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2010

Translation Theories

Mohammad Zeidan
The University of Jordan

DISCUSSING TRANSLATION
This paper is a self-critique of a piece of literary translation in light of translation theories
and strategies expounded in this course.
2 Discussing Translation

Table of Contents
Introduction .................................................................................................................... 3
The Title ................................................................................................................. 4
Back to the rules: ................................................................................................... 4
Cultural Adaptation ................................................................................................ 5
Textuality ............................................................................................................... 5
Syntactic management ........................................................................................... 8
Expansion............................................................................................................... 9
Conclusion ........................................................................................................... 11

January 4, 2010
3 Discussing Translation

Introduction
Training lies at the core of any translation course. Any attempt of teaching translation
without a first-hand work is practically useless. Thus, this practical part of our course
on Translation Theories, in which we are encouraged to translate in different fields of
knowledge and to deal with the intricacies of the process of translation formatively
and consciously, is very fruitful and ideal.

Being given an opportunity to translate short tasks and giving my own comments on
the process of translation was really helpful since it enabled me to appreciate,
sensibly, translation as a professional endeavor and a creative art.

This short story is one of a collection of 10 well-known short stories in American


literature in the twentieth century. The story was first published in 1948 and it is
considered a classic American short story and it has been taught in schools for a long
time1. The author is Shilrley Jackson (1916-1965), and she is a very well-known and
important writer and her work, especially "The Lottery" is still receiving much
attention from literary critics2.

This practice, though not advanced, sheds light on the interrelation between the theory
of translation and the practice of translation, and emphasizes the practical aspect of
translation studies.

I feel obliged to extend my great thanks and express my deep gratitude to my


professor, Rajai Al Khanji, for unsparingly helping us throughout the course and for
giving us this unique opportunity.

M.S Zeidan
English Department
The University of Jordan

1
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lottery
2
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Jackson

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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson


Discussing Translation from English into Arabic

The Title

Titles are usually the main stumbling block faced by translators especially in the
literary and journalistic fields. Some translators are very liberal in translating the titles
like the oft-cited example of Ihasn Abbas translation of "The Armed Vision" into
(‫)مدارس النقد الحديث‬.

The title of this short story has an immediate correspondence in Arabic, though a
colloquial one, but it doesn't fit as a title for a work in literature.

The Lottery ‫اليانصيب‬ ‫القرعة‬

So I decided (since translation is a continuous process of decision-making) to choose


the more formal correspondence, i.e. ‫القرعة‬, and although there are certain differences
between the first and the second one, nevertheless; it would seem natural in the
translation, and one could even use the two words interchangeably, thus making a
semantic item more attached to the context of the short story itself.

Back to the rules:


I have not yet developed the attitude of being critical when I translate. I usually start
the process without consciously thinking about the theories or principles that have, or
have not, been applied. Yet, after a second reading of my source and target text I have
found out that I have made a great deal of managing in my translation, most of it falls
under the umbrella of intrinsic managing.

There is a feature in the original that I have failed to make it clear in my TT, which is
the colloquial speech of the villagers. Nevertheless, the impact was not dramatic,
since the colloquial feature doesn't have great significance in the original. It is
absolutely different from the kind of image the writer needs to impress on the reader
than the one in Pygmalion, for example. Yet, I have tried to give a taste of this fact in
my translation, as is apparent from the following example:

"Thought3 my old man was out back sacking wood and the kids was gone and then I
remembered it was the 27 and came a-running"

"

3
She started with the verb, omitting the subject in her sentence.

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5 Discussing Translation

So I marked the quotation formally indicating that it was said in a colloquial, simple
variety, exemplary of an old woman living in a village, an image that is common and
easily perceived in Arabic culture.

Cultural Adaptation
When I translate, or read about translation I often remember Shakespeare when he
said: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?", and I also remember how translators
into Arabic tend to adapt the line o make it fit the Arabic context and environment.
I have encountered a similar example in the first line of this story, but I have refrained
from making any adaptations, and I will mention some reasons for not doing so.

"The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-
summer day"

"

I have preserved the "foreign" setting throughout my translation, including the names,
the titles, the place, and I had no reason for making any cultural adaptation, since I
believe that in certain circumstances a translator should give the reader of his
translation an idea about the kind of life other people live, the climate, culture,
manners, and other features that are vital in intercultural communication and
understanding. This is instrumental, I dare say, in this time of history, where nations
should learn about each other, and translation is a perfect medium for to achieve this
end.

Textuality

In Text Linguistics and Discourse Analysis the notion of Textuality is very important.
There are at least seven standards of Textuality4 and they are:
1) Cohesion
2) Coherence
3) Informativity
4) Situationality
5) Intentionality
6) Acceptability
7) Intertextuality
Keeping these standards in mind while translating will help a lot, especially in
determining the best choice among different translational actions.

Certain phrases and words seemed, at a superficial level, not worthy of being
translated, whether for the sake of stylistic congruity of the TT(i.e. textualiy), or
because there is no immediate equivalence for it. For example:

4
See farghal (2008), translation issues between Arabic and English, p.72

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- "The grass was richly green"


- "The children assembled first, of course.
- "The women wearing faded house dresses…"

The first example was problematic for me, because I have never before described
grass as "richly green" in Arabic. In Arabic we attribute "greenness" to land, or plains.
Thus, my translation was:

In my opinion, this makes sound more natural for the Arabic reader, who is more
attached to concepts of land, soil and earth. Then my choice for the adjective (‫)غنية‬,
which means (fertile) was contextually suitable, since it gives a feeling of prosperity,
hope, and good results, which goes just well with the overall theme of the story.

The second example was translated first without the added emphasis, i.e. (of course). I
didn't appreciate its significance at first, and I still doubt I have. I think the phrase "of
course" is put as an attempt to interact with the reader; it's like saying: it goes without
saying that children assembled first, they are children!.
So after a second thought I decided to include it in my translation, hoping it will have
the same dynamic effect in the TT:

It is really important to note that no translator is ever completely content with his
work, and this is why we usually have different editions of the same translated work,
because nothing is perfect in translation, and "no maximal approximation is possible".

Turning now to the third example, where I couldn't be able to convey the image of
"house dress" as I should have. I have resorted to the technique of "implicating", in
which I have said that women were "wearing simple gowns"

I thought that "simple dresses\clothes" (‫)أثواباً بسيطة‬, will be sufficient to indicate that
they were putting on their working clothes, there everyday garments in which they
feel comfortable at home. Nevertheless, the final judge is the reader and his reaction
to the phrase, although these marginal choices are not absolute; there is a space for
deciding the most suitable according to the context. This is a sort of management that
I felt necessary to resort to in order to accomplish naturalness in the TT.

At another instance, I could not have found an equivalent for the word "fussing", in
this sentence:

5
This sentence doesn't appear in the submitted translation, I've made this amendment after
contemplating over the sentence more carefully.

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"There was a great deal of fussing to be done before Mr. Summers declared the lottery
open."

I could have done with any word that may near the intended meaning, but because I
am used to consult a monolingual dictionary while translating, I wasn't able to but a
word in Arabic that fully gives the intended sense behind "fussing".

Fuss: (v): to pay close or undue attention to small details.6

So I decided to translate the sentence as follows:

Omitting in translation, as I have indicated above, is a possible technique, although


usually frowned on by experts in the field because it breaks the convention of
faithfulness to the text.
Nevertheless, I should admit that I resorted to this technique, but not very often, as in
this example:

"… in his clean white shirt and blue jeans, with one hand resting carelessly on the
black box…"

I didn't understand the significance of the adverb "carelessly", and I wasn't able to
give it an equivalent or even a near equivalent in the TT ( I surely need more training
in literary translation!):

This same sentence went through a process of "intrinsic managing", because there
was a shift and reshuffle of the some phrases within it, and here is the sentence at
length with the translation:

"Mr. Summers was very good at all this; in his clean white shirt and blue jeans, with
one hand resting carelessly on the black box, he seemed very proper and important as
he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins."

6
Merriam Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary

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Syntactic management
Since there are differences in the syntactic structures between English and Arabic the
translator is obliged to make some structural amendments in the process of
translation. This practice is usually called "Syntactic Management" 7

I will provide some examples in which I syntactically managed the TT, and I tried to
choose some good examples that there translation needed careful examination and
assessment.

"The lottery was conducted-as were the square dances, the teenage club, the
Halloween program, by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic
activities"

This sentence, though in the passive voice, tries to emphasize the role of Mr.
Summers, who had "time and energy" to organize all these activities a once. I tried in
while translating this sentence to stress this idea by providing another relative clause
to state the role of Mr. Summers:

I have rid the sentence of the passive structure and provided relative clauses to add
proper emphasis, and the result was relatively satisfactory and the sentence reads
Arabic.
Sometimes a nominal sentence in English would be transferred into a verbal one in
Arabic, because this is the style of Arabic, in which the verb is the most important.
This was necessary in this sentence, which was difficult to be kept as is in the TT:

"There was a murmur of conversation among the villagers"

Here a nominal sentence (a murmur of conversation) was changed into a verbal


sentence ( ). The Arabic sentence employ another
technique as well, which is (Intertextuality).
In the Holy Quran, the phrase ( ), was mentioned in a context of fear and
apprehension, and this is why I opted to use the same phrase here (only with
introducing a prepositional), to achieve a similar effect in the TT context.

Another sentence that struck as important to comment on here was this sentence
describing Mrs. Hutchinson:
7
See Farghal, M Trasnaltion Issues between Arabic and English, pp. 41-51

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"…, her sweater thrown over her shoulders"

In Arabic it would be cumbersome to translate this sentence without any syntactic


managing, because the "agent" in Arabic is also important in the structure of the
sentence. Activization8 of the sentence seemed to me a proper technique, and this is
the translation:

The word (ً‫ )واضعة‬functions as a verb in Arabic since it syntactically requires an agent
(‫)فاعل السم الفاعل‬, and a complement (‫)مفعول به السم الفاعل‬, if it is derived from a transitive
verb.

Naturally, some decisions are regretted after a second reading. I omitted, or forgot, the
important adverb in another sentence:

"Well, now," Mr. Summers said soberly.

"Soberly", could have been easily, and correctly be translated as: "‫"بصوت مرتفع‬. Here a
"dynamic equivalence" could have been used, but I failed to do that.

I will give a last example on omitting as a strategy in translation. In the second


sentence of the story I encountered the adverb "profusely" used with the verb
"blossoming". The sentence reads:

"The flowers were blossoming profusely"

Since I couldn't find an equivalent in Arabic I wasn't able to completely understand


the unusual combination of these two lexical items, I had to intrinsically manage the
sentence in the TT and provide a sentence that sounds natural and achieve the
intended effect. The translation was as follows:

Expansion

There are two types of elaboration in translation, the first is explication where implicit
information are rendered explicate, and expansion where extra information are
provided in the TT to ensure understanding from the reader.
The follow example may give an idea about the strategy of expansion:

"The lottery was conducted- as were the square dances, the teenage club…"

8
Farghal mentions four strategies to render the passive from English into Arabic, see p. 46

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"

There was no mention in the ST for the word ( ), which means in English
(activities), but I opted to include this word to give more information about the
activities of the lottery, the dances, and the activities in the teenage club.

Another example on a lexical level is the word "stool", Stool id defined as a three-
legged chair without back. There is no equivalence in Arabic except the one provided
in Al-Mawrid dictionary which is: ( ), which I think isn't usually heard or read in
contemporary Arabic. I resorted to the technique of explication and tried to define the
word stool to Arabic:

" "

It was possible as well to mention any type of chairs in Arabic, or just use the word
(‫)كرسي‬, because it had little significance in that context, but one can't be always sure
and one's choices are not necessarily correct.

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Conclusion

Providing a critique for a translation is the task of those who are genuinely well-
versed in different fields, such as Translation, Literature and Linguistics. Yet, this
opportunity gave us a clear idea about the importance of translation theories in
enhancing the abilities of the translator and finessing his critical senses.

The material I have worked with in this paper is not sufficient to expound on more
strategies and techniques that we have learned in this course. Nevertheless, I feel that
this step was a necessary one towards paying more serious attention to Translation
Theories and the advances made in this field.

No matter how much one have translated, nor how very experienced he or she is in
translating, there is an indispensible need for understanding and studying translation
theories and making use of them in the actual process of translation.

This paper could not have been written without the inspiring environment that I've
been through during this semester with professor Khanji and my colleagues from
whom I have learnt so much.

M.S Zeidan

January 4, 2010