User:Deepamishra/Temp/DEEPA MISHRA1968.doc

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1.0 Objectives

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Definitions of Translation

1.3 Scope and Function of Translation

1.4 Questions


Primary aim of this unit is to introduce the readers to translation and ‘Translation Studies’. Of late, ‘Translation Studies’ has acquired the status of an independent discipline. Previously it was considered to be a part of Comparative Literature. Since ‘Translation Studies’ has achieved greater significance in academic and intellectual spheres at present, it is necessary to understand its definitions, its merits and demerits, scope and limitations. This chapter, therefore, will acquaint the readers with the basic concepts and components of translation.


Man is distinguished from other creatures for possessing the quality of time-bindingness which, according to Korzybski, means that one generation of mankind passes on to the succeeding generations its social, cultural and intellectual attainments. This is done through language in the oral tradition through fairy tales and folk-lores as well as through written documents like scriptures and books. But, not all the people scattered throughout the earth constituting various subgroups use the same language. This posits the greatest obstacle in the way of inter-linguistic community communication. However translation, without which our world will narrow down mercilessly, has emerged as the most effective means of overcoming the difficulties arising out of the dissimilarity of language amongst nations. Therefore, it has become imperative to know the nature and meaning of translation.


Etymologically translation is a “carrying across” process. The Latin “translatio” is derived from “transferre” where “trans” means “across” and “ferre” means “to carry” or “to bring” something from one place to another place. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary “to translate” means “to put into words of a different language.” In a similar way, The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines translation as “the act or an instance of translating” or “a written or spoken expression of the meaning of a word, speech book, etc. in another language.”

Thus in translation two languages are involved, such as SL (source language) and the TL (target language). The SL is that form of the language from which the text has been selected for translation into another language which is called the TL.

Scholars of translation studies at different times have given different definitions of translation. A study of these statements reveals the true nature and characteristics of translation. Brislin tells that translation is “the general term referring to the transfer of thought and ideas from one language (source) to another (target) whether the languages are in written or in oral form.”

Pinhhuck defines translation as a “process of finding a TL equivalent for an SL utterance”.

Wills says that “translation is a transfer process, which aims at the transformation of a written SL text into an optimally equivalent TL text, and which requires the syntactic, the semantic and the pragmatic understanding and analytical processing of the SL.”

Nida is of opinion that “translation consists of reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the source language message, first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style”.

Bell says that “translation involves the transfer of meaning from a text in one language into a text in another language.”

According to Johnson translation involves the process of change of a text from one language to another language, retaining the sense.

Catford defines translation as “the replacement of textual material in one language (SL) by equivalent material in another language.” Commenting on translation Susan Bassnett states:

Today the movement of people around the globe can be seen to mirror the very process of translation itself, for translation is not just the transfer of texts from one language into another, it is now rightly seen as a process of negotiation between texts and between cultures, a process during which all kind of transactions take place mediated by the figure of the translator. Significantly, Homi Bhaba uses the term ‘translation’ not to describe a transaction between texts and languages but in the etymological sense of being carried across from one place to another. He uses translation metaphorically to describe the condition of the contemporary world, in which millions migrate and change their location everyday. (p 6)

Thus translation as a process of linguistic activity has undergone a change. The emphasis on linguistic approach of the sixties has been replaced by the importance of the text in the seventies and at present, culture is considered to be the prime factor.


Translation, in the past, was considered to be a second rate activity. It was considered to be more mechanical than creative. Commenting on this aspect Hilaire Belloc writes:

The art of translation is a subsidiary art and derivative. On this account it has never been granted the dignity of original work, and has suffered too much in the general judgment of letters. This natural underestimation of its value has had the bad practical effect of lowering the standard demanded, and in some periods has almost destroyed the art altogether. The corresponding misunderstanding of its character has added to its degradation: neither its importance nor its difficulty has been grasped. (Bassnett: 12)

This general neglect of translation arises because the text in the TL is considered to be inferior to the original SL text. In the earlier centuries this inequality was presented in terms of superior original and an inferior copy. This was the colonial attitude to translation. But today, the situation has changed. Susan Bassnett explicitly demonstrates how the colonial attitude has been replaced by the post-colonial attitude. The colonialists thought their culture to be superior which took possession of an inferior one. So the original was thought to be superior to the TL text.

But the situation has changed with the translation works of Indian, Chinese and Canadian translators along with the writers like Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes which called for a new definition of translation. Explaining the point in clear-cut terms, Bassnett writes:

In the new, post-colonial perception of the relationship between source and target texts, that inequality of status has been rethought. Both original and translation are now viewed as equal products of the creativity of writer and translator, though as Paz pointed out, the task of these two is different. It is up to the writer to fix words in an ideal, unchangeable form and it is the task of the translator to liberate those words from the confines of their source language and allow them to live again in the language into which they were translated. In consequence, the old arguments about the need to be faithful to an original start to dissolve. In Brazil, the cannibalistic theory of textual consumption, first proposed in the 1920s, has been reworked to offer an alternative perspective on the role of the translator, one in which the act of translation is seen in terms of physical metaphors that stress both the creativity and the independence of the translator. (Bassnett: 5)

In the post-colonial context, the translator is no longer assigned a secondary status. The writer of the SL text and the translator are given the same prestigious position as the creative writer. Moreover, Bassnett states:

The translator is seen as a liberator, someone who frees the text from the fixed signs of its original shape making it no longer subordinate to the source text but visibly endeavoring to bridge the space between source author and text and the eventual target language readership. This revised perspective emphasizes the creativity of translation, seeing in it a more harmonious relationship than the one in previous models that described the translator in violent images of ‘appropriation’, ‘penetration’ or ‘possession’ .the post colonial approach to translation is to see linguistic exchange as essentially dialogic, as a process that happens in a space that belongs to neither source nor target absolutely. (Bassnett: 6)

In the present context SL text and the TL text are both considered to be original works of art. Translation primarily renders the text of SL to a text in TL. Certainly this enhances the importance of SL text amongst the reader of the TL text. Thus it widens the popularity of the SL text as people speaking the TL would have remained ignorant about it. Apart from this, translation has established a link between the present generation of mankind with the tradition, culture and intellectual attainments of the people of the past. The works of Homer and Horace have come to us only through translation. Similarly, the Vedas, Kalidasa’s Shakuntala and Indian religious scriptures in Sanskrit would never have stirred the intellect of the people in the Western countries. Without translation, possibly the people of India would have remained completely in the dark about the Bible.

Along with acquainting the present generation with the treasures of the past, translation creates a field for dissemination of knowledge. Any new scientific invention and theory, through translation reaches millions and millions of people throughout the globe.

In this age of globalization, there has been migration of people from one part of the world to the other. Without translation it would have been impossible for such people to know the culture and tradition of the host country nor could they acquaint the people about the sociological and cultural condition of their home country. Thus the greatest role that translation plays in the modern world is that it has become a means of creating international understanding.


  1. Attempt a definition of translation and explain its meaning.
  2. Is translation a secondary activity? What are the positive contributions of translation?
  3. What do you understand by SL and TL? What do you think to be the role and function of translation in the modern world?
  4. What feature is a unique possession of mankind? What would have been the loss to mankind without translation?


6.0 Objectives

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Transference

6.3 Transliteration

6.4 Transcreation

6.5 Questions




The basic objective of this unit is to help the students to understand the types of translation with reference to the terms like Transference, transliteration and Transcreation. It also tries to define and explore these terms.




As far as the types of translation are concerned, traditional translation theorists divided translation into two types, namely Literary and non-Literary translation. Literary translation emphasised both “sense and style” while non-literary translation emphasised the sense alone.

Apart from this, John Dryden classified translation into the following three categories.

  1. Metaphrase or turning an author word by word and line by line, from one language into another.
  2. Paraphrase or translation with latitude, the Ciaronian ‘sense for sense’ view of translation
  3. Imitation, where the translator can abandon the text of the original as he deems fit.

But of these three types Dryden found the second to be the more balanced path.

Benjonson’s translation of Horace’s Ars Poetica is an example of metaphrase while Virgil’s Book IV Aeneid by Heller is an example of paraphrase. Abraham Cowley’s translation of the two odes of Pindar into English can be taken as an example of imitation.

Taking a linguistic stance Ronald Jacobson makes a three- fold classification of translation as follows:

  1. Intralingual translation, or rewording (an interpretation of words in the same language)
  2. Inter-lingual translation or translation proper. (an interpretation of verbal signs by means of the verbal signs of some other language).
  3. Inter-semiotic translation or transmutation (an interpretation of verbal signs by means of non-verbal sign systems.)

Intralingual translation or rewording: This sort of translation is confined to the same language only. Paraphrasing of a play can be rewritten using similar or synonymous words. Intralingual translation, however, is outside the scope of proper translation study.

Interlingual translation or translation proper in which a text of the SL is turned into a new text in the TL. In translation studies, inter lingual translation is discussed highlighting its methods and theories.

The third type, known as Inter-semiotic translation or transmutation is concerned with transference from one medium to another medium, such as lines of a poem can give rise to a portrait or a painting. Primarily, this type of transformation is associated with an interpretation of verbal signs by means of signs of non-verbal nature as it happens in musical or visual art.

Translation has also been divided into three other types such as Transference, Transliteration and Transcreation. But these three categories as some scholars of translation studies point out are different from the process of translation. However brief comments on their nature are essential for correct understanding of the meaning of each.




Transference is the use of the same word of the SL in the TL only with the change of alphabetical symbols or sign systems. Catford says that, “In transference there is, indeed transference of meaning but this is not translation in the usual sense. Transference can be carried out at the level of lexis or at the level of grammar. Besides transference does not transfer the entire meaning of the word in the SL into TL. Catford cites the example of the Russian word. “Sputnik”. According to the principle of transference the word is transferred to English as it is, but the entire Russian meaning of the word has not been incorporated into the English word. “Sputnik”. It simply means an artificial satellite.

Thus, one can say that the transfer of word from one language to another in its original form has been in practice in inter -lingual communication. Thus the names of persons, of countries, of periodicals and newspapers, titles of literary awards, public institutions and names of districts and towns cannot be translated meaningfully from the SL to TL. In such cases, transference comes to the rescue of the translator.

Transference as a process of translation is quite helpful in translating texts dealing with philosophy, advanced science, history, geography and other technical subjects. For example, take the two terms of Indian Philosophy of the Sankhya school-- Prakriti and Purusha; when these two terms are translated into English as “Nature” and “Man”, respectively, their connotative value vanishes, altogether. In such a situation these words are to be incorporated into English by the process of transference.

Transference performs an important function not only in translation but also in the enrichment of a language. It is through this process of transference that many foreign words enter into the language. Thus English has borrowed freely from Latin and Greek and other languages liberally to enrich it. In most cases the words which make their entry into new language retain their phonetic feature. As for example, the French words like restaurant, avant garde and verse libre have retained their original pronunciation even though they are accepted in English.

Thus, in nut-shell, transference means using the SL word in the TL in the same way.




Transliteration occurs when the translator transcribes the SL characters or sounds in the TL. This means that the letters of the SL are converted into the letters of the TL. Unlike transference, transliteration is not only concerned with words alone, on the other hand, sentences, at time full length passages are thus transcribed. Scholars reject transliteration as a process of translation because it relies on transcription rather than searching for the cultural and semantic equivalent word in the TL. In transliteration what is done is to use the alphabetical letters of TL and use those letters which will when read, be approximately equal to the phonological structure of the word in the source language. Catford says: “In transliteration, SL graphological units are replaced by TL graphological unit; but these are not translation equivalents, since they are not selected on the basis of relationship to the same graphic substance”.

Further Catford suggests three stages to be adopted while transliterating words or passages from SL to TL. They are:

  1. SL letters are replaced by SL phonological units from written to the spoken medium.
  2. Then SL phonological units are translated into TL phonological units.
  3. The TL phonological units are converted into TL letters or other graphological units.

Thus, transliteration to a large extent depends on graphological units. Transliteration is useful for those bilinguals who can speak both the languages fluently but can read and write only one language ie. SL. In such a case transliteration enables to read the TL without difficulty. The writing of English words like “train,” “computer” and “switch” using graphological units of any Indian languages is an instance of transliteration. Similarly the words of any Indian language like “saree,” “lathi” and “jalebi” written in English indicate the characteristics of transliteration. A phonetic transcription of English words in some dictionaries for correct pronunciation is a good example of transliteration.




The third type of translation known as transcreation is a sort of adaptation of the SL text for creating an original TL text. In transcreation, the translator like the original author enjoys freedom to alter, to modify, to omit and to reorient the source text according to the requirement of the target audience. Transcreation is a model of translation where the translator assumes an independent identity. He plans out to project a valid creative work based on the source text. As example, some of Wyatt’s poems are renderings of Petrarch’s sonnets. But scholars and critics treat them as Wyatt’s original poems. Thus in transcreation, the translator weaves a new carpet out of the original text. Most of the works of Shakespeare are transcreation from various sources for which Robert Greene called Shakespeare “an upstart crow, beautified with other men’s feathers”. Greene’s comment on Shakespeare is applicable to all translators who adopt the text of the SL for creating the TL text. But to call Shakespeare and such other transcreators as “upstart” and “ crow, beautified with other men’s feathers” is not correct. When one takes into consideration the works of Shakespeare, he gets puzzled at the transformation of the SL with the touch of the magic wand of the author. Dryden’s translation of Homer is a beautiful example of transcreation. With reference to it, it is said that “It is beautiful, but there is no Homer in it”.

Commenting on the nature of translation Susan Bassnett says, “for translation is not just the transfer of text from one language into another, it is now rightly seen as a process of negotiation between cultures, a process during which all trends of translation take place mediated by the figure of the translator” (p.g). Thus the translator, who was previously given a secondary place, now has begun to occupy the centre stage, with a shift in emphasis that views translation as an act of creative writing. On this issue, Bassnett has written: “The translator is seen as Liberator, someone who frees the text from the fixed signs of its original shape making it no longer subordinate to the source text but visibly endeavouring to bridge the space between source, author and text and the eventual target language readership. This is a revised perspective of readership. This revised perspective emphasises the creativity of translation” (p6).

This creativity in translaction gives rise to a “new text” in TL. Examples of such transcreated works are many, but to cite the example of Fitzegerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and Rajaji’s translation ot The Mahabharat into English will be enough to prove the point.




  1. Explain, with examples, Tranference and Transcreation
  2. Distinguish between Tranference and Transliteration

12.0 Objectives

12.1 Introduction

12.2 Problems of Translation

12.3 Questions


The primary objective of this unit is to consider the problems that arise in the process of translation. Further, it tries to explain the nature of linguistic and cultural problems that come up as challenges in translation. Besides suggestions are given to overcome such difficulties.


Catford defines translation as “the replacement of textual material in another language”. Bell also says that “Translation involves the transfer of meaning from a text in one language to a text in another language”. These two definitions of translation given by two distinguished scholars have simplified the process of translation. If these two views are accepted as absolute, then translation is an activity free from any complexity. In such a situation all texts are translatable. But advancement in translation studies reveals that certain texts, especially poetry, are untranslatable in accordance with the views expressed by Catford and Bell. In such cases, transcreation, rather than translation proves to be very effective.


Translation is no easy and simple activity. Even Cicero the ancient Roman writer expresses the problem of translation. Thus Cicero writers, “If I render word for word, the result will sound uncouth and if compelled by necessity I alter anything in the order or wording I shall seem to have departed from the function of a translator”. (Bassnett, P. Ua) Here Cicero explains the dilemma of the translator.

In a similar vein, Latin American novelist Joao Libaldo Ribeiro expresses his predicament while translating his own work from Portuguese to English as follows:

It took me longer to translate the book than to write it almost two years of hard labour and grashing of teeth, during which I honestly thought I would never finish and had suicidal tendencies. First there is the cultural problem. In general people in England and the United States as much about Brazil as about traffic conditions in Kuala Lumpur. They are very much astonished when they find out that we speak Portuguese, not Spanish, and that some of us wash, have teeth, wear clothes and live in houses. So should I suffocate the book with hundreds of test notes, making it longer than the New York, telephone directory? I decided I would not. That involved a little cheating here and there – with the knowledge of the publishers. (Times Literary Supplement, 17-23 Nov. 1989).

In the passage quoted above Ribeiro points out two obstacles of the process of translation. First, translation presents a linguistic problem and second, it presents a problem which is cultural in nature. At the linguistic level, it is to be noted that languages are different from one another. Edward Sapir rightly points out that “No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached”. (Bassnett: 2).

So certain words in SL may not have the same meaning in the TL. As example, Bassnett cites the word “butter” in English and its near equivalent Italian “burro”. Making the point clear, Bassnett writes: “When translating butter into Italian there is a straightforward word-for-word substitution – burro. Both butter and burro describe the product made from milk and marketed as a creamy-coloured slab of edible grease for human consumption. Yet within their separate cultural content butter and burro cannot be considered as signifying the same. In Italy, burro, normally light -coloured and unsalted, is used primarily for cooking, and gives no association of high status, whitest in Britain butter, most often bright yellow and salted, is used for spreading on bread and less frequently in cooking.” (Bassnett: 26). Thus, Bassnett points out the problems of translation both linguistic and cultural with illustration.

Apart from this, the translator faces problems in translating certain words like “rasa” and “vakroti” of Indian poetics into English with their full contextual meaning in original Sanskrit. Besides, colloquial expressions, culture-words, slangs, proverbs and metaphors used in SL cannot be translated into TL. Translation poses a new kind of problem so for as it is concerned with Indian languages. India is a multilingual nation and it has more than 16 languages recognized by the constitution of India. Over and above this, there are certain other languages too. Most of the Indian languages have either originated from Indo-Aryan or Dravidian language family. Amongst the descendants of Indo-Aryan language family, some of the languages are Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati etc. All these languages have heavily drawn their vocabulary from the classical Sanskrit. Therefore the same words are found in many languages but their meanings often change. For example, “Razinama” in Marathi means resignation while in Hindi it means “agreement”. “Upahar” in Marathi means “refreshment”, but in Hindi it means a “present”. Similarly “Uttejit” means “inspired” in Marathi whereas it means angry or agitated in Hindi. Similarly “dove” is taken as a symbol of peace in English tradition but in Bengali, it is used to characterize a person as “cunning or unprincipled”.

Along with this, certain culture-studded words like the food items used in everyday conversation such as ‘halva’, ‘Khichdi’, ‘Puri’, ’Jalebi’ cannot be translated to English without the loss of meaning. Similarly some Italian words like ‘Spaghetti’, ‘Maccheroni’, ‘pizzas’ and ‘pasta’ are very difficult to be translated into any Indian languages The English word ‘cocktail’ has no equivalence in Indian languages. Thus, in translation there is always the possibility of loss of meaning or addition of meaning or skewing of meaning. A distinguished translator, therefore, has to be very careful in meeting these challenges. He has to be well-versed in both the SL and TL in order to be able to translate culture-specific words and phrases successfully from one language to the other. Besides, translation of poetry, prose and drama raise problems crucial to each genre which shall be discussed in detail in a subsequent chapter.

Translation has been quite often described as the transfer of meaning from the SL to the TL. But as linguists like Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida point out, no literary text has a specific and fixed meaning. This is called the linguistic indeterminacy. Each individual reader understands the text in his own way. So the literary text, according to this view, has several meanings. Then, which meaning should the translator transfer from the SL to the TL? So the translator has to accept the untranslatability of the SL phrase in the RL on the linguistic level.

Acceptance of such a view will make the translation an absurd act. But since ancient times, translation has been existing and shall exist in future as well. In the present context of globalization and inter-cultural transfer, translation has become an essential part of existence. In the face of the growing importance of translation, the problems faced in the process have to be understood. Efforts should be made to overcome them. Translation is not just a mechanical process: it involves creativity too. The process of translation is not just normative which prescribes rules and theories to be adopted by the translator. On the other hand, it is a pragmatic process and the translator as a creative artist should enjoy ample freedom to face the challenges offered by the problems in a creative manner.


  1. Discuss with examples linguistic and cultural problems of translation.
  2. Explain how differences in SL and TL structures and their respective cultural contexts affect translation.
  3. Translation is a linguistic activity. Do you agree?
  4. Can the translation of a text from SL to TL convey the cultural context successfully?
  5. Discuss the cultural problems of translation.
  6. Do you consider translation to be a secondary activity?


13.0 Objectives

13.1 Introduction

13.2 Translation as Inter-Cultural Communication

13.4 Questions


The importance of translation in this age of globalization has increased manifold. This chapter enunciates how cultural synthesis has been possible in the international context.


Theories and methods have received much attention of scholars of Translation Studies but the function of translation has been neglected. Of late scholars have delved deep into this aspect of translation. As it has been discussed, translation is not only a linguistic phenomenon but also an inter-cultural communication medium. Thus translation bridges the gap existing amongst different communities using different languages.


On the issue of ‘cultural turn’ in Translation Studies, Michael Cronin says: “The movement was partly one of reaction and partly one of the anticipation. The reaction was to what was seen as the undue hegemony of linguistics in the study of translation activity and the exclusive influence of comparative literature in the study of translation. If translation studies was to acquire any degree of disciplinary autonomy then it was necessary to distinguish itself from both comparative literature and applied linguistics” (p.c.kar pg-229) Cronin makes clear the new role of translation as the carrier and disseminator of culture. From time of evolution of man as a distinct species, mankind has been divided into several

sub-groups occupying specific territories scattered throughout the earth. Each subgroup was different from the other and developed a distinct cultural identity with the development of a language system for intra-lingual communication. Thus the world was divided into several linguistic islands with little communication amongst the occupants. But as time passed on, a sub-group was compelled to come in contact with the neighboring sub-groups using different languages. To overcome this difficulty, the transference of the contents of one language into another was a necessity. Thus translation becomes a means of establishing intercultural communication.

Intercultural communication is as much a necessity today as it was in the past. The modem age is an age of globalization. There has been movement of people of one language and cultural group to other areas. New diasporic distribution of people calls for greater intercultural communication. A synchronic study of the problem, therefore, will reveal the importance of this aspect. Besides a diachronic approach will show how intercultural communication has acted as a cohesive force right from the ancient times to the present.

Translation as an art or science, whatever one may call it, has co-existed with development of languages. One of the earliest examples of translation refers to the rendering of Hebrew Bible into Greek. This translation opened contact between the Jews and the Greeks. The Bible in Greek language inspired the Greeks so for as Christian religion consciousness was concerned. But with the Romans, translation became a major factor for the communication of culture between the Greeks and Romans. The Greek Bible was translated into Latin and this became the sacred text for the entire Christendom. With the spread of Christianity, translation came to acquire the role of disseminating wisdom and spreading the intercultural communication. Thus the translation of the Bible into German and English not only spread the religion but also served as a means of establishing relationship amongst the West European countries. It also served a political purpose by pricing the political status of a country from the supremacy of the Church. Translation of the Bible marks the beginning of political defiance of the power of the Church in the administration of the state in Germany and England.

Besides, the translation of the Bible into various non-European languages, particularly Indian languages has immensely helped for the dissemination of cultural patterns of the Christendom to other religious communities of the word. The Bible translation, thus, apart from literacy exercises and spiritual enterprises, has come to develop inter-cultural communication.

Translation of claims and major literacy works has promoted inter-cultural communication. The translation of Greek and Latin classic works into other European languages like English, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese has brought unity among the language communities of Western Europe. The Renaissance in Europe facilitated translation immensely. Ancient Greek and Latin cultures, thus, worked as the bars of entire culture of Europe. Without translation, perhaps, this cultural uniformity of Europe could not have been achieved. Besides, translations from one European language into another have communicated culture of one land into another. Commenting on this role of translation Alexis Nouss writes:

Translation plays on the uncertainty of meaning, navigating between two languages, between two cultures, and revealing the gap separating them. A translation loses its specificity and its value if it suppresses this interval. There is no universal, universally communicable meaning. Translation must make evident, and not erase, the distance between languages. It was in the sixteenth century, when both territorial and linguistic borders were being drawn, that the Lotion and the term of translation. Made its appearance. The function of translation is precisely to cross borders, to indicate that it is possible to speak of the world in other terms, other rhythms, other accents, with other ?????? of sound and colour. A dynamics of language founded on distance, absence, and inevitable loss, translation accepts the principle of indeterminacy as an enrichment which makes metissage possible. It brings about a translation turn in the human sciences after the linguistic turn of the 1960 and as such finds a paradigmatic place within our episteme.

The Europeans came to know about the Arab and the Persian culture of the past with the help of translation. Similarly the Western world was exposed to the wisdom of the East through translation. The Arabian-Nights Tale, The Rubayat etc when translated into English opened up the eyes of the people of the West to the richness of the culture of these areas.

Translation in the Indian context is very old. First of all, major Indian texts like The Mahabharat, The Ramayan, The Bhagbat and parts of other religious scriptures were translated from Sanskrit to other numerous Indian languages for acquainting the common men who did not know Sanskrit. In such translations, the translator was as good a creative writer taking liberty with the text to adopt it in consideration of the local needs. In this phase of translation Indian texts were translated into other Indian languages for Indian readers.

The second phase of translation is known as the colonial period.

Indian cultural heritage was exposed to the Western world through translation in India. Some scholars from the West like Nathaniel Brassey Hallhead and Sir William Jones played very significant role. Hallhead’s translation of excerpts from Manusmruti opened up the social, legal, political and cultural condition of India. William Jone’s translation of Kalidasa’s Shakuntala initiated Western scholars to study the rich cultural and literary heritage of India. Commenting on this class of translation Charles Lanman, editor of Harvard oriental series, wrote: “the wisdom of the wise men of the East is to be estimated by occidental readers with entire fairness—nothing less, nothing more” (G.N. Devy, P. 121). Many texts of Indian literature were received through their translation by scholars and poets like Macaulay and Goethe.

The colonial period of translation was followed by the Revivalist translators. Their aim, like that of the colonialists, was to translate more and more texts from Sanskrit to English to present the rich variety of India to the Westerners. Prominent among them were Coomaraswamy and K. Krishnamoorthy. As Devy points out, “For the liberal translations, it would be interesting to study several versions of one text. The plays of Kalidasa, Bhababhuti and Bhasa were translated several times. Similarly the Gita went through a large number of translations.” (evi 121) The importance of cultural communication between India and the West can be understood from the opinion of W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet. On the issue G.N. Devy writes, “The Irish poet Yeats wrote a poem about Mohini Chatterji, translated the major Upanishads in collaboration with Shri Purohit Swami, Spending four years of his old age for it, and said that the ultimate aim of his life was to write a poem like the Gita (Devy: 122). Because of translations only, the works of Panini, Bharttihari, Bharata, Abhinabagupta, Viswanath and others came to limelight not only in the West but also inside India. So it can be emphatically attested that translation is a powerful source of intercultural communication.

In conclusion it can be said that translation is not just transference of meaning of a text from one language to another. It is a carrier or interpreter of culture. Since with the modern scholars of Translation, the text has undergone a widening of meaning. On this point

Harish Trivedi comments: Thus in a paradigmatic departure, the translation of a literary text became a transaction not between two languages, or a somewhat mechanical sounding of linguistic “substitution” as Catford had put it, but rather a more complex negotiation between two cultures. The unit of translation was no longer a word or a sentence or a paragraph or a page, or even a text, but indeed the whole language and culture in which the text was constituted.” (kar 254). To conclude, one can quote Alexis Nouss who rightly says, “Translation is a cultural fact, taking place when cultures come into contact, partaking in and of their exchanges….” (Kar 222).


1. How far translation is responsible for generating inter-cultural communication?

2. Without translation what would happen to the world community using different languages?

3. What benefit India has derived from translation?

4. Describe how translation has become a normal human activity.



14.0 Objectives

14.1 Introduction

14.2 Problems of translating poetry

14.3 Problems of translating prose

14.4 Problems of translating drama

14.5 Conclusion

14.6 Questions


This chapter summarises the difficulties encountered by translators in translating poetry, prose and drama. Creating awareness of the problematics of translation is aimed at in this chapter.


Scholars of Translation Studies, to some extent, have spelled out the theories and methods of the process of translation. They prescribe that a translator must conform to the rules so as to bring about a good translation. This approach to translation is a normative approach. They further maintain that the text in the TL must be faithful and equivalent to the text of the SL. This view assures that the languages of SL and TL are almost identical. But no two languages are similar. The sign system of one language differs from the sign system of the other language in consideration of the cultural differences of the two communities. So, translation, instead of becoming a mere transference of meaning of the SL text into the TL text, faces problems of finding equivalence. Problems of translation originate from this dichotomy.

Susan Bassnett maintains that a literary text is made up of a complex system of linguistic structures where the parts are related to other parts and the text as a whole. Besides, because of suggestive nature of language, no literary text is confined to a fixed meaning. Bassett quotes Robert Scholes who enumerates the point explicitly in the words, “Every literary unit from the individual sentence to the whole order of words can be seen in relation to the concept of system. In particular we can look at individual works, literary genres, and the whole of literature as related systems and at literature as a system within the larger system of human culture.” (Bassnett, P. 80). So the process of translation gets problematic since it is not merely a linguistic act but also a socio-cultural activity.

The indeterminacy of a literary text so for as its meaning is concerned, poses the greatest problem of translation. Not only prose or poetry, but also drama is not free from this problem of translation.

Of all these genres, translation of poetry has given rise to a number of problems. Poetry as a form of art is distrint from either prose or drama. Poetry is often defined as thought expressed in rhythmic language. Thus a poem has different features which make it different from prose. First of all it has rhythm. It also has a sound system along with meter and stanza pattern. All these things make the poem distrint. Above all it has different forms like sonnet, ode, epic, and elegy and so on. So while translating poetry, the translator faces numerous problems.


Translation of poetry is the most difficult process of translation. Poetry abounds in the use of different figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, irony, pardox with phonological, syntactic and semantic patterns such as alliteration, assonance , rhyming pattern and morphological parallelism. The same type of figures of speech, though available in the TL, do not tally with that of the SL. So the translator faces the problem. Apart from the linguistic distinction, poetry has ideas, images, symbols which are non-linguistic in nature. The translator, therefore, has to take extreme care and caution while translating the poem.

Poems have different stanzaic patterns. If the general theory of translation as a faithful and equivalent copy of the SL text in the TL text is accepted, then perhaps, translation of poetry becomes almost impossible. How can one think of creating the stanza pattern of a Spenserian stanza in any Indian language? Similarly many stanza patterns existing in Marathi or Hindi do not have their counter

part in English. Therefore, deviations, distortion and digression become, quite often, a feature of translating poetry. Bassnett cites the example of the translation of Petrarch’s sonnet into English by Wyatt and Surrey. The same sonnet when translated into English by two English poets has two different levels of meaning and rhyme scheme. To illustrate the point it is essential to quote the paragraph of Bassnett which runs as:

Surrey’s translation retain the military languages of the SL text but goes several stages further. The Lover is ‘captyre’, and he and Love have often fought. Moreover, the lady is not in an unreachable position, angered by the display of Love. She is already won and is merely angered by what appears to be excessive ordour. Petrach’s sonnet mentions desio and spene (desire and hope) but Surrey’s passion is presented in physical terms. Once the Lady has changed ‘her smyling grace’ to anger, Love flees, but his fhight is delibirety condemned by the Lover. ‘Lowarde love’ files and in the safety of the heart he ‘doth lurke and playne’. Moreover, in the final line of the third quartet, the Lover states plainly that he is ‘fawtlen’ and suffers because of ‘my lords gylt’. The device of splitting the poem into three four-line stanzas can be seen as a way of reshaping the material content. The poem does not built to a question and a final line on the virtues of dying, loving well. It builds instead to a couplet in which the Lover states his determination not to abandon his guilty lord even in the face of death. The voice of the poem and the voice of the Lover are indistinguishable, and the stress on the I, apparent in Wyatt’s poem already, is strengthened by those points in the poem where there is a clear identification with the Lover’s position against the bad behavior of the False Lord Love. (109).

This kind of distortion or deviation from the SL text in the TL is intended to make the poem meaningful and significant to the TL reader. Therefore, while translating poetry, care should be taken to the taste of the target reader.

To sum up, translating poetry is like a puzzle which the translator probably will fail to do full justice to any text. Broadly speaking, poetry, more than any other kind of literature, means different things to different people. So to what meaning the translator will stick to is a difficult choice. Again, in a poem there always arises a blend of form and meaning. Bradley says:

“[It] is the succession of experiences – sounds, images, thoughts, emotions – through which we pass when reading or listening impressionably and exerting our imaginations in the act of recreation. In such poetic experience ‘meaning’ and ‘form’ are not apprehended separately but operate together. There is a ‘resonant, meaning or a meaning of resonance, two expressions for one and the same thing. It is only in later reflection that the formal aspect of true poetry can, by a fiction, be detached from the aspect of meaning. We adopt this fiction for purposes of criticism… But the meaning in strictness cannot be expressed in any but its own words, nor can the words be changed without changing the meaning.” (Forster, Leonard, 23)

In fact, the form of poetry refers to the rhyme scheme, stanza pattern, meter and versification along with the use of other devices of alliteration, assonance etc. In the target language it is almost impossible to think of equivalence however gifted the translator might be. So Forster rightly remarks that, “The translation is a new product, that is to say that it is the result of re-creative process.” (Forster,23)


The notion prevalent amongst scholars and practitioners of translation is that translating prose is less problematic than translating poetry. Such an idea has stemmed out of the fact that a prose work, particularly a novel is a vast work of art in which the sentences and paragraphs are not synchronized in an organic way as it is done in poetry. Translator sometimes goes on translating sentences and paragraphs in a run-on manner. This results in a translation in the TL that does not convey the import of the original SL text. Bassett clearly discusses the problem in the case of translation of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. The prose translator often fails to see the organic blend of form and context in a novel. This leads to approach the prose text in a rather careless manner. The translator stresses the context of the sentences and paragraphs at the cost of total structure. Thus, Bassnett comments on the first four lines of the translated text of Magic Mountain as, “This fast-moving energetic passage, consisting of three sentences with four verbs of action and movement pulls the reader straight into the narrative” (P. III). But no clues are given to the structure of the novel as a whole as it has been done in the original German version. Bassnett writes: “The journey depicted in the first few sentences is therefore functioning on more than one level: there is the young man’s actual journey across a nation, the journey as a metaphor for the quest on which the reader is about to embark” (P 112).

But in English translation the journey is an ordinary journey described in a matter of fact manner glossing over the symbolic significance of it as it exists in the SL text. Besides, in the translation of prose novels, ghost stories and essays, the cultural effect is most often neglected for which the translated text in the TL falls flat on the reader.

Bassnett, therefore, cites six points charted by Hilaire Belloc and tells that the translator of prose should keep these points in mind. They are:

1. The translator should not “plod on”, word by word or sentence by sentence, but should always “block out” his work. By “block out”, Belloc means that the translator should consider the work as an integral unit….

2. The translator should change idioms of SL to conform to such “idioms” in the TL. Belloc cites the example of the Greek exclamation “By the Dog” which if rendered literally, becomes merely comic in English, and suggests that the phrase “By God” is a much closer translation.

3. The translator must render ‘intention by intention’ bearing in mind not to over-emphasize or to undermine the true import of the original. He is at liberty “to add” words to conform to the original.

4. Belloc advises that the words of the SL be translated not in a literal sense but in the appropriate semantic manner.

5. Belloc maintains that the translator should be bold enough for the resurrection of an alien thing in a native body.

6. The translator should not embellish.

(Adapted from Bassnett,p.116)

Belloc’s six points speak about the technique and points of principle as the guidelines for the translator.

So far as translating literary prose is concerned, the methodology suggested by translation scholars may be useful. But apart from literary texts, other forms of prose relating to science, commerce, trade, law etc do not pose such complicated situations. The translator sails smooth in such subjects.


Translating drama poses the greatest difficulty for the translator. A drama is an articulate story enacted on the stage before an audience by a group of men and women supported by action or gesticulation. Besides, a drama is primarily intended to be performed under the planning and instruction of a director helped by the producer. The written words in the form of the dialogue are only a part of the drama. Therefore, the translator feels as if inside the maze trying to find a way out. A drama is a composite art. The methods of translating poetry or prose cannot be successfully applied to the translation of drama. Therefore, a new methodology for translating drama has to be evolved.

In a drama the sense or meaning does not solely depend on the linguistic construct i.e. the words. The stage, setting, the characters’ manner of speaking the dialogue and their dress, the director’s instruction to portray the feeling through physical movements known as acting and finally, the nature and quality of the audience constitute the total meaning or sense of the drama. Since the drama is a performing art, all the aspects of the drama need to be transformed from the SL to the TL. Clifford E, Landers sums up the problem as follows:

In translating drama, whose very raison d’efre is performance, the translator has unseen collaborators: the actors and the director. Both can make explicit elements that on the printed page might forever remain cryptic. But in order for meaning to journey from paper to spoken word and gesture, the translator must provide the extra textual clues through explanatory notes. As in any other field of literary translation, culture has a leading role. (Landers, 105)

So as a sort of guidance to the translator of drama, David Johnson writes:

[T]he translator as dramaturge must provide, in the sense of making explicit, in the target language text (and, in an ideal world, subsequently through active participation in rehearsal) an array of information which is encoded in the culture-specific frame of reference or the paraverbal elements of the original, so that the final process of reconstitution can take place on stage in as complete a way as possible. (Landers, 105)

Above all these the drama, as it is meant to be performed, must have some topical references in order to make it intelligible to the audience. The audience has no time to pause and ponder over the words of the dialogue to understand its meaning. All the plays of Ibsen or Shaw or Galsworthy abound in topical references. If the translator chooses to translate such a play, how is he to manage those references? Should they be changed to incidents happening in the 21st century? If not, the meaning of the drama may remain obscure.

Another significant point is relating to long preface in the Shavian plays. The preface is meant to be stage direction to be followed by the director or the producer. Even if the translator translates them into the TL, there is no instruction for the acting. So the translation may become incomplete.

The drama, like the novel and poetry is culture specific. Any Greek or Latin drama has at its background the culture of that language speaking people. If such a drama in the SL has reference to any cultural or mythical points of which the TL language speakers are not conversant with it, the translated drama may fail to make any impact on them.

To overcome these difficulties poses a serious problem which is very difficult to surmount on the part of the translator. So Bassnett writes:

A central consideration of the theatre translator must therefore be the performance aspect of the text and its relationship with an audience, and this seems to me not only to justify modifications…of the original text, but to suggest the translator must take into account the function of the text as an element for and of performance. (Bassnett, 132)


From the studies of theorists of translation it apparently emerges that translation of a text from SL to TL is a forbidden act. The translator can never produce an exact replica of a text in one language to another language. Since all literary work, be it a poem or a prose fiction or a drama is a unique work of art and it cannot therefore have an exact counter- part. From this, it does not follow that translation is an unproductive activity. Besides, any literary text apart from its surface meaning has most often a deeper suggestive meaning which may be lost in translation. In such cases, the translator ought to fall back on any single method of translation or may take help of other methodologies like word-to-word, sense-to-sense, adaptation or re-creative methodology. In translation of literary works, near perfection or real perfection is expected. As languages differ no two literary works in two languages can be exactly alike in all respects. A literary work can be looked at from many points of view, each of which might require a different sort of translation. To cite examples, the translation of Swift’s Gullivers Travels or Orwell’s The Animal Farm can be successfully translated into any other language, but in the process of translation there is the possibility of shift of emphasis from the real objective of the text to the allegorical meaning. In either case, however, it cannot be said that such transformations are unproductive.

The translation theorists have formulated the methodology of translation taking into account literary translation i.e. the translation of literary texts. But apart from literary text, a host of other texts such as scientific treatises, advertisement stunts, manuals, legal and commercial documents etc need translation for international understanding. Without translation, therefore, man will become like a frog inside the well with limited knowledge of the world where expansion of human knowledge has no limit. So in spite of the limitations of translation as the theorists point out, widening of the horizon of human knowledge has become the primary function of translation, both literary and otherwise.


1. Point out some of the major problems of translating poetry.

2. Translating poetry is an act of re-creation. Do you agree? Give reasons.

3. What are the major problems of translating prose?

4. How drama differs from poetry and prose fiction? Can there be a successful translation of a drama? Discuss