Prevailing Assumptions in Translator Training

At present the prevailing assumptions in translator training programs are (1) that there is no substitute for practical experience to learn how to translate one has to translate and 2) that there are some ways of accelerating that process that do not simply foster bad work habits. It is very important since translators need to be able to process linguistic materials quickly and efficiently; but they also need to be able to recognize problem areas and to slow down to solve them in complex analytical ways. Translators need to be able to shuttle back and forth between rapid subliminal translating and slow, painstaking critical analysis. Translators need to be able not only to perform both subliminal speed-translating and conscious analytical problem-solving, but also to shift from one to the other as when the situation requires it.

Translators can never rely entirely on even the highly complex and well-informed habits they have built up over the years to take them through every job reliability; in fact one of the habits that professional translators must develop is that of building into their subliminal functioning alarm bells that go off whenever a familiar or unfamiliar problem area arises, calling the translator out of the subliminal state that makes rapid translation possible, slows the process down, and initiates a careful analysis of the problem(s).

It probably goes without saying that the ability to analyze a ST linguistically, culturally, even philosophically or politically, is of paramount importance to the translator. Whenever translation is taught, the importance of analysis is taught:

Never assume you understand the ST perfectly

Never assume your understanding of the ST is detailed enough to enable you to translate it adequately.

Always analyze for text type, genre, register, rhetorical function, etc.

Always analyze the STs syntax and semantics, making sure you know in detail what it is saying, what it is not saying and what it is implying.

Always analyze the syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic relationship between the SL and the TL, so that you know what each language is capable and incapable of doing and saying, and be able to make all necessary adjustments.

Always pay close attention to the translation commission (what you are asked to do, by whom, for whom, and why) and consider the special nature and needs of your target audience: if arent given enough information about the audience, ask; if the commissionerdoesnt know, use your professional judgment to project an audience.

These analytical principles are taught because they do not come naturally. A novice translator attempting his or her translation is not likely to realize all the pitfalls lurking in the task, and will make silly mistakes as a result. The mistakes connected with translation of realia can cause ridiculous results. For example, Braniff Airlines had a slogan Fly in Leather, giving the impression that flying Braniff meant flying in luxury. The Spanish translation gave a slightly different impression: Fly Naked. The Coors slogan,Turn it Loose got translated into Spanish as something like Suffer from Diarrhea. Pepsi slogan Pepsi Adds Life met resistance in China, where the translation promised: Pepsi Brings Your Ansistors Back From the Grave. Markets had to launch a new translation, this time meaning One Hundred Things to be Happy about. Coca-Cola had similar problems in China. Since Coca-Cola doesnt really mean anything, they decided not to translate it but to create a new Chinese word with similar-sounding syllables. Unfortunately the characters they chose meant Bite the Wax Tadpole. So they put their thinking caps back on and came up with another string of similar-sounding syllables, Kelou Kele literally meaning Happiness in the Mouth.

The fundamental assumptions underlying modern approach to translation might be summed up in the following list of axioms:

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