16 nov. 2007

Mayhew's 153rd idea about translation

Once a translation falls within an acceptable range of semantic accuracy, then the main issues remaining to be discussed will have to do with the target language and culture, not the source text and its traditions, etc...

An acceptable range of accuracy could be defined as something reasonably close to the "consensus" translation as defined by the most frequent translation of any given phrase or sentence arrived at by at least half a dozen competent translators. In other words, a translation is faithful if it does not diverge from the norm by more than 5% or so.

After a certain point, any quibbles and arguments have to be considered in relation to the needs and desires of those reading the translation. It won't do any good to evoke one translator's superior knowledge of Chinese, or Russian if the two translations being compared are, semantically, not-all-that-far-apart.

So once a translator is satisfied that the semantic part is present and accounted for, he or she should not go back to the original much.

The alternate view, which I am rejecting at least provisionally, would be that the translator's goal is to get closer and closer to the original, making a version more perfect than the simple consensus view.

4 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

"So once a translator is satisfied that the semantic part is present and accounted for, he or she should not go back to the original much." — That's very striking to me, because it made me realize that I have been doing that for a while now without "theorizing" it, as it were. Thanks for the confirmation of my unreflected practice!

Jonathan dijo...

You're welcome. My confirmation of your practice was entirely involuntary, but I'll take thanks where I can get it.

My theory does away with a lot of quibbling about translations. For example if Lorca writes "maternal y ardiente" and I think it sounds better to say "ardent and maternal," I'm going to that rather than "maternal and ardent." As long as I'm within that 5% margin I'm fine.

Andrew Shields dijo...

Thank you thank you thank your for the example! That's the kind of thing that I find myself doing relatively often (changing the order of a pair or a trio of things), and it's nice to know that at least one other translator considers that a perfectly legitimate thing to do.

And it's also a fine example of the general point: thinking through the target-language text on its own terms (not "what would the poet have said if he were writing in the TL" but "how does this feel in the TL").

Jonathan dijo...

Andrew, I too hate that "what would the poet have done..." We don't know what the poet would have done with the resources of another language.