Translator Trainees and Translator Cognition

The longer one translates, the more obvious it becomes that translation is a craft, like any other, which, like wine, matures and improves with age. What for many a novice translator is confusing and complicated may be second nature or not need a second thought for the experienced linguist.

This becomes especially apparent in translation training and, in particular, when one notes the cognitive and procedural problems faced by translator trainees in the learning and training process. Trainee translators often approach a text differently, they actually ‘see’ a text with seemingly different eyes.

The chief problem for translator trainees is the fact that they find it difficult to view a source text holistically. What is more, they are often not aware of the integral relationship between the semantic network of the original with that of the translation. They focus mainly on words and collocations not on ambience and function.

However, the facility to see a text differently, often possessed by up and coming trainee translators, is not always a bad thing. The ability to see a text anew is a valuable skill for all translators, young or old, novice or master – a fact a recent post emphasises.

The translator should, therefore, be able to view a text in several dimensions and at a variety of levels. In other words, every reading should be multi-dimensional. Rather like a satellite picture, the more angles available to the camera, the more detailed the picture.

To summarise, it may be useful for the translator trainee to focus on the ambience and function of a text. It may also be a good idea for the trainee to first read the original text whilst looking for elements of ambience and then a second time looking for functional elements (i.e. to whom is the text addressed and what purpose does it serve?).

Successive readings should focus on other elements – lexis, grammar, style – so that with each reading a new level of detail (and perhaps even ‘magnification’) is gleaned. In this way, the trainee translator regiments not only the procedural part of the process but inadvertently the cognitive part also.

Advertisements

15 Responses to “Translator Trainees and Translator Cognition”

  1. Olivia Says:

    Great post, thanks!

  2. Julita Z Says:

    In my opinion trainee translators focus on words and phrases because of threat and self-consciousness. They are not sure about their skills and what they mostly care for is avoiding major mistakes. The lack of distance is the reason why we cannot use ourselves as a tool what – I guess – experienced translators do. They do not have to be focused on their abilities any more, they simply use them. If they are good, they do it in a creative way. And this where another major – in my opinion – factor comes in, namely an open mind. I think that any text is a product of some culture, it grows from some environment, ambience as you called it. It is also supposed to evoke certain reaction of readers so it has some function, as well. I would like to comment on the first aspect, yet. I come from country, which has been perceived as ‘out there’ in the ‘West’ for many years. Many times, I was hurt by the vision of my country in Western books, papers, and films. The bacground information must have been translated. Now, I realize this factor, and I am convinced that if you are biased, prejudiced or simply narrow-minded you cannot be a good translator, simple as that. The same if you are too lazy to make a good research:) And I don’t think that knowledge of other alphabets is essential to have a ‘new eye’on translated text.

  3. Ilaria Says:

    Interesting post… I 100% agree with it! What you wrote are the same exact things my lecturers tell during translation classes: “You shouldn’t translate word-for-word”, “You don’t translate words, but meanings”.

    Ilaria, a student translator

  4. Rafael Says:

    Great post!

  5. trancelator Says:

    I love the comparison with a satellite picture/camera shots as I also think in images in the first place. For me, reading a text which we are supposed to translate is like being in a control room with a larger screen for the overall/master view and smaller ones which show you the details/closeups. Every text should be examined in a similar way — both the ST and TT. Otherwise, a translator is constrained too much by the details (lexical equivalents and tiny translation units), like a prisoner with a chain and ball around his/her ankle; in the latter case the resulting TT is just an awkward monstrosity that dies in pain the next day, rather than a breathing, reasoned creature that retains most of the original DNA, and yet has mind and logic of its own, and is able to function independently in a different environment (target culture).

  6. A. Says:

    It is a very interesting post and includes very useful tips for translators. This is my favorite quotation: “The translator should, therefore, be able to view a text in several dimensions and at a variety of levels. In other words, every reading should be multi-dimensional. Rather like a satellite picture, the more angles available to the camera, the more detailed the picture.” This is very important because allows us to understand, interpret, and finally translate the source text correctly. I’m a beginner in this profession, and I will try to keep it in mind.

  7. Anna Kwiecień Says:

    My favourite quote is: “The translator should, therefore, be able to view a text in several dimensions and at a variety of levels. In other words, every reading should be multi-dimensional. Rather like a satellite picture, the more angles available to the camera, the more detailed the picture.” It is true that we, as trainee translators, focus on one or, at the most, two levels, neglecting other important “dimensions” of the text. Before I started studying translation theory, I thought the words are the most important quality. Now I know that there is much more to consider when translating texts.

  8. Viviana Says:

    These are great thoughts!… Thanks!

    I get so pissed whenever someone tries to correct me when translating the idea / meaning and not ‘the word/s’ in the target language.

    Those false friends should be considered a ‘sin’.

    Happy 2010!

  9. Małgorzata Czajka Says:

    As I am a translator trainee myself, I can only nod my head and smile while reading about the hard start, we all have to experience in our work. Although one may have the text’s function in mind, it’s hard not to get lost when the linguistic problems and all possible differences between the source culture and the target culture pile up, and one’s trying desperately to render the FAITHFUL translation. It takes time to discover that to be a really good translator you have to focus not on the word or even the sentence level, but to look farther than that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: