mental processes are not directly observable and we do not know much of what that program is and how the reduction and development operations are performed. That is why the translating process has to be described in some indirect way. The translation theory achieves this aim by postulating a number of translation models.
A model may describe the translating process either in a general form or by listing a number of specific operations (or transformations) through which the process can, in part, be realized. Translation models can be oriented either toward the situation reflected in the ST contents or toward the meaningful components of the ST contents.
The existing models of the translating process are, in fact, based on the situational (or referential) model and the semantic-transformational model. These models are supposed to explain the dynamic aspects of translation. In other words, it is presumed that the translator actually makes a mental travel from the original to some interlingual level of equivalence and then further on to the text of translation.
In the situational model this intermediate level is extralinguistic. It is the described reality, the facts of life that are represented by the verbal description. The process of translating presumably consists in the translator getting beyond the original text to the actual situation described in it. This is the first step of the process, i.e. the break-through to the situation. The second step is for the translator to describe this situation in the target language. Thus the process goes from the text in one language through the extralinguistic situation to the text in another language. The translator first understands what the original is about and then says “the same things” in TL.
For instance, the translator reads in A. Cronin’s “Citadel” the description of the main character coming by train to a new place of work: “Manson walked quickly down the platform, searching eagerly for some signs of welcome“. He tries to understand what reality lies behind the words “searching eagerly for some signs of welcome”. The man was alone in a strange place and couldn’t expect any welcome committee or deputation. Obviously, he just wanted to see whether anyone was there to meet him. So, the translator describes the situation in Russian in the following way: «Мэнсон быстро прошел по перрону, оглядываясь, не встречает ли его кто-нибудь».
A different approach was used by E. Nida who suggested that the translating process may be described as a series of transformations. The transformational model postulates that in any two languages there is a number of nuclear structures which are fully equivalent to each other. Each language has an area of equivalence in respect to the other language. It is presumed that the translator does the translating in three transformational stages.
First — the stage of analysis — he transforms the original structures into the nuclear structures, i.e. he performs transformation within SL.
Second —the stage of translation proper —he replaces the SL nuclear structures with the equivalent nuclear structures in TL. And third —the stage of synthesis — he develops the latter into the terminal structures in the text of translation.
Thus if the English sentence “It is very strange this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs” (J.K. Jerome) is translated into Russian as «Странно, до какой степени пищеварительные органы властвуют над нашим рассудком» we presume that the structures “domination of our intellect” and “domination by our digestive organs” were first reduced to the nuclear structures “organs dominate” and “they dominate intellect”, respectively. Then they were replaced by the equivalent Russian structures «органы властвуют/ organele domină» and «они властвуют над рассудком/ ele domină asupra raţiunii», after which the nuclear structures were transformed into the final Russian/Romanian variant.
A similar approach can be used to describe the translation of semantic units. The semantic model postulates the existence of the “deep” semantic categories common to SL and TL. It is presumed that the translator first reduces the semantic units of the original to these basic semantic categories and then expresses the appropriate notions by the semantic units of TL.
Thus if he comes across the sentence “John is the proud owner of a new car“, he is first to realize that it actually means that “John has a new car” and that “he is proud because of that’. After transferring these basic ideas to Russian/Romanian and converting them to the semantically acceptable phrases he will get the translation «У Джона (есть) новая машина, которой он очень гордится / John are o maşină cu care el se mîndreşte».
Training translators we may teach them to use these models as practical tools. Coming across a specific problem in ST the translator should classify it as situational, structural or semantic and try to solve it by resorting to the appropriate procedure. If, for instance, in the sentence “He is a poor sleeper” the translator sees that the attributive group cannot be directly transferred into Russian/ Romanian, he can find that the transformational model will do the trick for him here and transform the attributive group into a verb-adverb phrase: «Он плохо спит / El doarme rău/ El are insomnie».
Another approach to the description of the process of translating consists in the identification of different types of operations performed by the translator. The type of operation is identified by comparing the initial and the final texts.
The first group of operations (or transformations) is characterized by imitation of the form of a word or of a collocation. In the first case the translator tries to represent the pronunciation or the spelling of the foreign word with the TL letters. Thus we get such translations as «битник», «стриптиз», «эскалация», etc.
In the second case the translator creates a blueprint collocation in TL by using a loan translation. This results in such forms as «люди доброй воли» (people of good will/ oameni de bună voinţă/ credinţă).
The second group of operations includes all types of lexical transformations involving certain semantic changes. As a result, the meaning of a word or word combination in ST may be made more specific, more general or somewhat modified as a way to discovering an appropriate equivalent in TL.
The choice of a more specific word in translation which gives a more detailed description of the idea than does the word in SL is a very common case in the English-Russian translating process. English often makes use of general terms to describe very definite objects or actions. The following sentence refers to a frightened woman trying to hide from an intruder who had suddenly burst into the room where she was pensively looking into the fire:
My mother had left her chair in her agitation, and gone behind it in the corner. (Ch. Dickens)
An attempt to use regular Russian equivalents for such general English verbs as “to leave – a părăsi” and “to go – a se duce” will produce a ludicrous Russian/ Romanian phrase like this: «Матушка оставила свое кресло и пошла за него в угол».
То соре with the problem a contextual substitute may be created by using the detailing technique, i.e. by describing how the woman performed those actions instead of just naming them, e.g.:
Взволнованная матушка вскочила со своего кресла и забилась в угол позади него./ Mama speriată a sărit din fotoliu şi s-a ascuns după dînsul.
Another type of lexical transformations is often called “modulation”. It involves the creation of an equivalent by replacing a unit in SL with a TL unit the meaning of which can be logically deduced from it and which is just another way of referring to the same object or an aspect of the same situation. Consider the following sentence:
Manson slung his bag up and climbed into a battered gig behind a tall, angular black horse. (A. Cronin)
It confronts the translator with a number of problems. First, what should be said in Russian for “to sling a bag up”? Second, in Russian it seems so obvious that one gets into a gig behind and not in front of the horse that any mention of the fact is preposterous unless it is implied that the horse was in the gig, too. Third, “an angular horse” cannot be either «угловая» or «угловатая лошадь».
All these translation problems can be solved with the help of contextual substitutes. “Slinging the bag up” evidently implies that the bag was placed into the gig, “climbing into the gig behind the horse” certainly means that this horse was harnessed to the gig and “an angular horse” is probably a horse with bones sticking out at angles, i.e. a bony or skinny animal. The Russian translation can therefore express these derived ideas to describe the identical situation, e.g.:
Мэнсон поставил свой чемодан и влез в расхлябанную двуколку, запряженную крупной костлявой черной лошадью./ Manson şi-a pus valiza şi a urcat în brişcă veche, la care era înhămat un cal slăbănog negru.
In such cases the substitute often has a cause-and-effect relationship with the original:
- The window was full of clothes I wouldn’t want to be seen dead in. В витрине были выставлены платья, в которых я не хотела бы даже лежать в гробу.
A dead person is usually put in a coffin and “to be seen dead in a dress” logically implies lying in the coffin in such a dress. One more example.
- People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented. (J.K. Jerome)
A direct translation of “who have tried it” is hardly possible. But if somebody has tried something he has some experience about it. So, the translation may run as follows:
Некоторые люди, ссылаясь на собственный опыт, утверждают, что чистая совесть делает человека веселым и счастливым.
The third group of translating procedures comprises all types of transformations involving units of SL grammar. The translator may solve his problems by preserving the syntactic structure of the source text and using the analogous TL grammatical forms or “a word-for-word translation”. This may be called “a zero transformation” and can be easily exemplified, e.g.:
John took Mary by the hand. Джон взял Мери за руку.
In other cases the translator may resort to various types of grammatical substitutes.
First, we may mention two types of transformations which change the number of sentences in TT as compared to ST.
As a rule, the translator renders the original text sentence by sentence and the number of sentences remains the same. However, it may so happen that the structural and semantic problems of a translation event can be best solved by breaking an original sentence into two parts, i.e. translating it with two sentences in TL. Another type of such partitioning is to replace a simple sentence in the original with a complex one in the translation, comprising one or several subordinate clauses.
The problems that can be solved through this technique are varied. First of all it may come handy in dealing with the English syntactic complexes which pack in two subject-predicate units, each unit making up a sentence or a clause in the Russian translation, e.g.:
- I want you to speak English. - Я хочу, чтобы вы говорили по-английски.
- She hates his behaving in this way.- Ей очень не нравится, что он так себя ведет.
The partitioning of sentences in translation can also be used to overcome the difficulties caused by the idiomatic semantic structure of the original text, e.g.:
- This was a man to be seen to be understood. -Чтобы понять этого человека, надо было его увидеть.
Sometimes the translator can prefer partitioning to the other possible methods of translation, as producing a variant more suitable stylistically or emotionally. Consider the following examples:
The annual surveys of the Labour Government were not discussed with the workers at any stage, but only with the employers.
The contrast in the last part of the sentence can be best reproduced in Russian by making a separate unit of it, e.g.:
- Ежегодные обзоры лейбористского правительства не обсуждались среди рабочих ни на каком этапе. Они обсуждались только с предпринимателями.
And this is how this procedure can be used to reproduce the emotional implications of the original:
- How well I recollect it, on a cold grey afternoon, with a dull sky, threatening rain. (Ch. Dickens) - Как хорошо помню я наш приезд! Вечереет, холодно, пасмурно, хмурое небо грозит дождем.
The opposite procedure means integrating two or more original sentences into one or compressing a complex sentence into a simple one. This technique is also used both for structural and semantic reasons.
Sometimes one of the sentences is grammatically too incomplete to warrant its separate reproduction in translation:
- It is not possible to do the work in two days. Nor is it necessary. Выполнить эту работу за два дня нет ни возможности, ни необходимости.
The integration procedure may be necessitated by close semantic ties between adjacent sentences:
- We did not want scenery. We wanted to have our supper and go to bed. Мы не хотели красивых пейзажей —мы хотели поужинать и лечь спать.
The partitioning and integration procedures may be used together, resulting in a kind of syntactic and semantic reshuffle of sentences in translation. Here is an example:
But occasionally an indiscretion takes place, such as that of Mr. Woodrow Wyatt, Labour M.P., when Financial Secretary to the War Office. He boasted of the prowess of British spies in obtaining information regarding armed forces of the USSR. (J. Gollan) ^
The end of the first sentence is replaced by the personal pronoun in the second sentence. The sentence can, therefore, be broken into two and its last part integrated with the second sentence, e.g.:
Однако по временам допускается нескромность. Так, например, лейборист, член парламента Вудро Уайтт в бытность свою финансовым секретарем военного министерства хвастался ловкостью, проявленной английскими шпионами в деле получения сведений о вооруженных силах СССР.
Another type of grammatical transformations is characterized by the translator’s refusal to use analogous grammatical units in TT. He tries to render the meaning of SL units by changing the grammatical form of a word, the part of speech or the type of the sentence. Such changes are very common and the translator should never hesitate to use them whenever necessary. Here are some examples:
-We are searching for talent everywhere. Мы повсюду ищем таланты.
-I am a very rapid packer. Я очень быстро укладываюсь.
- It is our hope that an agreement will be reached by Friday. Мы надеемся, что к пятнице будет достигнуто соглашение.
- Не does not mind your joining our group. Он ничего не имеет против того, чтобы вы присоединились к нашей группе.
Finally, there is a group of transformations which ensure the required degree of equivalence by a number of changes of both lexical and grammatical nature. They involve a different arrangement of ideas, a different point of view and other semantic modifications whenever a direct translation of a SL unit proves impossible. A typical example of such a procedure is the so-called antonymous translation describing the situation, as it were, from the opposite point of view and rendering an affirmative SL structure by a negative TL one or vice versa:
The door was not unbolted. Дверь была на засове.
A complex change also occurs in explicatory translations in which a SL unit is replaced by a TL word combination describing or defining its meaning:
A demonstration of British conservationists was held in Trafalgar Square yesterday. Вчера на Трафальгар-сквер состоялась демонстрация английских сторонников охраны окружающей среды.
In conclusion, we should mention one more specific procedure which may come handy to the translator when he is baffled by an apparently un-solvable translation problem. It may be called the compensation technique and is defined as a deliberate introduction of some additional elements in translation to make up for the loss of similar elements at the same or an earlier stage. For instance, Eliza in B. Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion” makes a mistake typical for the speech of an uneducated person: ‘Tm nothing to you — not so much as them slippers.” And Professor Higgins corrects her saying: “those slippers”. The linguistic error in the episode is untranslatable and its loss makes this dialogue meaningless. But the loss can be compensated for by introducing a mistake — and its correction — at a point where everything is correct in the original but where an uneducated Russian speaker is likely to make it. As a result in the translation Eliza says: «Я для вас ничто, хуже вот этих туфлей»; And Higgins can self-righteously correct her: «туфель».
The compensation method is often used to render the stylistic or emotional implications of the original. Consider the following example.
They had reached the mysterious mill where the red tape was spun, and Yates was determined to cut through it here and now. (S. Heym)
“Red tape” is translated as “bureaucracy but the latter cannot be spun at a mill. And the translator invents his own figure of speech to compensate for the loss:
Они уперлись в стену штабной бюрократии, но Йейтс твердо решил тут же пробить эту стену.
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