Etymology and a Universal Translation

Hello everyone, after a great guest post last time out, it’s time to get back to some of my own content! While I’ve asked ‘What’s in a word?‘ before on this blog, today I thought I’d strike up the discussion again from a slightly different perspective by looking at what is contained within the most important word in our profession: translation.

Beyond (hopefully) uncovering a few interesting little tidbits about the term by looking at the roots of the word ‘translation’ in several different languages, I also want to explore the various shades of meaning that each one offers us and question whether or not there exists a universal conception of ‘translation’.

An obvious starting point for this discussion is Andrew Chesterman’s 2005 paper ‘Interpreting the Meaning of Translation’, in which he sets out to tackle the very same question and argues that etymological variations signal different approaches to and understandings of translation across the world. As such, I’d like to analyse and expand upon his paper here by looking at several examples from different languages before discussing their overall relevance to one-another.

Starting with the fairly well-known roots of the English term, the word ‘translation’ comes from the Latin translatus, the past participle of the verb transferre. Meaning ‘to carry across’, this term is itself a translation from the Classical Greek metapherein (meta- [over, across] + pherein [to carry, bear]), from which we also get the term ‘metaphor‘.

For Chesterman, a Standard Average European ‘translation’ derived from these roots is therefore ‘etymologically a metaphor, whereby something is, in some sense, something that it literally is not.’

While these Latin/Greek roots are also shared by many modern usages of the term in Romance languages, these languages still display subtle departures from the connotations contained within the English ‘translation’.

The French term traduction, Spanish traducción, Italian traduzione and others all come from the Latin transducere (trans [across] + ducere [to lead]) and therefore see us making the slight shift from ‘carrying across’ to ‘leading across‘ – something that will be discussed further below.

Elsewhere in Europe, despite the fact that many languages of the Germanic and Slavic branches simply calqued their terms for the concept of translation from the Latin/Greek model mentioned above, this process still allowed for several subtly different nuances to emerge as the word moved into new territories. The German übersetzen [literally: to set across] and Swedish översättning, for example, contain suggestions of ‘passing over’.

Beyond this pattern of calquing, meanwhile, the Dutch term vertaling is literally a ‘re-language-ing’, combining the prefix ver- [meaning a ‘change’ or ‘move’ or ‘re-‘ in English] and taal [language] while the Finnish käännös literally means ‘a turn, a turning’, noticeably deviating from the standard European trends.

For Chesterman, the Finnish term ‘highlights difference, a new direction, entering a new context; what is not highlighted is any sense of preserving an identity, maintaining sameness’.

Curiously, käännös also means ‘to steal’ in Finnish slang, adding yet another dimension to the many possible interpretations of what it means to translate.

Even further afield, the Mandarin Chinese word for ‘translate’ is or fānyi with the verb fan having the basic meaning ‘flutter’ – suggesting unstable movement and changes of state.

Finally, in an interesting example from Maurizio Bettini, Igbo – a language spoken in Nigeria – uses the words tapia and kowa to signify ‘translation’. Both words are made up of an element that means ‘narrate‘ or ‘tell‘ and another that means ‘break, decompose‘. For Bettini ‘[i]n native conception, translation thus consists in a practice that “breaks” a certain series of utterances and then “re-tells” them’.

Anyway, enough examples. According to Chesterman, these various etymologies suggest differences in the way that translation is perceived within those cultures and unmasks different approaches to the activity at hand.

Using three separate etymological sources (all included in the examples above – 1. The English term from Latin/Greek roots, 2. The German or Swedish calques and 3. The Romance language ‘leading across’) he explores the way in which the act of transferring the content to be translated (labelled X) is framed differently within each of these usages:

  1. In English: ‘the underlying cognitive schema is of carrying X across; here, the agent is conceived of as moving over together with X, like a messenger.’
  2. In German and Swedish: ‘the agent stands on the source side, putting or setting X across; X is transferred in a direction away from the agent.’
  3. In Romance languages: ‘the agent etymologically leads X across; this suggests that the agent moves in advance of X, and the direction of movement is thus towards the agent.’

Despite conceding that more work is required in the area, Chesterman finishes by hesitantly suggesting that these different paths indicate that perhaps there is no universal conception of translation:

‘At the very least, the present preliminary study illustrates how the notion of translation has been interpreted in different ways in a number of different languages. It shows that not all these interpretations give the same priority to the preservation of sameness which characterizes the words denoting “translation” in many modern Indo-European languages.’

However, while these etymologies and developing meanings are fascinating, any implication that the roots of a word delimit the extent of our understanding of its significance in any way is an obvious oversimplification.

The English notion of translation is not tied to a rudimentary idea of ‘carrying across’ but rather entails everything that translation has come to stand for in the ensuing centuries.

Though the Latin origins of the modern English word perhaps demonstrate how translation was once viewed, our current understanding encompasses nearly all of the various meanings borne out of other languages’ etymologies of translation.

In other words, no matter what path we have taken to reach our current understanding of the term, translation/traduction/übersetzen etc. cannot be reduced to historical appraisals of what they once signified. For me, translation is not about ‘carrying across’, ‘leading across’ or whatever else, but rather all of these and so much more. This is the ‘universal translation’ of today.

Indeed, in my opinion, the ‘universal translation’ is best seen when we consider the many metaphors that exist for the activity, something I’ve explored previously on this blog, as these demonstrate the multiple interpretations in action.

In English alone we see translation as transformation, building, turning, conquering, theft, cannibalism and so much more beyond the conception its etymological roots initially provided.

Ultimately, just as etymology suggests that translation is metaphor, metaphors for translation show that it is so much more than mere etymology.

Theory and Practice: Forever Alone?

Wow, how time flies. La rentrée has been and gone, International Translation Day has left us for another year and the tepid English summer has given way to the six months of wind and rain that we call winter (a sudden transition that, for me at least, always coincides with the arrival of Hull Fair, hence the picture above).

One thing that never changes, however, is my ongoing love affair with all things translation and recently that relationship has taken on something of a different shape.

A few weeks ago, I officially started a PhD in Translation Studies here at the University of Hull and, as such, my engagement has shifted from working as a full-time freelance translator to burying myself in research – reading, writing and thinking about the academic side of things.

Even in my busiest of busy times as a translation professional I’ve always been a big reader of translation studies literature but this sudden switch from one side to the other has provided me with some real perspective on the interplay between the theory and practice of translation.

While the vacuum between the two is well-known and has always seemed rather pronounced in our discipline/profession (it is fairly common for translation professionals to completely dismiss the worth of translation theory due to its lack of relevance to the profession – many freelance translators have very little or no knowledge of theory yet still manage to do their job to exceptionally high standards), after a few years of dedicating myself completely to freelance translation work the divide currently feels more prominent than ever.

Even as a fully fledged translation geek who loves reading the most abstract of theoretical meanderings, it is hard to deny that some translation scholarship has allowed itself to get drawn away from what really matters.

No matter how fascinating we may find contemporary explorations in translation studies, are recontextualisations of philosophical theses and reinterpretations of ancient literary works alone really enough to justify yet another publication to add to the pile?

For me, there is a nagging sense that researchers have a responsibility to provide real, valuable and, above all, practical insight into the task at the heart of our professional and academic worlds where possible or what’s the point?

This is not to say that there isn’t plenty of scholarship out there already that does provide practical insight but the question that I occasionally find myself asking after reading a paper is “So what?”. When I sit down in front of a text to be translated, I want to be able to draw upon the theoretical work I read and not simply fall back on professional experience and instinct.

Translation training, meanwhile, plays something of an intermediary role in this divide. I picked up a huge amount of practical insight during my MA, but most of it was aside from – and not a part of – the theoretical focus.

Courses are forced to push you in two different directions as there is not a single route that unites the discipline and the profession. Many MA courses even specify that they teach both ‘The Theory and Practice of Translation’, explicitly attesting to the distinction that exists between two such supposedly intertwined domains.

Unfortunately, theorizing is all too often about showing off your deep understanding of complex ideas and less about making that small, yet meaningful, difference. While discussing abstract principles may shed some light on translation as a whole, it usually offers little value in the vast majority of ‘real world’ contexts. Indeed, even the extent to which translation studies’ apparent obsession with literary translation is actually useful to the few literary translators out there is up for debate.

Quotation-Albert-Einstein-practice-theory-Meetville-Quotes-109864

Whether this is a genuine quote or not, and no matter what context it was originally uttered in, it neatly sums up the situation within translation

Potential solutions to this problem are far from clear-cut but it is not all doom and gloom. The world of academia has attempted to address the dilemma at various points in the last few years alone. In Andrew Chesterman and Emma Wagner’s ‘Can Theory Help Translators?’ in particular we find a specific focus on this profound divide as a scholar and a professional team up in an attempt to uncover potential links between theory and practice and ascertain whether or not one can help the other. While the book ultimately poses more questions than it answers, it is surely a good sign that there is at least some curiosity into the link between the two.

Furthermore, I know of plenty of researchers who share my belief that we have a responsibility to provide insight into the actual task of translation and who realise that simply talking about translation is not enough.

Ultimately, while this discussion is partly a reminder and a challenge to myself to frame my research in practical terms, I hope that it also provides a reassuring word to the theory skeptics out there in suggesting that there does exist a belief within translation scholarship that such practical value is of utmost importance.

Thoughts? Agree, disagree? Let me know.

For now, I’ll leave you with a nice (if slightly unrelated) poem on the act of translation that I came across recently in the course of my reading. It is by the Earl of Roscommon and provides an interesting take on the translator’s role. Enjoy!

‘Tis True, Composing is the nobler Part,
But good Translation is no Easie Art,
For the materials have long since been found,
Yet both your Fancy and your Hands are bound,
And by improving what was writ before,
Invention labours less, but Judgement more.

Each poet with a different talent writes,
One praises, one instructions, another bites.
Horace did ne’er aspire to Epick Bays,
Nor lofty Maro stoop to Lyrick Lays.
Examine how your Humour is inclin’d,
And which the Ruling Passion of your Mind;

Then seek a Poet who your ways does bend,
And choose an Author as you choose a Friend;
United by this sympathetick Bond,
Your grow familiar, intimate and fond.
Your Thoughts, your Words, your Stiles, your Souls agree,
Nor longer his Interpreter, but He.

P.S. Be sure to check out my recent interview on Olga Arakelyan’s ‘Your professional translator’ blog. It’s part of the excellent ‘Meet the Linguist’ series and is perfect if you want to find out a little bit more about the man behind JALTranslation: http://www.yourprofessionaltranslator.com/2014/10/meet-linguist-joseph-lambert.html

Exploring Translation Studies Online: Where to start?

With the debate raging on as to whether or not an academic background is a necessity for today’s translator (you can read my take on the subject here), an increasing number of translators are taking the plunge and working towards those translation-specific qualifications or at least considering getting a grip on the academic side of the our profession.

However, if you’re looking into the area and don’t want to immediately splash out on an extensive reading list, where do you start once you’ve ploughed through the valuable nuggets that Wikipedia has to offer on the subject?

While translation studies as a discipline is gradually increasing its online presence in this digital age, it is still relatively difficult to find useful resources among the masses of websites that skirt around the subject. As such, here are my top five online translation studies resources to map out a few key starting points that will hopefully provide invaluable insights for both experienced translators and those completely new to the wonderful world of translation alike while saving you the hassle of trawling the web.

Anthony Pym’s Youtube channel

https://www.youtube.com/user/AnthonyPym/

What better place to start than with a leading figure in translation studies interviewing other leading figures in the discipline? That’s exactly what you get with Anthony Pym’s Youtube channel. Pym, current president of the European Society for Translation Studies, has clearly put a lot of effort into making the discipline more accessible and the interviews in particular provide an ideal way of exploring a range of key ideas. Also included on the channel are explorations of the different theories within translation and a whole collection of fascinating lectures.

Meanwhile, Pym’s website too is something of a treasure trove of information as he has made much of his previous research available for free online. While reading only one scholar’s take on the subject can result in a biased view of the discipline, the quality of Pym’s work means that it is worth really taking advantage of the resources on offer in conjunction with other research.

Fondazione San Pellegrino’s Youtube channel

https://www.youtube.com/user/fuspit/videos?flow=grid&view=0

Along the same lines as Anthony Pym’s channel, the Fondazione San Pellegrino have uploaded a vast collection of excellent interviews and talks given by leading figures in the discipline (in both Italian and English) that are well worth a watch.

Jeremy Munday’s ‘Introducing Translation Studies’ site

http://www.routledge.com/cw/munday-9780415584890/

Another leading figure in the discipline, Munday’s companion site to his 2001 book of the same name is perfect for anyone looking to get to grips with the development of thought within translation studies. The site includes video discussions of each chapter from the author himself, suggested further reading, external links and even multiple choice quizzes to test your translation studies knowledge.

Online Journals

Journals provide the most telling representation of current trends within a discipline and therefore remain a key area to explore. A good place to start when looking for online translation journals is on Mona Baker’s website where the author of ‘In Other Words’ (thetextbook of choice for translation courses these days) has included a fairly comprehensive list of translators’ associations, translation journals and publishers in the field.

And, while many of the more famous journals like Translation Studies and The Translator require a subscription to access the texts, there are still many open-access journals out there that provide quality, free content. Two such examples are the New Voices in Translation Studies journal and the University of Helsinki’s English studies electronic journal that both provide great articles. Finally, one newly-formed translation journal that has fully embraced the digital age we live in is Translation: A transdisciplinary journal. Their website is a bit more user-friendly than the rather cluttered standard layout that can accompany journals and, while you do have to pay for the core articles, certain content (such as reviews, introductions and interviews) is available for free. It’s certainly a project worth following.

Blogs

When producing a list of the best free online resources on offer, it would be extremely careless of me to overlook the power of blogging. There are several excellent blogs out there addressing the topic of translation theory – Aston University’s blog or the About Translation blog to name but two – and I’ve tackled the topic a couple of times in the past myself too. So, if you’re looking for somewhere familiar to start you off, why not check out my brief introduction to translation theory.

Hopefully these few resources will help you get started and hopefully they will equally inspire a few of you to delve further into translation studies literature. If there are any other resources that you feel should be included, please get in touch to let me know!

Finally, although it’s not specifically translation studies material, here’s a bonus link to several free e-books on translation, terminology and linguistics. Who doesn’t love a free e-book?! Enjoy!

http://termcoord.eu/publications/e-books/

Translation Ethics: A Different Perspective

This post represents a long-overdue contribution as the question of ethics within translation is both a topic I find fascinating and one to which I have devoted considerable research. In fact, with it being the topic that was at the heart of my MA dissertation, I’d probably go as far as saying that it is my ‘specialist subject’ within translation studies – if such a thing exists.

I must also note that this post is merely an introduction to this vast area and I hope to write further posts on the topic in the future to expand upon the basic ideas set out here.

Although it has been widely acknowledged for some time that ethical considerations are an area of key importance for translation studies research and translation as a whole, relatively few scholars have sought to tackle the issue and even fewer bloggers or professionals writing upon translation have looked into this area.

One notable problem is that the very definition of ethics varies greatly between texts and people can find themselves addressing wildly differing concepts while still contending with the same umbrella subject. Furthermore, traditional concepts of ethics do not apply to translation in an adequate manner; sticking to ideas such as utilitarianism (used in the sense of the most happiness for the greatest number of people) or intellectualism (which dictates that the best action is the one that best fosters and promotes knowledge) can be viewed as a limitation of conceptions of ethics in this context.

Ultimately, ethics remains a challenging subject in any field and its breadth of applications ensures that no discussion of the subject will prove to be clear-cut. Indeed, as Sherry Simon puts it in her 1999 review of Lawrence Venuti’s The Scandals of Translation: ‘[w]hat more difficult notion is there in translation studies than that of the ethics of translation?’

However, whether or not that is the case, many of the posts I have read on the subject are particularly out of line with what I see as the key issues and I believe that some ground can be gained by looking into precisely what it is we are aiming for.

More specifically, the majority of posts I have read addressing the area are concerned with individual convictions and value judgements. One perfect example is this post from Jensen Localization entitled ‘Ethics in Translation’ that questions how differing views on topics such as religion or politics, or texts that may cause offence to the translator can lead to ethical problems. This is undoubtedly an important aspect of the profession and questioning the impact that these issues have on your output is extremely interesting, yet I don’t feel that this is a part of ethics proper.

Similarly, while an issue such as translators’ rights and drawing up a professional code of conduct for translators are both undoubtedly important, they place focus solely on a deontology, or professional ethics, while separating a personal ethics from the discussion.

For me, professional codes of conduct represent a different area of study while considerations such as whether or not a translator is willing to accept a text based on grounds such as religion or politics are individual decisions that lie within the distinct category of morality.

It is important that ethics contends with the question of how to translate; previously mentioned issues are not ethics of translating or translation, but of the translator.

As Anthony Pym puts it (a leading voice on the topic who himself continually refuses this distinction between deontology and ethics and seeks to address the profession and the act together in an attempt to develop one all-encompassing ethical code):

‘If any decision includes moral aspects, it follows that any act of translation, and any theoretical treatise on it, can be read from the point of view of ethics.’

In this statement he equates the act of translation as a whole with an ethics of translation and as a result implies that the ethics of translation is inextricably linked to a methodology of translation – the individual choices in the translation process, or that question of ‘How to translate?’

An ethics of translation lies in deciding upon the right course of action within the act itself, deciding what is the right or wrong treatment of the text we are translating and knowing how to implement those decisions. It implies an acute awareness of your own role in the translation process and a keen awareness of the impact of your decisions on the world around you.

One example which serves to demonstrate the distinction I have attempted to make is this provocative post that is currently causing some heated discussion among professional translators. Within the post, the author details and glorifies their method of ‘faking it’ in translation – getting work in the profession despite being wholly unqualified.

In terms of a professional or translator ethics, this is highly questionable as the client is not given an honest reflection of the translator’s capability to complete the work (the line ‘managed to convince some poor fool to pay me to translate Japanese for them’ really drives this home), while in terms of a translation ethics the translator is in no position to fully appreciate the significance of their choices or the subtle shades of meaning that are being erased, mangled or mistreated and is thus acting in an unethical manner.

Overall this is an extremely difficult area to address and I hope that this introduction has served to shed some light on what I believe is the true heart of a translation ethics.

More Metaphors: Smugglers, Smashed Shells and the River Styx

Today’s post represents the continuation of a discussion started a few weeks ago in my post ‘Metaphors for Translation from Ferrymen to Omelettes’ which explored how the use of metaphor within the discipline has evolved in order to update or alter representations of the translation act.

After writing that post, it occurred to me that I was left with a surplus of other metaphors which, either due to self-imposed spatial constraints or them not fitting with the progression I was aiming to achieve, had been neglected.

I find the use of metaphors in this context fascinating and many of these abandoned examples offer an interesting take on translation – many of them I had never come across before – and so I thought it would be worthwhile dedicating a second post to the subject in order to share my research and hopefully provide you all with some interesting examples.

As such, here are another ten metaphors for translation, in no particular order, alongside quotations or brief explanations for your enjoyment:

Builder

“In antiquity , for instance, one of the dominant images of the translators was that of a builder: his (usually it was him, not her) task was to carefully demolish a building, a structure (the source text), carry the bricks somewhere else (into the target culture), and construct a new building – with the same bricks.” – Andrew Chesterman

Guest/Host

In a translational context, this metaphor stems mainly from Paul Ricoeur’s and Jacques Derrida’s concept of ‘Hospitality’ which was adopted by translation studies scholars alongside many of their other ideas. This idea places the target text as the guest to be welcomed into the source language and, in the same way that a host will accommodate their guest’s needs without ever wholly fulfilling them due to the alien nature of the situation, translation too should aim to welcome (and retain) the foreignness while never being fully able to preserve it in its entirety.

As Ricoeur writes: “Bringing the reader to the author, bringing the author to the reader, at the risk of serving and of betraying two masters: this is to practice what I like to call linguistic hospitality.”

Transfusion, Cannibalism, Vampirism

As B.J. Epstein writes in her excellent Brave New Words blog, Augusto de Campos uses the metaphor of the transfusion of blood. “Translation is for him a physical process, it is a devouring of the source text, a transmutation process, an act of vampirization.”

Furthermore “the images of translation as cannibalism, as vampirism, whereby the translator sucks out the blood of the source text to strengthen the target text, as transfusion of blood that endows the receiver with new life, can all be seen as radical metaphors that spring from post-modernist post-colonial translation theory.”

Reflection

As Matthew Reynolds writes, “Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1833 suggests that translations are like mirrors ‘held in different lights by different hands’ and ‘according to the vocation of the artist, will the copy be’. Usually there is an element of dismissiveness in calling a translation a copy. But not here, for Aeschylus’s writings too, like ‘all beauties, whether in nature or art’, are themselves ‘reflections, visible in different distances, and under different positions, of one archetypal beauty’. In this chain of reflections reflected there seems to be at least the possibility that a translator might capture ‘archetypal’ beauty no less well, and perhaps even better, than the first mirror off which it has bounced: a reflection reflected is after all the right way round.’

Shell and kernel
Another metaphor found via Epstein’s blog sees Latham present the idea of preserving the general meaning if not the exact wording of the text with his comment “I used the freedome of a Translator, not tying myselfe to the tyranny of a Grammatical consruction, but breaking the shell into many peeces, was only carefull to preserve the Kernell safe and whole, from the violence of a wrong, or wrested Interpretation.” (as quoted in Venuti’s excellent The Translator’s Invisibility).

Hijacking

This metaphor was originally used in a feminist context as Luise Von Flotow described three main feminist strategies: supplementing, prefacing and ‘hijacking’.
As Oana Surugiu puts it: “It consists of deliberately ‘feminizing the target text’ as in the (much quoted) example of the feminist translator Gaboriau, who translated “Ce soir j’entre dans l’histoire sans relever ma jupe” (literally:
Tonight I shall step into history without lifting my skirt) as ‘Tonight I shall step into history without opening my legs’.”

Charon on the River Styx

This has to be one of my favourite metaphors for translation (perhaps mainly due to my love of the imagery involved – as shown in the previous post…) and one that goes beyond the ideas of the ferryman and the life, death and ‘afterlife’ of the text introduced in my previous post on the subject. Here, Henri Meschonnic elaborates his own concept of translation as the death of the text and uses the image of Charon – the ferryman of Greek Mythology who carries the souls of the dead across the river Styx that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead – to stand for translation as moving from one life to another.

Smuggler

‘So many people consider their work a daily punishment, whereas I love my work as a translator. Translation is a journey over a sea from one shore to the other. Sometimes I think of myself as a smuggler: I cross the frontier of language with my booty of words, images, ideas, and metaphors.’ Amara Lakhous

Music

It is quite common for a link to be drawn between translation and music, and these quotes represent just two different uses of the subject in this manner:

“Poetry translation is like playing a piano sonata on a trombone.” – Nataly Kelly

“A translation is no translation, he said, unless it will give you the music of a poem along with the words of it.” – John Millington Synge

Love

“Love and translation look alike in their grammar. To love someone implies transforming their words into ours. Making an effort to understand the other person and, inevitably, to misinterpret them. To construct a precarious language together.” – Andrés Neuman

So there you have it; as before, I have to add that there are many more metaphors out there – translation as placing a jewel in a different casket, preserving fire, suffering from disease or bringing the dead to life to name a few – yet I feel I have introduced the majority of the most interesting and most widely cited examples out there and hopefully at least one of these representations of translation will strike a chord with you.

Reading up on translation: 5 mini reviews

There’s something a little different in store for my post today with an attempt to give a little something back: over the course of the last few years, I’ve spent many long hours poring over books of all shapes and sizes to satisfy my need for all things translation and I thought a few mini-reviews of what I consider to be the best introductory texts would be a great way to try to provoke a little bit of interest in the field.

Personally, I find translation theory fascinating and have read much of what translation studies as a discipline has to offer, even to the extent of reading Palumbo’s ‘Key Terms in Translation Studies’ (essentially a glossary of the key terms in the discipline) from cover to cover. If it sounds like a far-fetched claim, it is important to consider that, as a fairly young discipline, the amount of literature on the subject isn’t actually that big and can be covered in a few months of intensive study.

Of course, the list is not comprehensive by any means; despite my constant scouring of the market for new literature, there remain texts that I maybe should have come across and if you can recommend anything I may have overlooked, or anything that you think will be of interest, then please leave a comment or drop me a line on Twitter.

The reviews only scratch the surface of what each of these great books has to offer, but hopefully it is enough to whet the appetite:

DSC_0183

Found in Translation – Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche

I thought I would start with one of the more recent additions to my bookshelf, and a book that is currently making waves in translation circles following its release last year and many positive reviews. ‘Found in Translation’ is a collection of anecdotes on the subject which are both accessible and hugely entertaining. Anyone with even a passing interest in languages or translation will find it fascinating and it is the perfect place to start if you want to indulge a potential interest in the area. While the bold claim in the blurb describing it as ‘by far the most meaningful book on the subject of translation that I have ever seen’ may be going a bit far, this book takes steps to put translation on the map and that is exactly what the profession and the discipline need.

Is that a fish in your ear – David Bellos

This book pre-dates ‘Found in Translation’ by a year or two and is written to largely the same end goal: another collection of anecdotes which aim to inspire interest in the field, and it is one that really delivers. Written with a sense of humour that makes it a joy to read, Bellos provides an insight into how translation has shaped the world we live in and how it affects our daily lives. Criticised as being slightly inaccessible for the uninitiated while also lacking adequate substance for more academic tastes, it may not be as suited to testing a tentative curiosity as the previous book, but the author’s style and the content actually make this my (marginal) pick of the two.

In Other Words – Mona Baker

Rather than a collection of anecdotes on the subject, this book is more scholarly in nature and stands as an invaluable companion to the budding translator getting to grips with the subject. There are other introductions to the discipline out there (Susan Bassnett’s ‘Translation Studies’ is the go-to book for many people looking to get into the field and has an excellent, detailed history of the discipline) and other introductory textbooks (Peter Newmark’s ‘Textbook of Translation’ and Jeremy Munday’s ‘Introduction to Translation Studies’ among the best known) out there, but Baker’s coursebook is an amalgamation of the best aspects of each of these and provides a substantial guide to the challenges that translation offers, all coupled with practical examples which serve to help the new student orientate themselves in an alien discipline full of terms and ideas that can otherwise seem overwhelming.

The Scandals of Translation – Lawrence Venuti

The name of Lawrence Venuti has become one that goes hand in hand with translation studies as a discipline, and it is his work that forms the core of the canon. While Baker’s book ventures into more scholarly territory, Venuti’s goes far beyond the outskirts and represents the heart of scholarship. This can make it heavy-going for readers looking for something more accessible but with that said, there are very few authors who have managed to show the extents of translation’s power in the globalised world, and this book is absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in the humanities. ‘The Translator’s Invisibility’ is a similarly absorbing read which further develops his theoretical ideas, but I feel that ‘Scandals’ provides just a little more accessibility to merit its inclusion here.

Can Theory Help Translators? – Chesterman and Wagner

The last of the books on the list is a bit of a departure from the others as it doesn’t represent an introduction to the area at all. However, it addresses a question that causes ongoing debate in the field, and a question which I personally have tried to find answers to. There is a clear vacuum between translation theory and practice; many (maybe even most) freelance translators have very little or no knowledge of theory and still manage to do their job to exceptionally high standards, calling into question the necessity of theory. As such, this book throws a theorist and a professional together in an attempt to ascertain whether or not one can help the other and, while ultimately posing more questions than it answers, it is a must read for anyone curious of the link between the two and the benefits of theoretical knowledge.

As mentioned before, please get in touch with suggestions for books that I may have overlooked or books you have enjoyed, I’m always looking for new reads in the area!