User:Deepamishra/TY BA Translation Theory and Practice/chapter-IV

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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.

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