Uber-translation

One of the biggest problems in translation and especialy interpreting is the tendency for translators and interpreters to over-compensate. Part of the reason for this phenomenon is the inadequacy they feel when dealing with a foreign culture or language as well as their own cultural and linguistic inadequacies. Not all translators can be expected to be perfect or near perfect. In fact, most are not even close.

The problem of over-compensation is rather like hyper-correction in learners of a second language and, in fact, the two are intrinsically linked: grounded both in our psychological responses to lanaguge learning and our attitudes to the foreign culture. It is often seen as trying to be more native than the native language or, in translation, better than the original. Translators and interpreters sometimes use exemplification or additional information to hammer home the message but what is left out in the original is just as important as what is included.

Over-compensation has great repurcussions for translation and is often manifested in an all too often change in form but more often than not a shift in style. We might begin with a semi-formal text spoken by a famous politician on the causes of crime. This might then transform into a grandiose official recital on the dangers of criminal behaviour. Style, register and genre have an immense effect on the way a text is perceived by the reader/listener and the slightest of shifts are like the proverbial butterfly causing the hurricane.

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10 Responses to “Uber-translation”

  1. Pawel S vel PJohn Says:

    I agree. A lot of us often want to be more perfect than the original, than the native. We want to do it as perfect as possible. But, sometimes we ought to stay calm, be cool. Because being to perfect can often be very harmfull. You try to be better and better, you feel that what you have done could be prepared much better. Then you come to a situation that you would have to do that work in eternity. And remember, we should watch out, not to change the form or style of the thing we’re translating too severely, since it should as close as possible to the original

  2. transubstantiation Says:

    That is correct. It might be interesting to see the original as the goal in the whole process. The translator aims at trying to come as close to the original text as possible. The translation should not be #above# this text in any way, or better in any way. Form and style are some of the first elements that are thrown out the window in these situations and a good dose of realism and an acute sense of balance should always be maintained.

  3. Kasia S. Says:

    You shouldn’t be identical as the original, it is impossibile, just like word-for-word translation. I mean translator should know how to make the tone of the translation correct, and what words should be used. I think it is important not to try too hard. Sometimes some easy to understand phrases in one language are translated in a way that noone is able to understand it with the same easiness in the other. It’s not the point, to look for a sophisticated language if it is not necessary.

  4. transubstantiation Says:

    “Trying to hard” and being “better than the original” are not the same. One can never try to hard when undertaking a translation…

  5. Agnieszka K.K. Says:

    Speaking of sounding “better than the original”, I remember an interview with Jolanta Pienkowska who happened to interpret for Danuta Walesa one day. Mrs Pienkowska was proud to have interpreted so well that Mrs Walesa’s interlocutor congratulated Poles on having such an intelligent first lady.
    She probably did it in good faith but, obviously, she must have been very creative…
    Of course, such inventiveness is rather harmless. Some “interventions”, however, could be of serious consequences, such as the aforementioned one on crime causes. And what if we deal with rare languages? the one that are first translated into a more widespread one and only then to the target language… Translation proves a high risk activity sometimes

  6. transubstantiation Says:

    Is such intervention harmless? The translator’s job is to transfer the message…

  7. Ula N Says:

    i think while translating we need to be modest and should not try to act like authors. real mistakes may sometimes be corrected, i mean mistakes not done on purpose, the rest of odd things should be left…

  8. transubstantiation Says:

    We are not trying to be like the author, but appear invoke similar feelings in our readers. As for mistakes… we should do our utmost to avoid them.


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