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MA : Communication, Culture

and Translation

Composing the Other

André Lefever

Ahmed Mansour

“The rules to be observed during

the process of decoding and
reformulation depend on the actual
situation, on the function of the
translation, and on who wants it made
and for whom”
• Instead of starting to think on the linguistic level (the translation of
individual words and phrases), translators think on conceptual and
textual grids, which are in turn the result of socialization.
• Grids are the degree to which translators are subject to certain rules.
• They influence both writers/ translators and readers.
• Their discrepancies cause many problems in translation, especially in
translating texts from/into western to non-western cultures.
• Three writers composed the same reality, constrained by three
different conceptual and textual grids.
The conceptual & textual grids

Conceptual grid is the

conceptual chunk of Textual grid is the
the Source Text that textual chunk that
comes to the the translator
translator's mind as thinks of as he
he translates. (word translates. (genre)
The role of the grids
“This brings us, of course, straight to the most important problem in all
translating and in all attempts at cross-cultural understanding: can
culture A ever really understand culture B on that culture’s (i.e. B’s) own
terms? Or do the grids always define the ways in which cultures will be
able to understand each other? Are the grids, to put it in terms that may
well be too strong, the prerequisite for all understanding or not?”
Facilitate and highlight Make the text more
communication attractive

The west is
Socializing &
Sharing the Compose the non-west
the other culture

Reinforces Construct reality in the reader

ethnocentrism (original & translation)
The analytic
He tries to demonstrate ‘his’ grids in
action, in terms of translating on
the level of both the conceptual and
the textual grids. He tries to show,
in sum, how three different Dutch
texts dealing with what the Dutch
called ‘India’ (‘their’ India, as
opposed to the one that ‘belonged’
to the British), and which is now
called Indonesia, construct, or
rather ‘compose’, that ‘India’ for the
Dutch reader.
Lotgevallen en
Agon, Sultan Van (of) vroegere zeereizen
Batavia by Jan de Bantam by Onno
van Jacob Haafner
Marre: Zwiervan Haren
Published in (Jacob Haafner’s
Published in
Leeuwarden 1769 Adventures and
Amesterdam in
Text type: neoclassical Early Travels by
drama Seal)
Text type: the epic The conceptual grid 1820
Conceptual grid: (the reverse of Marre) Text type: the first
pro-Dutch and its the whole plot is told
person narratives of
colonisation of the from the point of view
of the natives, not the discovery
Dutch The conceptual grid
How did the three writers compose the Indies
differently through textual and conceptual grids?
Conceptual grids play important role in shaping the
Dutch perception of the Indies
• De Marre wrote from the lens of a merchant, he used words
Augmented with the story of wars, of the founding, the commerce and
the navigation of the city. His conceptual grids also reflected his being
pro-Dutch and in favour of the Dutch East Indie Company
• Since the whole plot is from the point of view of the ‘natives’, not the
Dutch, Haren conceptual grids were opposite to de Marre (pro-
colonialist Vs. anti-colonialist).
• Hafner used the first-person narrative of discovery and adventure,
accordingly, he used conceptual grids that are anti-Dutch, more
virulently so than in Agon.
Textual grids influence the composing of the self and
the other
• De Marre’s decision to write an epic (the first in the heirarchy of writing)
about the Maatschappij reflects his admiration of that Maatschappij. Being
the heroine of his epic, she is endowed with superiority and all those who
are against her are the villains of that same epic even if they are defending
• Haren -through neo-classical tragedy- was able to open a philosophical
debate about the role of the Dutch and the Maatschappij in the East Indies.
• Hafner chooses a style of writing that depicts his adventures, provides him
with an ample scope to reveal the non-superiority of the Dutch, and allows
him to furnish vivid descriptions and incisive comments that reveal, perhaps
more than anything else, the folly of the colonial endeavour, Dutch or
How to reduce the effects of those grids?
• Gradual eliminating- in translating between cultures- of the category of analogy.
(to blur them)
• Revealing the original text by means of introductions, detailed analysis of
selected texts, and such.
• Avoiding imagination/ imperialism.
• Moving from ethnocentrism to relativism (try to understand others in their own
• investmenting in re-education/re-socialization is needed if we are ever to arrive
at the goal of understanding other cultures ‘on their own terms’.