Literal versus idiomatic
Because a given text has both form and meaning, as discussed in the previous chapter, there are two min kinds of translations. One is form-based and other is meaning-based. Form-based translation attempt to follow the form of the source language and are known as literal translation. Meaning-based translation make every effort to communicate the meaning of the source language text in the natural forms of the receptor language. Such translations are called idiomatic translations.
An interlinear translation is a completely literal translation. For some purposes, it is desirable to produce the linguistic features of the source text, as for example, in a linguistic study of the language. Although this literal translation may be very useful for purpose related to the study of source language, they are of little help to speakers of the receptor language who are interested in the meaning of the source language text. A literal translation sounds like nonsense and has little communicative value. For example:
Chuava (Papua new Guinea): kan daro
Literal translation: your-name call!
This literal translation makes little sense in English. The appropriate translation would be What is your name ?
If the two languages are related, the literal translation can often be understood, since the general grammatical form may be similar. However, the literal choice of lexical items makes the translation sound foreign. The following bilingual announcement was overhead at an airport (Barnewll 1980:18).
Literal English: Madame Odette, passenger with destinations Douala, is demanded on the telephone.
The English version is a literal translation of French.
French: Madame Odette, pasager a’ destination de douala, est demande’e au te’le’phone.
An idiomatic translation into English would be:
Idiomatic English: Ms. Odette, passenger for douala, you are wanted on the phone.
Except for interlinear translation, a truly literal translation is uncommon. Most translator who tend to translate literally actually make a partially modified literal translation. They modified the order and grammar enough to use acceptable sentence structure in the receptor language. However, a lexical translation items are translated literally. Occasionally, these are also changed to avoid complete nonsense or to improve the communication. However, the result still does sound natural. Notice the following example from a language in Papua New Guinea:
Ro ahombo ngusifu pamariboyandi
I her heart I-fastened-her (literal)
I fastened her in my heart. (modified literal)
The modified literal translation changes the order into English structure. However, the sentence still does not communicate in clear English. An idiomatic translation would have used the form: “I never forgot her,” or “I’v kept her memory in my heart.”
A who translates in a modified literal manner will change the grammatical forms when he contractions or obligatory. However, if he has a choice, he will follow the form of the source text even tough the different form might be more natural in the receptor language. Literal and modified literal translations consistently err in that they choose literal equivalents for the words, i.e. the lexical items being translated. Literal translation of words, idioms, figures of speech, etc., result in unclear, unnatural, and sometimes nonsensical translations. In a modified literal translation, the translator usually adjusts the translation enough to avoid real nonsense and wrong meanings, but the unnaturalness still remains.
Idiomatic translation used the natural forms of the receptor language, both in the grammatical constructions and in the choice of lexical items. A truly idiomatic translation does not sound like a translation. It sound like it was written originally in the receptor language. Therefore, a good translator will try to translate idiomatically. This is his goal. However, translation are often a mixture of a literal transfer of the grammatical unit along with some idiomatic translation of the meaning of the text. It is not easy to consistently translate idiomatically. A translator may express some part s of his translation in very natural forms and then in other parts fall back into a literal form. Translation fall on a continuum idiomatic, and then may even move on to be unduly free (see display 2.1).
Very modified inconsistent near unduly
Literal literal literal mixture idiomatic idiomatic free
Unduly free translations are not considered acceptable translations for most purposes. Translations are unduly free if they add extraneous information not in the source text, if they change the meaning of the source language, or if they distort the fact of the historical and cultural setting of the source language text. Sometimes unduly translations are made of purpose of humor, or to bring about a special response from the receptor language speakers. However, they are not acceptable as normal translation. The emphasis is on the reaction of those reading or hearing it and the meaning is not necessarily the same as that of the source language.
In one translation, the source text said, “I was glad when stephanas. Fornutanatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition,” it was translated, “It sure is good to see Steve, Luck and ‘Big Bam’. They sorta make up for you not being here. They’re a big boost to both my and you all. Let’s give them a big hand.” The purpose of the translation was to make an ancient text seem contemporary, but the result is an unduly translation.
The translator’s goal should be to produce in the receptor language text which communicates the same message as the source language but using the natural grammatical and lexical choices of the receptor language. His goal is an idiomatic translation. In the chapters which follow, the many details involved in producing such a translation will be discussed. The basic overriding principle is that an idiomatic translation reproduces the meaning of the source language (that is, the meaning intended by the original communicator) in the natural form of the receptor language.
However, there is always the danger of interference from the form of the source language. The study of many translation shows that in order to translate idiomatically a translator will need to make many adjustments in form. Some example of the kinds adjustment which will need to be made are discussed below as general background to show the need for the more detailed study which follows in later chapters.
Translating grammatical features
Parts of speech are language specific. Each language has its own division of the lexicon into classes such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. different language will have different classes and subclasses. It will no always be possible to translate a source language noun with a noun in the receptor language. For example, Indo-European languages have many nouns which really refer to actions. Most languages will prefer to express actions as verbs rather than nouns.
A translator in Papua New Guniea (from Deibler and Taylor 1977:1060) was asked by patrol officer to translate the eight-point improvement plan for Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea: Central Planning Office 1973). One of the point reads, “decentralization of economic activity, planning and government spending, with emphasis on agricultural development, village industry, better internal trade, and more spending channeled through local and area bodies.” Such sentences are very difficult for translation who want to translate into the indigenouse languages of the country. Word such as decentralization, activity, planning, government spending, emphases, development, and trade would have to be rendered by verbs in most languages. When verbs are used, then, the appropriate subject and object of the verb may need to be made explicit also. The form in the receptor language is very different from the source language form and yet this kind of adjustment, using verb rather then nouns, must be made in order to communicate message. An idiomatic translation was made which used verbs as in the following:
The government want to decrease the work it does for business and what it plans and the money it spends in capital, and want to increase what people and group in local areas do to help farmers and small business whose owners live in village, and help people in this country buy and sell things made in this country, and to help local groups spend the government’s money.
Most languages have a class of words which may be called pronouns. Pronominal system very greatly from language to language and the translator is obliged to use the form of the receptor language even though they may have very different meanings than the pronoun of the source language. For example, if one is translating into Kiowa (USA), the pronoun will have to indicate a difference between singular, dual, and plural person even though the source language does not make this three way distinction. Or if a translator is translating into Balinese (Swellengrebel 1963: 158), he must distinguish degrees of honor even though noting in the source language indicates these distinctions. He will ned to understand the culture of the Balinese and the cultural context of the text he is translating in order to choose correctly. In English, the first person plural pronoun we is often used when the real meaning is second person you. The reason for the use of we is to show empathy and understanding. The nurse says to the sick child, “we’re not going to shout, we will walk quietly to our places.” Clearly, the pronouns do not refer to the nurse or the teacher but to the children whom she is addressing, you. In translating these pronouns into another language, a literal translation with first person plural would probably distort the meaning. The translator would need to look the natural way to communicate second person, and the feeling of empathy carried by the source carried by the source language sentences.
Grammatical constructions also vary between the source language and the receptor language. The order, for example, may be completely reversed. The following simple sentence from Gahuku (Papua New Guinea) is given with a morpheme-by-morpheme literal translation underneath (data from Deibler):
Muli mko al-it-ove loko tani-lokaav-it-ove
Lemons some get-will-I saying town-to go-will-I
It will readily be seen that a some what understandable translation into English require a complete reversal of the order: “I will get some lemon.” A more idiomatic translation would understandable English form, the order must be changed completely and follow English grammatical patterns. In addition, the direct quote which signal purpose in Gahuku must be changed to the equivalent English form for purpose clauses.
It is not uncommon that passive construction will need to be translated with an active construction or vice versa, depending on the natural form of the receptor language. In japanese (Wallace 1977:1-2), there is a passive form with the suffix –(r)are-. Notice the sentence below:
Active: Sensi wa taro o sikatta
Teacher topic taro accusative scold-perfect.
The teacher scolded Taro
Passive: Taro wa sensi ni sikarareta.
Taro topic teacher dative sold-passive-perfect.
However, it is not simply that there are two forms and so translation into Japanese may use either. The passive sentence are used primarily when “the subject is portrayed as suffering” (Wallace 1977:2). In traditional Japanese style, this is the only use of the passive verb with ( r )are-. Many source language passive cannot be translated into Japanese with a passive since this would give the wrong meaning, the idea of suffering. Grammatical choices in the translation must be based on the function of the grammatical construction in the receptor language, not in literal rendition of a source language forms.
The above are only examples to show some types of grammatical adjustment which will result if a translator translates idiomatically. Seldom will a text be translated with the same form as that which occurs in the source language. Certainly, there will be times when by coincidence they match, but a translator should translate the meaning and not concern himself with whether the forms turn out the same or not.
Translating lexical feature
Each language has its own idiomatic way of expression meaning through lexical items (words, phrases, etc.). languages abound in idioms, secondary meaning, metaphors, and other figurative meanings. For example, notice the following ways in which a fever is referred to (literal translation are given to show the sort language form):
Greek: the fever left him.
Aguaruna: He cooled.
Ilocona: The fever is no more in him.
The English translation of all three would be: His fever went down, or his temperature return to normal.
All languages have idioms, I.e. a string of words whose meaning is different then the meaning conveyed by the individual words . in English to say that someone is bullheaded means that the person is “stubborn”. The meaning has little to do with bull or Head. Languages abound in such idioms. The following are a few English idioms using into and in; run into debt, rush into print, step into a practice, fly into a passion, spring into notice, jump into a fight, dive into book, wade into adversity, break into society, stumble into acquaintance, glad into intimacy, fall in love. In spite of all these combinations are fixed as to form and their meaning come from the combination. A literal word-for-word translation of these idioms into another language will not make sense. The form cannot be kept, but the receptor language word or phrase which has the equivalent meaning will be the correct one to use in translation.
The following idioms occur in the Apinaye language of Brazil (Ham 1965:2). In the first column is literal translation from Apinaye . in the second is an idiomatic translation. The literal English is misleading.
I don’t have may eye on you. I don’t remember you.
I’ve already buried my eye. I’m already ready to go.
I’ll pull your eyelid. I’ll ask a favor of you.
May eye is hard on you. I remember you.
I’ll do it with may head. I’ll do it the way I think it should be done.
His ear is rotten. He is spoiled.
Translator who want to make a good idiomatic translation often find figures of speech especially challenging. A literal translation of blind as a bat might sound really strange in a language where the comparison between a blind person and a bat has never been used as a figure of speech. In Aguaruna it would be natural to say blind as a fox. There is a legend in wich the sun borrowed the fox’s eyes and then returned to heaven taking the fox’s good eyes with him and leaving the the fox with the sun’s inferior eyes. That is why they say, when the fox is trying to see, he stretches back his head and looks with his throat. Figure of speech are often based on stories or historical incidents. Many times, the oraigin of the figure is not longer apparent.
Names of animal are used metaphorically in most languages. But the comparison is often different and so the figure will be misunderstood unless some adjustment is made. For example, when someone is called a pig in English, it usually means he is dirty or a greedy eater. In language of Mexico, it has different meanings. In Mexico, it means the person is stupid; and in Otomi, that the person is immoral. Care would need to be taken if pig were used metaphorically or a wrong meaning might result in the receptor language.
In some languages, certain words can only be expressed by the use of a quotation and the verb say. For example, the Waiwai of Guyana do not have a special word for promise, praise, deny, and other similar words. These must be translated by the word say and a quotation as follows (Hawkins 1962:164):
You promised to come “I’ll certainly come,” you said.
He praised the canoe “It’s a wonderful canoe,” he said.
He denied that he took it. “I didn’t take it,” he said.
In Aguaruna the only one to express believe is with a question:
English: I believe you.
Aguaruna: “It is true,” I say to you.
Some lexical combinations of the source language may be ambiguous. The meaning is not clear. For example, “It is too hot to eat,” could mean any of the following; The food is too hot to eat; the horse is too hot after running a race and don’t wont to eat. It would be hard to translate this sentence to another language and still have it mean all three. In the process of making an idiomatic translation, such ambiguities must often be resolved and only the intended meaning communicated.
Translation is a complicated process. However, a translator who concerned with transferring the meaning will find that the receptor language has a way in which the desired meaning can be expressed, ever tough it may be very different from the source language form. In the early days, man like Cicero and Horace insisted that one must translate the general sense and force of the language. Literal translations where laughed out of court. Horace stated that a faithful translator will no translate word-for-word. Jerome said that two things are necessary for a good translation-an adequate understanding of the original language (the source language) and an adequate command of the language into which one is translating (the receptor language).
But considering the complexity of language structures, how can a translator ever hope to produce an adequate translation? Literalisms can only be avoided by careful analysis of the source language; by, first of all understanding clearly the message to be communicated . a translator who take the time to study carefully the source language text, to write a semantic analysis of it, and then to look for the equivalent way in which the same message is expressed naturally in the receptor language; will be ale to provide an adequate, and sometimes brilliant, translation. His goal must be to avoid literalisms and t strive truly idiomatic receptor language text. He will know he is successful if he receptor language readers do not recognize his work as a translation at all, but simply as a text written in the receptor language for their information and enjoyment.
EXERCISE-Kinds Of Translation
In each of the following pairs of sentences, which is more idiomatic English, a or b? how would the meaning be expressed idiomatically in second language which you speak?
1. (a) The storekeeper said that he will refund your money.
(b) The storekeeper promised to refund our money.
2. (a) A certain boy told me this little story at a party.
(b) he is no boy. He told the one little story. This in a game he said.
3. (a) An international Alphabet would inevitably bring about a spelling reforms, as well. And how many hot children’s tears have not been shed on spelling!
(b) An international Alphabet would inevitably bring about a spelling reforms, too. And how many hot children’s tears have not been shed on spelling!
4. (a) He then reported his misfortune to the police, who are searching diligently for the thief.
(b) He then reported his misfortune to the police, who are the thief intensively searching.
B. Look for literalisms in the following translations into English and underline the words or phrases that do not sound natural in English. Suggest a more idiomatic way of saying it. (All of these examples are from published translated material. References are not given so as not to embarrass the translator.)
We offers as attractions horse trip or car by fields and forests. (Tourist Brochure.)
To move the cabin push button of wishing floor. If cabin should enter more persons, each one should press number of wishing floor. (Instructions in elevator/lift)
Jumat, 06 Maret 2009
Kinds of Translation
Literal versus idiomatic