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Literal Translation vs. Literary Translation

 Literal Translation vs. Literary Translation

الفرق بين الترجمة الحرفية والترجمة الأدبية

Literal Translation vs. Literary Translation

Indeed, translation is supposed to bridge the gaps between the different cultures and nations. A literary translation is very important as it helps different nations reach a universal culture on a common ground. It is a good translation that is not only concerned with transferring the propositional content of the source language text, but also it conveys other pragmatic features. So, professional literary translators give their attention to the pragmatic facts and principles in the course of translation to enhance their understanding of the text and improve the quality of translation.

The terms “free, literal and word-for-word”

The terms “free, literal and word-for-word” are popular and loosely used in the literature of translation. Firstly, when translators keep to the free translation approach, this means that they always have greater and wider areas of vocabulary and sentence equivalences. However, they convey the meaning of the ST and translate it into the TT. Secondly, in word for-word translation, the translators generally work on getting the equivalent and identical replacements of the words (this may include some morpheme-morpheme equivalences). Finally, literal translation lies between these extremes. It may range between a word-for-word translation, with making some different grammar changes from that of the TL (e.g. adding more words or changing some, etc.).[i] (Catford, 1965:25)

Therefore, any literal translation of literary works can not reflect the effect of the original, because, as we know, literature has many different interpretations. Accordingly, literary translators should feel free in the process of translation to consider a wide range of implicatures. Also, they should render the equivalent effect of the original by innovating and exploring different interpretations. That approach is meant to achieve relevance in translation, as it requires transferring the meaning of the source language into the target language. That process is usually applied by changing the form of the first language to the form of the second language. (Hassan, 2011, p. 3)

However, some Linguistic theorists say that “literal translation is still the first step in translation and the good translator is one who abandons a literal version only when it is plainly inexact or badly written. However, translating the thoughts, ideas and feelings behind the words, sometimes between the words or translating the subtext is a procedure which some translators regard as the heart or the central issue of translation. The truth is that we should interpret the sense, not the words. Yet, most translations are not creative in this sense. We have to like struggling with words before we reach the longer passages. [ii] (Newmark, (1988), p. 67)

Literal translation

Literal translation, also called word-for-word translation, is simply meant to deal with the SL text as individual words and translate them into their equivalent words of the TL. This rule looks impossible to apply in some cases where we find inflected words in the SL that can almost never be replaced with a single word in the TL. If we neglect such facts, the result is often unreadable. [iii] (Baker, 1998:125)

Actually, there is an increasing interest in the literature of other languages, so translators are to solve the problems of literary translation. So, when translators deal with literary texts which involve cultural, linguistic and pragmatic elements, they should find the solutions that help the target readers understand the real messages of these texts.  Translators make big mistakes when they pay more attention to linguistic and cultural elements than to the pragmatic aspects of a source text, as neglecting such pragmatic features could result in big problems in the target text. [iv] (Hassan, 2011, pp. 1-2)

On the other hand, it is often said that the definition of literature should be broad enough to cover literary practices through space and time, across different languages and cultures. The first approximation includes both oral and written genres that are covered as literature in any language by any culture. Hence, we find that literary translation is not restricted to linguistic issues, as the role of other non-linguistic aspects of is always effective and helpful to understand the core of the literary text. Literary language is in part rich because there are many literary styles and text types, which are more complex and longer than many other text types.

Besides, literary content varies according to different cultures, different times and different linguistic features of Arabic and English. As the linguistic range of literary texts is broad, it often includes ceremonial and sacred materials in ornate, beautiful, solemn language. Yet, literature can also be satirical, witty, irreverent, or scatological. Insofar as the corpus of literary texts and their translations is large, the literary translation has many problematic examples - in the rhythms of language, in phonemics, in morphology and syntax, in lexis and the conceptual semantic structure of languages and in pragmatics – that requires more that focusing on the literal meaning. Literary translation deals more with literary texts tend to include both marked and unmarked examples of syntax and morphology. Vocabulary is broad, involving both common and uncommon words and expressions which are sometimes archaic, as the literary language can be colloquial, technical, ritual or specialized, aimed at specific audience of readers or listener-participants.[v] (Fawcett and Wilson (2014), pp. 15-16)

The borders of Modern Translation  

Muhammad Anani says that Modern Translation is located on the borders of linguistics. Philosophy. Psychology and Sociology, but the literary translation is located on the borders of all sciences and branches of knowledge, all visual and auditory arts and all cultural studies that are generally considered real resources of modern politics. Consequently, the literary translation, according to the theoretical backgrounds of the modern translation, depends on modern linguistics, whether synchronic or diachronic semantic and syntactic structures and focuses on the cognition, like philosophy, as it is related to the nature of thinking as the contemporary psychology provides some highly important insights in this context. So, the literary translator not only means the vocabulary transport and textual reference, but he also means to go behind the text to reach the significance and effect for which the author looks, making the hearers or the readers get the author’s message.[vi] (Anani, (2003), pp. 5-6)

Accordingly, Literal and literary translations can be considered as two basic branches in practice. Since Literal translation is designed to translate the original text as it looks; keeping the original message form, structure - including the word order-  image used in metaphor and so on, unchanged. But, when Literary or free translation tries to reach an accurate representation of the original texts; paying little attention to the form and structure, it must produce a fluent and natural version. However, free translation does not mean to add anything unnecessary to the original, as it doesn’t mean to delete necessary things from the original. So, literal translation is meant to have bias to the source language and free translation is supposed to have bias to the target language. In other words, free translation is communicative Translation that is produced when the ST uses an SL expression standard for the situation.[vii] (Hassan, 2014, p. 12)

Finally, if translation is defined as the rendering of the source words or the source structures into the corresponding target language, then literalness might be insisted upon. But since translation is a process that is supposed to reproduce the impressions, the feelings and the emotions that were aroused in the native mind as the thought of the sentence first came to it, the translator must unfold the idea in his own language just as the original sentence unfolded it.[viii] (Tolman, (1901), p. 55)

Based on the abovementioned reviews and opinions, the following table summarises the main differences between the literal translation and the literary translation.

Table 2 Literal vs. Literary Translation

Literal Translation

Literary Translation

Literal translation is a defined as the rendering of the source words or the source structures into the corresponding target words and structures.

 

Literary translation is a type of translation which conveys what’s behind the text to reach the significance and effect for which the author looks, making the hearers or the readers get the author’s message. (Anani, 2003:5)

 

Literal translation is understood and applied in three different ways:

1-     Word for word translation: Literal Translation of Words. Where each word of the SL is translated into its equivalent word in the TL.

2-     One-to-one literal Translation. This is to Newmark “a broader form translation, supposing that each SL word has a corresponding TL word.” But it respects the meaning.

3-     Literal Translation of meaning: Direct Translation. It is keen on translating meaning as completely, closely and accurately as possible.[ix]

(Ghazal, 2008: 4-9)

Belhaag (1997:20) summarizes the of literary translations:

- expressive,

- connotative,

- symbolic,

- focusing on both form and content,

- subjective,

- allowing multiple interpretation,

- timeless and universal,

- using special devices to ‘heighten’ communicative effect, and

- tending to deviate from the language norms. (Hassan, 2011:2-3)

References:


[i] J. C. Catford, (1965), A Linguistic Theory of Translation, Oxford University Press, Walton Street, Oxford.

[ii] Newmark, (1988 ), A Textbook of Translation. SHANGHAI FOREIGN LANGUAGE EDUCATION PRESS.

[iii] Mona Baker, 1992, In Other Words, Routledge, New York.

[iv] Bahaa-eddin Abulhassan Hassan, 2011, Literary Translation: Aspects of Pragmatic Meaning, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

[v] Jean Boase-Beier, Antoinette Fawcett and Philip Wilson (2014), Literary Translation: Redrawing the boundaries, PALGRAVE MACMILLAN.

[vi] Muhammad Anani, (2003), Literary Translation (Arabic Version), International Egyptian Co. for Publishing-Longman, Cairo,

[vii] Bahaa-eddin Abulhassan Hassan, 2014, Between English and Arabic: A Practical Course in Translation, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle.

[viii] Herbert Gushing Tolman (1901), The Art of Translating, Boston USA, BENJ. H. SANBORN & CO.

[ix] Hassan Ghazala (2008), Translation as problems and solutions, Dar El-Ilm LIlmalayin, Beirut.

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