JIN Di and the “artistic integrity” approach to translation-2

In the last post, I introduced Prof. Jin’s notion of “artistic integrity” in relation to a literary approach to translation. He goes on to propose a “fourfold motion” to the “actual process of translation taking place entirely in the translator’s mind” (p.55): penetration, acquisition, transition, and presentation.

“1. Penetration into what? The environment in which the original work was written for the source language readers. The linguistic and cultural milieu where the message was meant to be received.
2. Acquisition of what? The message, including the spirit, the substance and the flavour, which can only be fully comprehended and appreciated by readers who share the language and culture of the original.
3. Transition from what to what? What has taken shape in the translator’s mind as the original message in the source language environment is transformed into a new message in the target language environment.
4. Presentation of what? The newly formed message in terms that preserve the artistic integrity of the text and produce on target language readers an effect that approximates as closely as possible the effect that the original message produces on source-language readers.”

Di Jin attributes the inspiration of this “four-fold motion” to George Steiner (After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, 1975). But I find this model much more indebted to Nida and Taber’s threefold model of “Analysis, Transfer, and Restructuring” as presented in The Theory and Practice of Translation (1969). The only difference is that Nida and Taber’s “analysis” stage encompasses Jin’s “penetration” and “acquisition.” Perhaps it is helpful to designate separate steps to cater for the original text as well as its extralinguistic setting. But if so, then the same should also be done with reference to the text and cultural setting of the translation. Yet one more step is needed, namely, “comparison,” where the “translation circle,” so to speak, is closed by means of an explicit, comprehensive examination of the translation–its forms, content, and functions–in relation to the original text so that any errors or distortions may be corrected.

Jin’s translation procedures might be made more precise through the use of a “frames of reference” model that takes into specific consideration more aspects of the overall translation setting–its conceptual, sociocultural, organizational, communicational, textual, and intertextual dimensions (Contextual Frames of Reference in Translation, St Jerome, 2008). This approach also explicitly factors in all those other people who may be involved in making the literary interlingual event possible as well as responding to it, whether positively or negatively. An “artistic” translation may be first created by a verbal artist, at least in draft form, but many other eyes and ears are necessary in order to ensure that the text accomplishes its essential communicative objectives. This is nowhere more vital than in the case of composing a translation of the sacred Scriptures, where words assume a touch of the divine.

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About ewendland

I am currently an instructor at the Lutheran Seminary, Lusaka, ZAMBIA (since 1968). My academic training has been in biblical studies (BA, Northwestern College; MST, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary), Bible translation (several SIL courses), linguistics (MA, University of Wisconsin, Madison), and African languages (PhD, UWM). I am a “retired” translation consultant for the United Bible Societies (having worked with projects in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). I currently still serve as an external examiner in Zambian languages (University of Zambia) and as visiting professor in OT, NT, and Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, with an affiliation to the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa (http://sun.academia.edu/EWENDLAND). My research and writing interests focus on the literary (structural, poetic, rhetorical) analysis of biblical texts and their oratorical translation, especially in southeastern Bantu languages (http://www.amazon.com/Ernst-R.-Wendland/e/B001HPLMX6).
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