A Discussion of *Translation and CrossCultural Reception*

Things to think about as we discuss the article:
• What do you think the role of the translator is?
• Should a translator always be faithful to the text, or
should changes be made to better fit the intended
• Where would you stand if you were translating
children’s literature? If you chose to make changes,
would you take any steps to explain them to your
A couple of important terms:
• What is the different between source and target?
Source refers to the original text,
language, culture, audience, etc.,
whereas target refers to the intended
text, language, culture, audience, etc.
Why can’t translation be word-for-word?
• Universal agreement does not exist amongst world languages.
There are too many differences in sentence structure and lexicon,
so literal word-for-word translation cannot occur from language to
Take, for example, the Spanish phrase “Que lo pases bien.”
A word-for-word translation into English would be “That it
you passes good.” The meaning of this sentence is lost.
A translator’s job is to rearrange the linguistic components
of a sentence so that it will make sense in the target
language. In this case, a better translation would be “Have a
good time.”
Why can’t translation be word-for-word?
• Additionally, we know that every language contains a wide variety
of synonyms.
• Let’s look at synonyms for the word ‘great’
• Wonderful, marvelous, outstanding, awesome, fantastic, excellent, expert, first-class,
tremendous, brilliant, terrific…we could go on and on!
• It is the translator’s job to choose a synonym that creates a feeling
that is similar between the source and target texts. Even though
these words basically mean the same thing, different people tend
to choose different words.
• For this reason, no two translators will ever render translations that
are identical to one another.
Why is translated literature valuable for children?
• According to the article, translated literature helps to
expose children to other cultures and gives them a
sense of awareness of other countries.
• Can anyone think of a book or series that they read as kid
that was translated from another language?
Commonly translated children’s literature
• According to Maria Nikolajeva, picturebooks are translated the
most frequently, in part because they are the easiest to render from
one language to another.
• In current society, it is also recognized that the characters from
popularly translated texts are more well known from television
shows and movies than they are from books.
• Additionally, 80-90% of children’s literary translations have an
English source language, many of which are well known stories in
which neither the original author nor the translator are mentioned
even known.
Literary Translation Theory
• There are two common camps of literary translation theory.
• The first group believes that a translator must be absolutely faithful to the
source text so that both the source and the target texts are equivalents of
each other.
• The second group of theorists believe that a translator needs to keep the
target audience in mind, and should make changes to the text so that the
target audience can have the same experience while reading that the
source audience had.
Adults tend to be more familiar to foreign concepts than
children are, so how do these theories apply to children’s
Literary Translation Theory as it applies to
Children’s Literature
• Though there are fewer scholars of children’s literary translation
theory, there are two views that are often referenced.
• Klingberg claims that children are perfectly capable of
understanding foreign concepts, so there should be no deviations
from the source text. The idea is that, as a result of this exposure
to foreign elements, children will become more tolerant of
concepts that are different from what is familiar. This theory is true
to the text.
• Oittinen, who offers a different point of view, highlighted a creative
approach between the source and target texts. This approach will
give the target audience the same experience as the source
audience, and will exchange a foreign element for something more
familiar to the target audience. The theory is true to the reader.
Translation vs. Adaptation
• What is the difference between translation and adaptation?
According to the article, adaptation occurs when a text is changed
according to what the translators believes will be more familiar to
the target audience.
Different types of adaptations can include the deletion of events or
concepts, simplification of foreign elements, additions to the text,
explanations within the target text, and a wide variety of other
changes that are done with the target audience in mind.
Can you think of any examples in literature where an
adaptation has occurred?
Are adaptations justifiable?
• In children’s literature, foreign concepts are often domesticated
(such as exchanging the term euro for dollar) so that the original
meaning isn’t lost due to lack of comprehension.
• Localization (i.e. exchanging Tokyo for New York City) can also be
used to bring the story closer to home for the target audience.
What is the translator’s goal in using these adaptions?
Whereas adults are expected to have a basic understanding of
foreign countries, children have less exposure to other cultures . If a
child isn’t able to understand what is being read, then the meaning
may be lost. For this reason, many adaptations within children’s
literature are indeed justifiable. As the article points out, many
children don’t even realize that what they are reading is a translation
from a different language, which may or may not be a good thing.
Representing the Foreign
• In many ways, the translation of academic literature or technical
texts offers more potential for fidelity. When a translator grapples
with a foreign concept, metatexts can be used to offer an
explanation of the significance of that term or idea. However,
when a person is reading for enjoyment, it is not usually desirable to
have to flip to an appendix or read a footnote to be able to
understand what is going on in the story.
• If a translator chooses to leave a foreign concept as a part of a
translation in children’s literature, another option is to offer
explanation, such as a simple definition, right within the text. In
many ways, this practice offers an educational moment for a child
to learn something new about a different country/culture.
Translating Culture
• Nikolajeva discusses how translation isn’t just about the
transition of a text from one language to another, but deals
with how the work will function within the target culture as
• Literary translators have to think about how cultural elements
will be received. If an element is absent or inappropriate in
the target culture, an adaptation might be necessary for the
translated work to be well received.
Can you think of any examples of common aspects of
American culture that might not be easily recognizable by a
person from a different country?
What’s in a name?
• Similar to other topics in literary translation theory, there are
polarizing ideas on what a translator should do with proper names.
Some believe that the name should be left in the source language
to preserve the foreign element, and others feel the target
equivalent should be used to bring the text closer to the target
• Many literary translators will adopt a different theory for adult or
young adult literature than they do for children’s literature.
Because adults often understand that the text is literature in
translation, proper names are left in the source language. In
children’s literature, it is much more common for a translator to
choose a similar name in the target language to make the text more
What do we do with the “untranslatable?”
• Literature poses many additional challenges that do not necessarily
exist in technical translation. Examples of what may be considered
“untranslatable” include jokes, allusions, rhyme, puns and other
plays on words.
• In these cases, a translator may choose to adopt what is called
compensatory translation, which means that they replace the play
on words with something different that will render the same effect.
• When this method is used, some translators, particularly those
who follow a more equivalent approach, feel that the original feel
of the work is lost because the intended allusion is lost.
In conclusion…
• It is important to remember that there is no “right” or
“wrong” theory when it comes to translation, whether
technical, literary, or even for children’s literature.
• While the theories that we discussed today are basically
opposites of each other, there is a lot of grey area in between,
which is where most translations will fall.
• As we discussed earlier, each translator will choose to adopt
his or her preferred method, and even if the same theories are
studied and the same practices observed, no two translators
will ever produce the exact same translation of a literary
Revisiting our questions from the beginning:
• What do you think the role of the translator is?
• Should a translator always be faithful to the text, or
should changes be made to better fit the intended
• Where would you stand if you were translating children’s
literature? If you chose to make changes, would you take
any steps to explain them to your audience?

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