As mentioned in a previous entry – Translation Equivalence – in order to understand the translation process we must also understand the term that is “equivalence”. It is essential that we realise the fact that equivalence is a multifaceted phenomenon. It follows therefore that not realising this fact leads to bizarre or even erroneous translations. An example might be in order here. Inadequate translation is not as simple as getting the words wrong or not understanding the original. More often than not an inappropriate, inadequate or odd translation is one which does not take into account all the various types of equivalence.
The fact that equivalence is multifaceted can be seen when watching/listening to television programmes that translate the original text through subtitling or dubbing. Not only are we dealing with translation proper but we are also having to cope with the transmutation of the original into another form – change of speaker (subtitling) or change of mode (dubbing). It is here that the fault lines are most often visible.
In a recent programme on Discovery Channel, the narrator of the documentary was discussing the possibility of life on other planets and the use of radio telescopes as well as the analysis by scientists of deep-space radio signals. Scientists in the mid-90s found very odd radio signals coming from a particular point in space. On screen we see a list of numbers and in red ink the word “Wow!” written by one of the scientists. Interestingly, the Polish dubbed translation rendered this word as “No, no…” which is, of course, inappropriate and inadequate both contextually and stylistically. A more adequate translation might be “Kurcze!”, “Ale czad!” or a phrase of similar force. The example shows how when moving from one mode to another, the style has undergone a significant change and we cannot talk about true connotative, pragmatic or contextual equivalence.