Schmid, Benjamin. 2008. A duck in rabbit’s clothing. Integrating intralingual translation @ M. Kaiser-Cooke, Hrsg. Das Entenprinzip. Translation aus neuen Perspektiven. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp 19–75.
Let’s start with a key idea: human beings are not able to perceive the world without distortions. What we perceive as a tangible reality is never reality itself: what we see is not always what it is. This leads us to create labels and then to organize these labels into typologies; and each person conceives them in very different ways. The same happens in Translation Studies with old conceptions still in force despite our efforts to make the cognitive turn come true.
In this text, Schmid offers an excellent insight on how things can be done in order to build a more updated and realistic conception of Translatology (see Halverson 1999, 2000 vs Muñoz, in press). His main contribution consists of going one step beyond the concept of intralingual translation: It is not all about words, but about
crossing conceptual borders, promoting understanding within societies, providing a corrective to the ongoing compartmentalization of knowledge production, giving outsiders access to the world-view of exclusive in-groups, allowing for broader dissemination of relevant specialist knowledge, redressing power imbalances based on the use of exclusive language variants and conceptualizations, and rendering the achievements of specialized sub-groups in society visible and understandable.
Plenty of good intentions, it might be argued. But the author manages to convince us that there is truth in his arguments by offering several good examples and by fruitfully redefining the concept of culture in Translation Studies. The goal is clear from the start: merging intralingual translation into mainstream Translation Studies.
In a nutshell, intralingual translation is not just rewording. Translating is much more than elaborating ‘new-but-similar’ realities. Cultures are the products of negotiation between different people, not colorful sets of customs and traditions of a given group. The task of the translator is mainly interpreting one culture-specific conceptualization from the perspective of another [constructed] concept system and acting as the glue of both systems. This is called de-familiarization (Kaiser-Cooke 2004:203-205, apud Schmid 2008:53). A great notion, since it leads to a much needed change of the role of the translator as a professional who makes communication possible between different sub-sectors within and between human groups.
Ever since 1959, when Jakobson published On linguistics aspects of translation, intralingual translation has remained a sort of subliminal category in Translation Studies. We witness many kinds of intralingual translating in our everyday lives (easy-readers for children, new translations of the classics), but more often than not these behaviours are dismissed as a minor issue by scholars. Rarely do we consider to devote some empirical work to it, and only a few scholars have dealt with this topic from a theoretical point of view (more about this in Korning 2007: 281-308).
So this line of thought is linked to a new definition of the relationship between theory and practice in our discipline—an understanding of our object of study that tries to fit practice as much and as well as possible (Schmid 2008:24-25). This epistemological stance might feel obvious, but it is an important point that novice researchers must learn before starting to write our PhD dissertations (or so I think). Theories can evolve with regards to the object of study, and modifications may increase the degree of accuracy, thereby leading to further improvements in theory. Nothing is more important than establishing a clear relationship between the theoretical framework and (in this case, textual) empirical evidence—and Schmid’s work is an excellent sample of the second case.
In Schmid’s view, culture is a common interpretative framework that provides a crucial minimum consensus on concepts and their interrelations. This consensus guarantees efficient communication and speeds up the negotiation of meaning (Schmid 2008:43). That is, cultural patterns are aimed to harmonize diverse conceptualizations, following the rise of flexible concept systems (Kaiser-Cooke 1993:89, 2004:196). Everything in translation is then subject of a process of continuous negotiations, modifications of ideas, creation of expectations related with the patterns of behaviour and relevant identities. Consequently, the notion of ‘communication barriers’ is redefined: as language communities are no more monolithic and homogeneous, the need of translation arises when there is no mutual intelligibility in between two different concept systems – that is, two different ways of interpreting the world.
If we introduced a gestalt switch (Schmid 2005:1), then we could develop a good methodology of intralingual translation in the classroom, by focusing our attention on negotiating between different culture-specific perspectives, reaching to full-fledged translations. Schmid provides plenty of examples of how this can be applied in Translation Studies: reformulating technical texts for lay people, making legal texts more accessible to the public, even transferring dialect texts into the standard language variety.
Schmid offers some evidence of the potential of intralingual translation (Resch 2003 apud Schmid 2008: 62-68) as a didactic tool. These activities—he argues—are optimal when training novice translators, especially at the beginning of their programs, since they allow students to develop adequate (micro)strategies by showing the strategies needed to understand the cultural implications of translation. Besides, it comes to dispel the myth that translation is a simple surface-level transcoding of isolated linguistic items. It’s high time.
A previous, unpublished version of this work was Benjamin Schmid’s Master’s thesis at University of Vienna and can be downloaded here. However, please try to quote from the above, published reference.
Halverson, Sandra L. 1999. Conceptual work and the ‘translation’ concept. Target 11/1: 1–31.
Halverson, Sandra L. 2000. Prototype effects in the ‘translation’ category. @ A. Chesterman, N. Gallardo & Y. Gambier, eds. Translation in Contex. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 3–16.
Jakobson, Roman. 1959. On linguistic aspects of translation @ R. A. Brower, ed. On Translation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 232-39.
Kaiser-Cooke, Michèle. 1999. Concept creation at the cultural interface. @ P. Sandrini, ed. Proceedings of the 5th International Congress on Terminology and Knowledge Engineering, Innsbruck, August 23-27, 1999. Frankfurt: Indeks-Verlag, pp. 756-762.
Kaiser-Cooke, Michèle. 2004. The Missing Link: Evolution, Reality and the Translation Paradigm. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Korning Zethsen, K. 2007. Beyond Translation Proper—Extending the Field of Translation Studies @ TTR, 20/1: 281-308.
Muñoz Martín, Ricardo. [in press] More than a way with words. The interface between cognitive linguistics and cognitive translatology @ A. M. Rojo & I. Ibarretxe, eds. Cognitive Linguistics meets Translation. Theoretical and Applied Models. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
by J.J. Amigo