We know that few people are aware of what this complex cultural phenomenon of translation entails. Below, we will address some major aspects, from the translation perceived as a rewrite, to the possibilities and chances of a successful literary translation, to the condition of the translator or to the reception of the translation activity, to the deadlines that the translation implies or to the status of traductology as a science of translating text from one language into another.
What is, in fact, translation? It is rather difficult to define translation. A translation is an action to interpret an acceptance of the text and then to produce the equivalent text, which has the same meaning, in another language, that is, an intercultural adaptation of the text.
In a broad sense, translation can be considered as the process of transforming a message sent into one language, into the same message, but phrased into another language, provided that all, or relatively all, qualities of the original message are preserved, by the equivalence of meaning and value.
Translation is a complicated and multilateral phenomenon, many aspects of it can become the subject of research in various sciences. In the field of traductology, multiple forms of the translation activity are being studied: psychological, literary, ethnological translation, etc., as well as the history of translation in different countries.
The analysis of the translation process and the text to be translated, as an integral part of the translation, explains the challenge the specialists are faced with when trying to define translation univocally. Art, science or technique? Translation, as a process, naturally fits in the code of linguistics, is a scientific operation, but, as a result, it can also be included in literature, aesthetics, textology, stylistics, etc., because the problems and difficulties of translation have a wide spectrum, ranging from practical to aesthetic aspects.
Being under the sign of a cultural need and an immediate interest, the requirement of information at all levels, the translation has variable purposes depending on (un)translatability: literary translation aspires to recreate the beautiful in the target language, scientific translation, retransmission of the truth, general translation, perfectly integrated in the era, like journalistic translation, represents a fast, current literature, which addresses current political, economic, cultural and social issues.
But what is the translator’s status? What is he/she, in fact? A vehicle for the values, meanings and ideas that flow from one language to another, he/she is a relentless seeker of the lexical equivalences made, a negotiator of hard-to-draw meanings, a peacemaker of words slipping from an idiom in another, a judge of aesthetic taste, a promoter of words that become bridges, a mediator between different situations/contexts of intercultural communication, a combatant in a no-man’s land, a space placed between two cultures which contaminate and influence each other?
The beginnings of translation are lost in the dark of times, this job being almost as old as the language itself, the purpose of the translation being to serve as a bilingual means of communication between people. The translator transfers information, in his/her attempt to interpret concepts in a variety of texts, as clearly and as accurately as possible. To the ancient peoples, the work of the peddler was of great importance, as evidenced by the testimonies of Herodotus, Plutarch, and Xenophon, the social blanket of interpreters being in ancient Egypt, according to Herodotus, one of the seven basic duties.
But translation is a complex process, overall. It does not depend exclusively on artistic intuition, but requires a controllable analysis, a competence that is acquired in a systematic way, eventually becoming a somewhat similar operation to the creation. Knowledge of two or more foreign languages does not entail the ability to translate; this is obtained only through specialized knowledge and practice in the field. The translation process involves a lot of hard work, the translator being rightly called a « word hunter ». The effect of a poorly chosen word can sometimes be catastrophic and irreparable, which is why practice in translation is very important, the only way in which translation techniques and procedures may be learned. Of course, a perfect similarity between the original and the translation will never be achieved. Just more or less inspired variants. The ideal of achieving complete equivalence is a chimera. Languages are different from each other in structure, having different codes and distinct rules, which control the organization of grammatical constructions. The original remains to the end a unique, unrepeatable work, while the translation will always be of an identity relative to the original literary work.
Translation is an operating discourse between language and thought, which is why we must accept the idea that in the art or quality of translation, there are many obstacles. The most sensitive problems in translation are related to the reading and the meaning of the texts, the most frequent difficulties being of semantic and cultural nature: standard terms, neologisms, sayings, proverbs, etc.. There are situations when the translator encounters certain terms for which even the best dictionaries cannot offer an acceptable solution. Here comes one of the greatest virtues of a good translator, that of “contextual intuition”, which refers to the ability to find the closest meaning in interpreting that problematic word. A. S. Puşkin said that: the translators are the “post-horses of enlightenment” and, in fact, the quality of any translation is largely given by the quality of the translator, the knowledge, skills, practice, expertise and even his state of mind. In fact, it is said that the reader, facing the translation, reads not only the author, but also the translator.
Discussions on the theory and practice of translation come from antiquity and exhibit remarkable continuities. Ancient Greeks distinguish between metaphrase (literal translation) and paraphrase. This distinction was adopted by the English poet and translator John Dryden (1631-1700), who described the translation as a judicious mix of these two modes of phrasing.
Basically, there are two ways of translation:
- direct (literal) translation, also called heteronimy, is the translation operation that does not require the semantic or grammatical reorganization of the source text.
- the indirect (oblique) translation is the translation operation during which it is necessary to resort to a restructuring of the units bearing significance of the source text, ranging from the change of the grammar class to the total modification of the vision on the reality (for example, the translation idiomatic expressions, proverbs).
In conclusion, the translation of texts is a difficult process, which involves work, skills, practice, knowledge in the field and, above all, the ability to find the right terms so that the text is interpreted as clearly as possible. As for the translator, he must be aware of the responsibilities that he assumes in the exercise of this profession and be prepared for the difficult situations with which, of course, he will meet.