KINDS OF TRANSLATION, PRINCIPLES AND DIFFICULTIES
Kinds of translation
There is nothing in the world of taxonomy and languages void of dichotomy, binary-opposition, seeking certain dimensions and ultimately varying functions and effects, similar is the case of translation. In general translation a number of procedures of translating are in practice. Each discipline has its own peculiar linguistic features, so it needs an appropriate approach/procedure for translating its text. Jean-Paul Viney1 and others have given different kinds of translations but each procedure appears with its own complexity. Each of the procedures can be used on its own but may involve one or more of the other methods.
Generally translators have a free choice for translation, namely ‘direct/literal translation’ (i.e., borrowing, calque and literal) and ‘oblique/indirect translation’ (i.e., transposition, modulation, equivalence and adaptation). It is important to note as pointed out by Nabokov in his essay on “Problems of Translation: ‘Onegin’ in English” edited by Venuti2 that: “the term free translation’ smacks of knavery and tyranny. It is when the translator sets out to render the ‘spirit’ – not the textual sense – that he begins to traduce his author”. The clause ‘smacks of knavery and tyranny’ denotes that ‘free translation’ is not appreciable and reliable so it is to be avoided to maintain the axiom of fidelity and faithfulness to the original text. Nabokov regards it as a flavor of dishonesty, trickery and injustice where a translator paraphrases it with his personal opinion. Nevertheless the clumsiest literal translation is more useful than the prettiest paraphrasing. In some translation tasks, it is possible to replace the SL message elements by the TL elements but translators of the Qur’ān may come across certain linguistic problems in the TL that need to be overcome to get an overall impression both of SL and TL. First direct/literal procedures of translation that include – borrowing, calque and literal, are given as follows. (The point to note is that in the procedure of direct (literal) translation, all of its subcategories, may or may not be amalgamated in the process of translation.)
Direct translation
Borrowing
Borrowing is the simplest and void of style method of translating to overcome some metalinguistic problems. Borrowing is sought as a resort when equivalent in TL seems difficult or inappropriate for better translation. For example, if a translator is to translate the word ‘basant’ into English which definitely has no one word or exact equivalent in English, as a resort and inevitably, he has to borrow the word ‘basant’ for communication of its cultural and conventional meaning. The compound word ‘kite-flying’ or ‘kite-flying festival’ does not give intended conventional meaning instead one tinge of its colours. Examples of borrowing from the Qur’ān may include the Arabic lexical items/terms like ‘Subhaan’ (36:36) and ‘Aya’ (36:37). The word ‘Subhaan’ has no equivalent in English. Similarly the term ‘Aya’ also has no one word substitution. The phrases/clauses ‘Glory be to Him’, ‘Glory (proclaim/flawlessness)of Who (He)’, ‘Glory to Allah’, ‘limitless in His glory is He’, ‘Holy is He Who’, substitute for the word ‘Subhaan’ but there is no one word equivalent denoting all of its shades of meaning. There is also a problem of connotative meaning of such words, e.g., in Bible the word ‘glory’ means worship, adoration and thanksgiving (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). Then the term ‘Aya’ has been translated by different translators as ‘sign’, or ‘token’. Both words having worldly attributes spoil the divinity of the Message and do not give specifically intended meaning of Monotheism in their contexts. Translators’ interest in borrowing is developing in response to the difficulties that crop up during the process of translation. Old borrowings have become a part of the respective TL lexis. In English such words as ‘carburetor’, ‘chic’, ‘rendezvous’ are no 48 longer considered to be borrowing. The entries of these words in the ‘Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary’ show nothing about their borrowing instead they have been treated equally to other English lexis. Usually borrowing enters a language through translation and interethnic communication, e.g., the word ‘glamour’ is borrowed from Scot. Moreover, borrowing of SL lexical items now and again for introducing its colours of meaning, is a matter of style and ultimately communication of the intended message.
Calque
Calque’s status in translation is that of a sandwich between pure borrowing and TL/receptor’s expectations. A calque is a peculiar kind of borrowing whereby a language borrows an expression form of another but then translates literally each of its elements, e.g., ‘Qur’ān-i-Hakeem’ and in English it becomes ‘wise Qur’ān’. There are many fixed calques like borrowing, which, after a period of time, become an integral part of the TL. Translators seem interested in calques that may minimize linguistic difficulties like the terms and imagery of the Qur’ān without using actual borrowing that may cause comprehension problems for receptors. It serves dual purpose – first, it does not use an actual borrowed word exactly as it is used in SL; second, its use as a calque makes meaning more clear in the TL and to some extent receptor’s expectations are fulfilled.
Literal translation
Literal translation Literal or word-for-word translation is the direct transfer of explicit features of SL text into TL text. Venuti3 states: “The term literal translation” tautological since anything but that is not truly a translation but an imitation, an adaptation or a parody”. Here the translator’s task is adhering to the surface linguistic needs of the SL and TL. Literal translation is not appreciable both Literal translation Literal or word-for-word translation is the direct transfer of explicit features of SL text into TL text. Venuti3 states: “The term literal translation” tautological since anything but that is not truly a translation but an imitation, an adaptation or a parody”. Here the translator’s task is adhering to the surface linguistic needs of the SL and TL. Literal translation is not appreciable both establishment in 1948. Nida comments on the expression “begotten thee” taken from the translated version of the Bible from Hebrew (SL) into Lengua (TL). Nida says: “Literal translation of the expression ‘begotten thee’ is awkward. The equivalent rendering is “This day I make you my son”. But here the word ‘son’ in contemporary English, does not appeal to the non-Christian reader of the translation. The connotative meaning of the word ‘son’ at the time of revelation, may be ‘something very dear’ because the Qur’ān says: “He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten;” (112:3). This attribute of Allah transcends all stretches of time even before the creation of man and the time after resurrection. establishment in 1948. Nida comments on the expression “begotten thee” taken from the translated version of the Bible from Hebrew (SL) into Lengua (TL). Nida says: “Literal translation of the expression ‘begotten thee’ is awkward. The equivalent rendering is “This day I make you my son”. But here the word ‘son’ in contemporary English, does not appeal to the non-Christian reader of the translation. The connotative meaning of the word ‘son’ at the time of revelation, may be ‘something very dear’ because the Qur’ān says: “He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten;” (112:3). This attribute of Allah transcends all stretches of time even before the creation of man and the time after resurrection.
Cribs (exact or interlinear translation)
Cribs or interlinear is better for students who want to follow the original text word-for-word with the translation of each word printed directly under the word it renders. Dr. Zia ul Haq’s translation of the Qur’ān is a fascinating model of interlinear/cribs. This also, according to Dr. Zia, was specifically designed for students of the Qur’ān. This procedure of translating proves an appropriate lexicon but it is definitely problematic for comprehension of the Qur’ānic message by common readers in TL. It may also happen that because of structural and metalinguistic differences certain stylistic effects may not be achieved without upsetting the syntactic and or lexis order. After trying the aforesaid kinds of translations, if the translator regards a literal translation unacceptable, he may approach the methods of oblique/indirect translation procedures9 which include – transposition, modulation, equivalence and adaptation.
Oblique translation
Transposition Transposition involves replacing one word class (SL) with another (TL) but without changing the meaning of the message. From a stylistic point of view, the source and the tansposed expression do not necessarily have the same degree of communication. The translator should preferably choose to transpose the SL text if this translation fits better into the text, or allows a particular stylistic nuance to be retained. The transposed form is more literary in character and frequently used case of transposition is that of interchange. This procedure focuses simply on replacement and communicative dimensions are regarded as something secondary.
Modulation
Modulation is a variation of the form of the message, obtained by a change in the point of view (it is totally unacceptable in case of translations of revealed messages). This procedure is considered unsuitable, unidiomatic or awkward in the TL. The clause ‘obtained by a change in the point of view’ indicates that this procedure involves subjectivity which certainly lacks reliability 52 in communication of the message hence quite unacceptable both for SL and TL readers.
Equivalence
In this procedure a translator replaces SL text through equivalents in TL text. A common experience is that one and the same situation can be rendered by two or more different stylistic and structural methods. A classical example of equivalence is the reaction of an amateur who accidentally hits his finger with a hammer: “if he were French his cry of pain would be transcribed as ‘Aie!’, and if he were English, this would be interpreted as ‘ouch!’10 Many equivalents are fixed and belong to the repertoire of idioms, clichés, and proverbs. Generally proverbs are perfect example of equivalences. The method of creating equivalences is frequently applied to idioms too but in case of the Qur’ānic translation perfect equivalence of the Qur’ānic imagery is a fundamental problem. Though some English phrases and idioms give a closer equivalence yet communication of the intensity of the Qur’ānic Message through these substitutions is virtually impossible. However, in commercial translations such equivalences may serve the purpose.
Adaptation
This procedure is used where the situation being referred to by the SL message is unknown in the TL culture and as a resort, in such cases translators have to adapt and create a new equivalent situation just to run the job. So adaptation can be regarded as a situational equivalence. Refusal to inevitable adaptation affects not only the syntactic structure but also hinders the development of ideas in the text. All of the procedures of translating given above may be applied more or less at the three levels of expression, i.e., lexis, syntactic structure and message. Principles of translation
Everything in the world is governed by certain rules and principles and translation is no exception. Each area of translation has its own scope and limitations. A translator requires to illustrate the most common basic principles, problems, challenges and strategies before translating important and sensitive texts and particularly revealed Message. If a translator is unfamiliar with basic principles of translating, injustice, both with SL text and its rendering in TL is certain. Translation is not merely substitution and replacement of linguistic items, instead it is a complex and challenging job. Nida11 is of the view that: “translating is basically not a process of matching surface forms by rules of correspondence, but rather a more complex procedure of analysis, transferring and restructuring”. The phrase ‘complex procedure’ demands some principles as a procedure is based upon certain principles, e.g., principles of analysis, principles of transferring and principles of restructuring.
General translation
Meaning
Reading and comprehending isolated lexical items may be highly misleading. Yallop13 says that: “Words do not mean what we want them to mean but are governed by social convention… we normally use and respond to meanings in context”. The phrase/clause ‘social convention’ and ‘meaning in context’ show that words are given meaning by social convention14 as the same word may mean something else in a different social convention. Similarly words in isolation have different referential and connotative meanings but when they are used in some context, they give contextual meaning. The translation should give accurate meaning of the SL message in its context. Nothing should be added or removed arbitrarily through paraphrasing. The translator is to ensure: (a) Is the meaning of the original text clear? If not what and where is something wrong? (b) Are any words ‘loaded’ that need some explanation of the underlying implications? (c) Is dictionary meaning of a particular word suitable one?
Form
Form is style and style is form. The ordering of words and ideas in a translation should match the original as closely as possible. But for better communication/comprehension, differences in language structure often require changes in the form and order of words. In the Qur’ānic translation, the idiom of Arabic is changed into the idiom of English/TL with regard to receptor’s expectations.
Register
Languages like Arabic and English often differ greatly in their levels of formality in a given context (e.g., Arabic and the Qur’ān). To resolve these differences, a translator must distinguish between formal/informal, fixed expression or personal expressions, so the translator is to consider: (a) Does literal translation of any expression sound too formal or informal? (b) Does the intention of the writer come through in the translation or the message is distorted?
Source language influence
Whatever the translation style is, it seems influenced by SL. The most common criticism of translation is that it does not sound natural in TL. This is because the translator’s thought and choice of words are shaped by the original text. For example, literal translation of the Qur’ān in English where idiom of English is not maintained, is the outcome of SL (Arabic) influence. This style is not appreciated by common English reader particularly unfamiliar with the Qur’ānic style. A balanced approach is needed remaining faithful to the original text and realizing communication and receptor’s difficulties of comprehension.
Style and clarity
A style of translation is to be determined to: (a) have clarity of the intended message, 55 (b) maintain fidelity to the original text, (c) fulfill receptor’s expectations (with regard to TL).
Idiom
Imagery and idiomatic expressions are generally untranslatable in their true sense. These may include similes, metaphors, proverbs and sayings, colloquialism and in English phrasal verbs. If the expression cannot be directly translated, any one of the following may be tried for better communication and comprehension: (a) retain the original word, in inverted commas, e.g., ‘saddan’ (36:9), (b) retain the original expression with a literal explanation in brackets, e.g., ‘saddan’ (a barrier/a wall), (c) use a non-idiomatic or plain prose translation, e.g., ‘a barrier is erected in front of stubborn non-believers’. A golden principle is that an inappropriate idiom carrying inappropriate meaning must not be forced into the translation.
Three essential stages of translation15
Three essential stages of translation15 (a) Forming thoughts in SL. (b) Finding some suitable expression (with regard to context/register, SL). (c) Recreating the text in another language (TL). Nida also suggests three important and similar steps in translating, i.e., (i) analysis of SL text and TL, (ii) transferring linguistic form/items and (iii) restructuring the text into TL. Here an important point to note is that a translator is not supposed to spot the original text only, but to explore and distinguish the differences between the three versions, (e.g., Arabic, Urdu and English in a Pakistani situation). This also supports the idea that errors may creep into translation from translation. So translation direct from the original text (SL) is more reliable.
Meaning