13 March 1997

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 09:09:15 +1000 (GMT+1000)
From: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)
Subject: Invisible hands and gas chambers

Bononno writes:

I think part of the problem is that many translators act on the assumption that their work will be checked or have simply internalized this, thus acting “as if” it will be checked.

YES, so should we. We can never be sure who will ultimately read our translations.( Pym wrote about this at the beginning of our discussion) Once we put them in the market they are opened to consumption and like any text to critical appraisal. Translation, unlike many interpreting situations, leave a record, a written record. This is an essential difference and one that leads to important consequences such as the liability of the translator, a questions that is not still serious in Australia but that is very important in USA and I guess potentially so in Europe too. Stories such as “the Singer translator” are part of the folklore that haunts the translators’ unconscious even before putting pen to paper. Plain paranoia? Ah! but paranoia has always a realistic base. A base we should not forget when we tred into liability questions that can cost us not only our job and our reputation, but our economic stability.

He also says:”I can’t keep up with the flow of messages any longer.”

Can I formally request that our contributions to the discussion be kept to a minumum of say 150 words? Some of us are using the e-mail like we would use the postal service. (Is this the syndrome of the isolated translator who uses any opportunity to communicate worldwide as a platform to flog all those ideas that have been roaming in his lonely mind?) May be we should be reminded of the “electronic” value of that “e” ie. we want quick, effective, to the point communication. We are bombarded with information to process. I think Golden have already hinted this but has not imposed any restrictions on the messages. The outcome is that very few of us have the time to follow the discussion thorougly and we are discouraging people to participate. We have just lost the valuable contributions of Netto, a practicing translator whose experience enriched the discussion and tested many of our theoretical frameworks.( I hope our theories do have at the same time an “invisible” influence in his work.) Practitioners may not always use theory but those of us who teach and think about translation need your input to ankor our theories in solid ground. Like Golden said: “Stay with us, and answer back from the point of view of experience.”

Well,enough for today and back to my classes!

Dr. Estela Valverde Assoc. Prof. in Spanish Dept of Romance Languages The University of Queensland St. Lucia Qld 4072, AUSTRALIA

Phone: 61 7 3365 2277 Fax: 61 7 3365 2798 E-mail: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 09:45:45 +1000 (GMT+1000)
From: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)
Subject: Practicing translators

Haroldo writes:” OK, if the translator has to be intercultural, and that it’s an endless task, if he has to conform himself with not being an artist, only a craftsman, and if whatever he writes in the target language it will be adequate, the only thing that is left to him is his passion for his work. But be careful : Love won’t suffice,it will have to be PASSION.”

I am very glad that Haroldo stayed in the discussion. While I entirely agree that PASSION is the greatest mover of this world (now Doug and Tony will jump up!) I also feel that if you have PASSION you will not be contented with just an adequate translation (in Toury’s terms) but, you will be aiming for an acceptable translation, one that reads not as a second rate version of a ST but as a ST itself. You said yourself:

” If is a readable, palatable text, it will pass and nobody ever will compare it with the original, complain against a blunder or, alas, will praise it.”

Now, on the questions that nobody cares perhaps it is your experience as a literary translator that nobody gives you feed back on your work. (You need to know that some of us spend a long time analysing translations, although, you are right, the translators’ usually is not aware of the attention his work is being given.) However, it does not seem to be the experience of other translators who (according to Doug) are paranoid about the external powers that control his work. I have experience as a community translator in Australia and every word you translate into Spanish needs to be analysed with caution lest to please the critical view of the community. I think both perspectives are not contradictory and very much depend on the kind of ST you are translating, the T audience, etc. These realities exist in a dialogical relationship and we can discuss about them forever without reaching a proper concensus.

Dr. Estela Valverde Assoc. Prof. in Spanish Dept of Romance Languages The University of Queensland St. Lucia Qld 4072, AUSTRALIA

Phone: 61 7 3365 2277 Fax: 61 7 3365 2798 E-mail: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 09:51:05 +1000 (GMT+1000)
From: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)
Subject: DTS – dehumanized model

Pym writes: “>For me, this is partly in reaction to dehumanized DTS models where >translators (and theorists?) become bearers of target-system functions. If nothing else, the model of intercultural space, where systems overlap and contradict each other, should allow us to formulate a far less passive subjectivity.

Can you expand further about the “dehumanized DTS models” please? DTS tries to explain in a systematic way the translators’ choices, it encourages to read the translators’ creative or critical publications to explore further in his own subjectivity, to interview translators, etc. it looks at T not just as a linguistic process but as a semiotic, semantic, hermeneutic, political, social process. Is this a “dehumanized” model?

Dr. Estela Valverde Assoc. Prof. in Spanish Dept of Romance Languages The University of Queensland St. Lucia Qld 4072, AUSTRALIA

Phone: 61 7 3365 2277 Fax: 61 7 3365 2798 E-mail: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 09:50:54 +1000 (GMT+1000)
From: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)
Subject: Golden’s rule

Golden wrote: That reader is looking for the writer, not for the translator.

If this is true all translations would be SL oriented, in Toury’s terms “adequate” translations. I would claim that a majority of translators, especially those engaged in literary T, are aiming at “acceptable” translations, ie. those aimed at producing a similar reaction in the target audience and a text that has an acceptable level of naturalisation (ie. it reads like an original TL text). Otherwise we need urgently to go back to “spirit channeling” and forget all together about our empowering dreams!

Dr. Estela Valverde Assoc. Prof. in Spanish Dept of Romance Languages The University of Queensland St. Lucia Qld 4072, AUSTRALIA

Phone: 61 7 3365 2277 Fax: 61 7 3365 2798 E-mail: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 21:10:58 -0400
From: vopazo@choapa.cic.userena.cl (Valeria Opazo )
Subject: Re: Statistics

>Current statistical and geographical distribution of participants in TRANSFER-L:


>Armenia (.am), Argentina (.ar), Colombia (.cl), China (.cn), Germany (.de), Denmark (.dk), Finland (.fi), Hungary (.hr), Iceland (.id), (.int), Korea


Dear Sean,

Just to remind you that .cl refers to Chile.


Valeria Opazo striving to participate but don´t know where to start! :-))

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 23:31:32 -0500
From: GL252251@Orion.YorkU.CA
Subject: translators as subjects

Doug Robinson mentions

The exploration of analogical social, economic, professional, and ccognitive processes in quest of insights to be borrowed back into the study of translation. Hence the importance of approaches like Lefevere’s on “rewriting,” for example (whatever we think of the actual implementation of that approach)–looking at translators in terms of the similarity between what they do and what editors and anthologists and others do can be enormously productive. Brian Mossop was saying some similar things on this list as well. In some sense my exploration of spirit-channelers would fall into this category as well, although I’m interested both in looking at similarities between two very different professional/cognitive/etc. acts (translators as LIKE spirit-channelers in some way) and in establishing historical continuities and connections >between the two activities (translation AS spirit-channelers–Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, say)

There are two possible attitudes to such explorations. The explorer can mainly be interested in the similarities between translation and other activities (as Lefevere was) or the explorer can mainly be interested in the differences (as I am). I want to single out translation for theoretical purposes. The great danger in focussing on similarities is hyperexpansion of the notion of translation or the object of translation theory. I don’t want translation theory to become the study of metatexts, or semiotic transformations or whatever. I’m very interested in the various kinds of mediation, in talk that responds to other talk, and so on, but only insofar as these cast light on the peculiarity of translation. If a peculiarity of translation is that it creates what Anthony Pym calls intercultures, then fine. But that is quite different from shifting the focus from translation to transcultural relations or to life in multicultural, multilingual cities such as the one I live in (Toronto).

The opposite danger exists too: not hyperinflation but fragmentation. I don’t agree with Luise von Flotow when she writes, concerning feminist translation projects:

>I think analyses of translators’ situations and contexts along these more limited lines may be more productive and more interesting than theorizing about ‘the translator’ as some kind of monolithic entity.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to focus on particular practices of translation per se, if by that she means that for a hundred practices, there will be a hundred definitions of translation, in other words no definition at all. To me, the right approach is the one found in theoretical linguistics: you study the particular — the subjunctive in French, or verb inflection in Cree — in great detail because this will cast light on Language in General. In the same way, I want to cast light on Translation in General.

The world currently inhabited by translation theorists might end up as one of Pym’s temporary intercultures. Having failed to define a specific object (and calling translation studies an interdiscipline is just such a failure), Translation Theory Land might divide into a thousand parts: studies of dubbing and subtitling would dissolve into film theory, studies of court interpreting into the sociology of law, and so on. I think this would be a bad thing, not because it would put translation theorists out of work, or force theory journals to shut down, but because we would end up not knowing much about translation beyond the unexpressed intuitive knowledge of working translators (ie what we’ve had for the past couple of thousand years). With no general-yet-narrow concept of translation, I fear that would be the result.

Returning for a moment to verb inflection in Cree (a fascinating subject I spent much time considering as a graduate student of linguistics many long years ago), one can of course also be interested in it for non-theoretical reasons — writing language textbooks for aboriginal children being educated in Cree in northern Ontario and Quebec. More generally, as Pym puts it:

>I want to eat my cake too: TS for talking about translation; something like intercultural studies for the wider issues. Why not?

>(You see, in between being translators and humans, some of us also like to tend academic gardens and address areas such as language/ translation policy.)

I’m very interested in translation policy too: not only does my job as a Canadian federal translator depend on it, but it’s tied to a whole range of issues concerning the relationship between English and French Canadians, and hence the future of Canada.

Perhaps everyone agrees that several different spaces for reflection are needed. So long as the theory of translation-in-general, narrowly defined, does not get shoved aside, then I’m happy.

Brian Mossop Translation Bureau Public Works and Government Services Canada and York University School of Translation GL252251@orion.yorku.ca

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 23:19:06 -0500
From: Robert Bononno <rb28@is4.nyu.edu>
Subject: Re: Running in place

>He also says:”I can’t keep up with the flow of messages any longer.”

Yes, I did say that.

>Can I formally request that our contributions to the discussion be kept to a minumum of say 150 words? Some of us are using the e-mail like we would use the postal service. (Is this the syndrome of the isolated translator who uses any opportunity to communicate worldwide as a platform to flog all those ideas that have been roaming in his lonely mind?) May be we should be

But I don’t agree with you that we should limit messages to 150 words or even sentences or paragraphs. The fact that I can’t (personally) keep up was not a criticism! I’m printing and saving the messages so that I can read them at my leisure. They’ve been immensely informative by and large.

/robert ——————————————————- Robert Bononno rb28@is4.nyu.edu CIS: 73670,1570

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 09:43:38 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: Le deuil de Derrida

>Yes, le deuil de Derrida was a piece of Pym (pièce de Shakespeare, for those who remember Ulysses).

>Doesn’t my name come up as sender of the message?

Yes, but not as author of the review. You could have found it somewhere else, written by someone else, and typed or scanned it into email.


Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 10:18:15 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: Practicing translators

Estela writes:

>However, it does not seem to be the experience of other translators who (according to Doug) are paranoid about the external powers that control his work.

Huh? I don’t recall discussing paranoia. I discussed schizophrenia in Translation and Taboo. But paranoia? Maybe in my next book.

I’m also trying to figure out just what that sentence is saying. It’s in a context of “some translators complain about not getting feedback,” so that Estela seems to be saying that other translators don’t have that sense–perhaps that they do feel that they get feedback on their work. But does she mean that some translators’ paranoia about external control GIVES them a sense of getting feedback? (I’m assuming that that next-to-last word, “his,” should be “their,” and that instead of referring to MY work Estela is singularizing and masculinizing translators.) If so, and I’m only guessing here, I would think that control would take a lot more forms than feedback, for example:

(a) silent editing (b) generalized professional ethics (c) legislation governing translation (d) not offering work (e) ideology (say, the assumption that tacit societal norms will prevail) (f) etc.

And I really don’t see what paranoia has to do with any of this. But then I’ve never known a paranoid translator, so maybe that’s just a gap in my experience


Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 10:29:38 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: more on invisible hands and power

Ju writes:

>But I’d like to say one thing: channelling is not enough for translation. If you don’t have excellent knowledge of both languages (mainly the target one), you can chanel all the spirits in the world, but you won’t be able to produce a good text in the target language.

Three answers:

(1) The “recorded” (or at least reported, usually legendary) cases of spirit-channeled translation typically do not involve any kind of knowledge of languages or training in translation. Some spirit simply possesses the translator and translated words come out of his or her mouth, or fingers. 1 Corinthians 14, for example, or the Book of Mormon.

(2) Some spirit-channelers report that voices just began to take them over. Most however undergo some sort of training, learning to channel. Presumably even the ones that begin with no training gradually accumulate experience in channeling, learn to do things better, more effectively, change their style, introduce new techniques (such as automatic writing), etc.

(3) I’m not saying translators ARE or SHOULD BE spirit-channelers. Spirit-channeling is a primitive historical model or precedent for the phenomenon I’m most interested in, the claim so many translators make that they simply “surrender” to the source text or author. My assumption too is that translators need deep knowledge not only of the two (or more) languages and cultures involved, but of translation as well.


PS Ju, you should have been at the Barcelona lantra miniconvention last night: 8 lantrans, including TimN, Carlos XI, Sara, Esteban, Mischa R., Lamberto, Hildegard, and me. Got to bed at 3:30 …

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 10:48:53 +0000
From: iuts2@cc.uab.es (Doug Robinson)
Subject: Re: Invisible hands and gas chambers

Estela writes:

>Nobody wants to silence you Doug, we are just thinking critically about the real possibility of dissention here, which if we follow Schmidt’s example would amount to a single act of heroism that will lead to destruction of the translator. Do you call that POWER?

Maybe we should define our terms, then. By power you seem to mean (correct me if I’m wrong) some sort of powerful position in society, power and the respect of others, perhaps over a certain unspecified period of time–hence if you lose your position or reputation or life in the act of wielding your power, you never had it in the first place. By power I mean the ability to exert an influence on the course of events. This may seem a small and unprepossessing way of thinking about the translator’s power, but may theorists of translation have wanted to deny translators even that–and it has seemed to me that you and Laura have been among them (but maybe that’s because we’ve been using the term “power” differently). If the translator is ONLY the neutral instrument of communication between the source author and the target reader, the translator has no power; s/he is entirely under the control of others. I think it is essential to stress the translator’s power (to affect his or her environment for good or bad) in order to recognize the translator’s personhood, subjectivity, and therefore also ethical agency. If the translator has no power, s/he cannot have agency, and the whole question of ethics becomes moot, even somewhat ludicrous. For the translator to have responsibility s/he must not only have the power to choose, but the power to make those choices influence the course of events.

>Of course your proposal generates anxiety (and anger, which is the direct product of anxiety) because it deals with an utopical world where the “invisible hands” that you so much believe in are not present.

Uh huh. That “utopical” world is the one I live in. It’s the one all translators live in. But many translators, and unfortunately many translation theorists too, have been conditioned to believe that it is only “utopical.” One of my major self-appointed tasks as a translation theorist is to convince people otherwise.

>I experienced an act of seudo heroism of an interpreter in a public meeting with a prominent member of an ethnic community where he did not interpret what he was saying against homosexuals because he realized it was culturally inappropriate and damaging for the community to which he also belonged. The client realized and in his broken English questioned him publicly: “Why don’t you tell them about the “poofters”?” The interpreter suffered not only loss of reputation but was marginalised for many years. Now, it’s all very well for us to say: Bravo! The translator has excerted his power! But for somebody that makes a living out of interpreting heroism is a great step to take and it has sometimes serious consequences.

And those serious consequences are precisely what I’m talking about here. Your position seems to me to be saying that translators should deny themselves access to the power to act, the power to have an impact on the world, so as to be able to live in a world without serious consequences. I am NOT encouraging translators to go out and destroy their reputations with rash subversive acts. I am encouraging translators to recognize that their actions do have consequences, and one of the consequences is recognizing their own ethical agency–which is to say, their own power.

>Now, on the question of Schmidt’s possibility of mistraslating Hitler it is very naive for us to believe like Doug does that : “by sacrificing his reputation and perhaps his life Schmidt could have ben able to save millions of lives.” Who would have believe a poor interpreter? Do you believe that Schmidt could have been more powerful than Hitler’s huge propaganda machine?

Yes I do. I don’t necessarily believe that it WOULD have worked; but I do believe that it COULD have. And the important thing, it seems to me, is not coming up with schemes for saving the world through translation, but rather recognizing that our actions have consequences because we have power.

>What we are scare is not of having power Doug, but of believing naively that we do, without looking ahead at the consequences.

Whoever said I wasn’t interested in the consequences? This is your invention. And it still seems to me to have been generated by your fear of having power. I’ve been talking about consequences all along, but you haven’t been able to hear it.

>While it is true >that we have plenty of opportunity to exert dissidence I would say that oppositional behaviour is possible only in unimportant situations just like the engineering company you described. What does it matter to anyone if your Finnish was not perfect as long as the transaction cost of the job was not too expensive and the objective was fulfilled?

Uh huh again. First you say translators have no power; now that they only have power in unimportant situations. The impulse is still strong to dismiss this whole line of argument, isn’t it? At first translators were utterly constrained, utterly controlled, the invisible hands regulate every aspect of translator behavior; but then, oops, well, maybe they don’t do it quite so perfectly, but still you have to be right because, uh, let’s seen, that situation I was in WASN’T ALL THAT IMPORTANT! What did it matter? But how do you know how much it mattered? How can you know in the abstract what will matter? Suppose as a result of some mistranslated line in my Finnish thousands of car stereo users suffer some sort of actionable damage and sue the company? Does that matter? (If Pioneer is sued because of my translation and they come after me, shall I tell them that there is a professor in Australia who says it doesn’t matter?)

I really don’t understand this: why is it so damned important to deny the importance of translation?

>Now, if you are >interpreting in a situation where your own client can check your accuracy or other colleagues might look at your input while you do have the power of being dissident your translation might condemn you. Your attitude is very quixotal and in many ways charming for the naivety that conveys but does not hold together with your primary argument on the “invisible hands”.

If my attitude is quixotic and naive and your fearful attempt to deny agency to the translator is–what?–realistic, give me naivete any day. Maybe I’m tilting at windmills. Maybe I’m an incurable romantic or idealist. I think what I’m doing is thoroughly grounded in my own experience of translating, in the pragmatic realities of translating; and from that perspective your views look like the proverbial ostrich with its trembling head buried deep in the sand.

As for whether my argument about the translator’s power “not holding together with my primary argument on the ‘invisible hands,'”–I’m getting very tired of explaining that. You apparently still think that the invisible-hand theory means that the translator is the powerless instrument of the invisible hands–something I’ve been calling an excluded-middle argument ever since Pym and Cronin made it in the first round.


Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 14:59:57 +0100
From: Carlo Marzocchi <cmarzocchi@europarl.eu.int>
Subject: on A. Pym’s point on EU languages

A few remarks by a practitioner (I was only able to take a cursory look at the list, so I may be repeating things others have already said, in which case I apologize in advance):

First of all it surprises me slightly that someone who held a chair in Leuven could believe that Dutch is no official EU language. Even if lower-level meetings of officials at the European Commission are seldom held in more than 3 or 5 languages, most meetings of the European Parliament’s bodies (plenary, committes) are held with interpretation into all 11 official languages, including Dutch, which by the way was an official EEC language long before English.

This brings me to my main and more general point. On the one hand I totally agree with A. Pym’s analysis (the negative effects of the separation between language learning and Tr./Int. training, excessive idealization of the western European, diplomatic model of conference interpreting to the detriment of interpreting “when it is really needed”, e.g. community int, the necessary move to a long term policy of “what to translate/interpret). However, I would argue that an elected legislature as the EP cannot be imposed the same requirements in terms of proficiency in one or more lingua franca as is perfectly possible with a body of officials like the European Commission. In Pym’s terms, that would be an excessive “pre-selection” of participants in the interaction, on the basis of a criterion, language proficiency, which is not considered a key to election (yet) in modern western society:

This is it, have to leave the colloquium now to do some real intercultural transfer

Carlo Marzocchi

Free lance interpreter