Translation of dramatic texts

It includes tragedy, drama, comedy, farce, cabaret, variety show, sketch, etc. It differs from the previous types of translation. Dialogue is the centre of the text. This text can be read, but the main function of dramatic texts is the performance on the stage, representing combination of acoustic and visual means. The text is for speaking and listening - it must be comprehensible and properly articulated (phonic side). Various elements/facts should be taken into consideration (characterization of the main figures, way of speaking, partners' replies, scene, etc.). Each character has his/her own style, which must be followed and at the same time must focus on the partner.

In fiction and poetry the translator is the only creator. In drama, it is not only the translator who has the last word in this process. A translated text is frequently changed or modernized by the producer, the director, or even the actor. It is short-lived, and any new performance almost always demands a new translation, or at least some amendments in the text, in accordance with current tendencies towards an informal way of speech. (Compare the translations of Hamlet).

There are even more problems with drama in verse (additional problems of rhythm and rhyme) and vocal musical compositions such as opera, musicals, etc., (problems of music and words, rhythm). Here, as well as in some humoristic works/prose, an adaptation is frequently used.

Specific problems occur and should be taken into consideration for example in literature for young people and children (psychological and mental qualities must be taken into consideration), films (problems of subtitles, movements of speech organs and sounds), etc.


The task of a translator of literary texts is the reproduction of a text in another language in such a way as to preserve its aesthetic character and influence (effect) on the reader. The most important fact of translation is that the text is literary, i.e. with a dominant aesthetic function expressed by certain language means and written in a certain style. It means that more attention should be paid to syntactic questions and style. In literary texts we can also find the informative function, but the author is focused on the expression of certain ideas and feelings preferring more expressive means, variations and originality; thus the objective reality is transformed in agreement with the aesthetic and emotional intentions of the author. Literary text (work) is first of all a collection of aesthetic values, i.e. it is more focused on the message than on the content. It is a reflection of a certain objective reality but at the same time it is the artistic elaboration of the reality (socio-cultural context). Here, associations (connotations) play a more important role than in other types of texts. (See Ch 4.1)

Literary text (prose fiction, poetry, drama) must be approached as a work of art and not only as an expression of language. Relevance of information should be understood very broadly (including dictionary meaning, connotation and stylistic value). Aesthetic values, connotation and style are in the foreground and sound quality may also play an important role. For these reasons the translation of these texts, in comparison with others, is more creative.



Suggestions for further reading

Ferenčk 1983, Gromová 2003, Hochel 1990, Munday 2005 (2001), Newmark 1998, Popovič et al. 1983, Vilikovský 1984, Zambor 2000

6 Problem-restricted translation studies


In Slovak/English as well as in other languages any translation is faced with specific individual problems of culture specific expressions connected with naming extra linguistic reality (social and cultural context) and use of language, for example in translation of geographical varieties of English (British and American), non-standard expressions (regional and social dialects), foreign expression, idioms, metaphors, names (proper names, names of institutions, geographical names), puns, abbreviations, onomatopoeic words, etc. The translator should realize also the fact that in some texts, there may be problems with differences in time. Some present- day archaisms were not felt as old fashioned (archaic) in the older works (contrary to current language use), and on the other hand, there are may be problems with expressions felt in the original text as "neologisms". Among other culture specific Slovak/English problems should be mentioned also the translation of "tykanie, vykanie" ("to be on the first name terms"), which is connected with the overall approach to text, often depending on the individual translator.

While some of these problems occur only/mostly in literary and/or journalistic texts (e.g., idioms, metaphors, local dialects), others may occur in all texts (e.g. names, abbreviations, etc.). Most of the individual problems will be discussed in concrete tasks and exercise in the seminars (See Section II: Tasks and exercises, Ch. 6). Here we will mention only some of them, for illustration.

6.1 Translation of non-standard elements

Non-standard language elements (regional dialects, slang, etc) are used in the texts to create atmosphere, allusion, and characterization of the characters/figures. On the one hand, it is necessary to evoke the atmosphere, reproduce stylistic features, etc., i.e. the facts that are connected with the original language and culture. On the other hand, the approach to dialects is different in different languages/language communities and may complicate the problem of translation (cf. English and Slovak city dialects, etc - positive/negative). Regional dialects are unique, and using for example a specific, concrete Slovak dialect would be disturbing, because it is closely connected with a particular region, it evokes certain associations (which would disturb the original message/intention). In the past the idea was to translate/substitute the original text by geographically similar dialect (some scholars call it rustification, i.e. the choice of a TL similar dialect), e.g. in the translation of Wuthering Heights, Bukvová-Daxnerová used the Gemer dialect (see Tasks and exercise). Current approaches are against the use of a specific dialect in translation; although it is not a universal rule, the tendency is the use of neutral vocabulary enriched by spoken (informal, non-standard individual dialectal) elements which are applied to evoke the atmosphere, i.e. the whole text should not be translated into a particular dialect. The aim is just to create a system of means which suggests the desired stylistic connotation.

Translation of words of foreign origin used by some of the characters in literary works is less complicated. The expressions usually serve to describe the character. It is advisable to imply the TL neutral vocabulary with a few foreign words or expressions to preserve the markedness characterizing the characters. See Tasks and exercise.


Suggestions for further reading

Newmark 1998 (1988), Popovič et al., 1983, Vilikovský 1984

6.2 Translation of idioms and metaphors

Idioms (and metaphors) are used in the text as one of the language (usually stylistic) means, along with other means. Idioms may occur in the text as variants, as non-institutionalized variations, stylistic manipulations (See Kvetko 2006, 2004). The translators are thus faced with the problem of their identification (in the source language text), finding out their function in the particular text and finding their adequate functional equivalent in the target language. The translational (functional) equivalent of idioms is not necessarily identical with the "systemic" equivalent found in dictionaries. The character of the text, translator's competence, his/her interpretation of the text, the principles and traditions of translation and readership influence it. From the systemic (contrastive) point of view, not all English idioms have their Slovak idiomatic equivalents and vice versa, that is, other means should be used. A translational equivalent may be an idiom, a synonymous word/word group, metaphoric expression or, rarely, description. Preference is given to idioms. The idiomatic equivalent may be "absolute" (having literally corresponding components: black sheep - čierna ovca), similar (having the same imagery with some different, though related components: give the green light - da zelenu ), or "relative" (functional, having different imagery and components: take French leave - zmiznut'po anglicky), and partially different equivalents (having different imagery but some common components: the last straw - posledná kvapka) (See Kvetko 2006). The condition is the same or very close meaning and the aim is to create a similar stylistic effect in the TL. Absence of the idiomatic translational equivalent needs not be necessarily a negative fact when it is substituted (compensated) by some other language means. Translational equivalents are frequently the result (consequence) of the functional shifts based on the principle of the loss and compensation by other means. (See also Ch. 2 and 3). In general similar principles can be applied also for the translation of metaphors. (For further details see Newmark 1998).


Suggestions for further reading

Baker 1982, Kvetko 2006, Kvetko 2004, Newmark 1998

6.3 Translation of names

Names belong to the most specific parts of the original text since they represent the most typical side of particular culture, for this reason, the original names are used, they are just accommodated to Slovak norms and conventions (ing grammar, spelling, etc, for example Mrs. Brown - pani Brownová, pani Brownovej...). Sometimes the names may be fully or partially substituted/translated, esp. in humoristic, dramatic works (comedies), fairy tales, allegories, children's stories, etc., where they suggest the typical features of the characters (see for example B. Hečko: Zvonodrozdovo). Similarly some traditional/historical names or abbreviations are translated/substituted (Louis - Ludovit, London - Londýn, UNO - OSN, etc). For example: But the lives Edward examined in detail - Caesar, Charlemagne, Frederick the Second, Catherine the Great, Nelson, Napoleon (Stalin he dropped, at his tutor's insistence) - rather suggested the contrary. (I. McEwan) - Lenže životy I'udi, ktor Edward podrobn skmal - Czara, Karola Vel'kho, Fridricha Druhho, Katariny Velkej, Nelsona a Napoleona (na učitelovo naliehanie vynechal Stalina) - svdčili skr o opaku. (K.Karovičová)

Suggestions for further reading

Hečko 1991, Newmark 1998, Vilikovský 1984

6.4 Translation of puns

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (7th ed.) characterizes puns as the clever or humorous use of a word that has more than one meaning, or of words that have different meanings but sound the same. In general we an say that if the only aim of the pun is to make people laugh it can be compensated by a different (associated) expression in the TT (TL). In many cases the puns are sacrificed. When the meanings of the pun are important in an illustration or a language slip it may be transferred (and usually explained or reproduced). See Section II (Tasks and exercises)

Suggestions for further reading

Hečko 1991, Newmark 1998

7 Applied translation studies

Applied translation studies includes translation aids (dictionaries and other reference books), translation criticism, translation pedagogy and translation policy (editorial aspect and sociology). Here we will deal mostly with dictionaries, with some brief notes on machine translation tools and criticism.

7.1 Dictionaries

Dictionaries are the traditional and most frequently used aids by translators in their work. Though some scholars say that translation begins where the dictionary ends, the translator should know the advantages and limitations of the dictionary he/she uses. Among the main issues are those connected with the choice of headwords (number of entries), the arrangement and contents of the entry, explanations/equivalents, the balance between lexical and encyclopaedic information.

Organization and structure

The usual structure of a dictionary is as follows: preface, guide to the use of the dictionary, key to pronunciation, abbreviations and symbols, list of words (the dictionary proper) and supplements.

Dictionaries are organized into entries. The entry of a linguistic dictionary, as a rule, contains the headword with information about pronunciation, grammar, stylistic and geographical features, meaning/equivalents with examples of usage in context, collocations, phrasal verbs, idioms, derivatives (run-off entries), synonyms, sometimes etymology, and other information. The presence of particular information depends on the size and the aim of the dictionary.

The arrangement of individual parts of the entry in different dictionaries may differ. The most important part - the meanings (definitions), equivalents - may be ordered historically, i.e. the earliest meaning first, or with the most frequent or current meaning first (e.g. learner's dictionaries). Derivatives, phrasal verbs and idioms may be listed as separate entries or at the end of a particular entry. Some dictionaries use the International Phonetic Transcription, others not. In some dictionaries etymologies are at the end of the entry or placed after the labels of use, or not at all, etc.

Types of dictionaries

Dictionaries differ mainly (1) in their aims and range and (2) in the types of definition/equivalent. The choice of one or another dictionary is best based on one's particular purpose conditioned by the needs of the user. Dictionaries are classified in various ways according to their range, purpose, perspective, presentation, etc.

Words are usually arranged alphabetically. However, some dictionaries, such as thesauruses and pictorial dictionaries, group words non-alphabetically. i.e. according to a subject or a broad concept (semantic field, logical classification - conceptual or thematic dictionaries, e.g.: Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases', The Oxford-Duden Pictorial English Dictionary.

Dictionaries vary in size (range), format, and the depth of information. We can speak of large (e.g.: The New Oxford Dictionary of English; The Random House Dictionary of the English Language), medium-sized (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) and small dictionaries (Oxford Wordpower Dictionary). In the American tradition dictionaries are divided into: unabridged (400,000 - 600,000 entries), semi-abridged (200,000 - 350,000 entries), college (130,000 - 160,000 entries), desk (60,000 - 100,000 entries), and pocket dictionaries (40,000 - 60,000 entries) (See Jackson 1988). The claims about the size of dictionaries, however, should be taken with caution, as different dictionaries stress different features (different word classes, homonyms, compounds, etc.).

Some dictionaries contain comprehensive (encyclopaedic) information about things, people, concepts, historical events, places, etc. These are known as encyclopaedic dictionaries - encyclopaedias (e.g.: The Encyclopaedia Britannica). Other dictionaries give linguistic/lexical information about meaning, pronunciation, grammatical status, etc. These are called linguistic dictionaries. Linguistic dictionaries may focus on one or more languages - explanatory or monolingual dictionaries, are in contrast to translation or bilingual and multilingual dictionaries. Monolingual dictionaries presenting lists of terms and their definitions are called glossaries.

Bilingual dictionaries are supposed to meet different requirements and are not equivalent to monolingual dictionaries. They have a different arrangement of material. They supply the user with additional information on corresponding equivalents in the particular language, indicating for example the difference between the semantic structures of words in the two languages.

Linguistic dictionaries may also be divided into general-purpose and specialized dictionaries. General-purpose dictionaries provide a wide range of general linguistic information about words. Specialized (special-purpose) dictionaries are interested only in one particular part or aspect of vocabulary and provide more detailed special information about it than general-purpose dictionaries. They may be focused also on the sphere (field) and object of human activity in which the words are used.

Lately, a general distinction is made also between printed/print dictionaries and electronic dictionaries (CD-ROM and on-line dictionaries), which save space and are quicker to use. (See also 7.2 Machine translation)

Dictionaries of English

Among the best known general-purpose dictionaries, published in Great Britain, can be mentioned: The Oxford English Dictionary; Chambers Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary, Longman Dictionary of the English Language, in the USA: The American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary of the English Language; The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, World Book Dictionary, etc. All these dictionaries, and many others, continue to appear in new or completely revised, abridged or unabridged editions, e.g.: The Shorter Oxford Dictionary; The New Oxford Dictionary of English; The Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary; Webster's New World College Dictionary; The Random House Webster's College Dictionary; Webster's New World College Dictionary; Encarta Webster's Dictionary of English... etc. Many of the dictionaries are available also on single compact disks (CD-ROM).

Among specialized dictionaries interested in one particular part or aspect of vocabulary useful for translators can be mentioned, for example

Dictionaries of Idioms and collocations:

Allen, R.: Allen's Dictionary of English Phrases; Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, Collins Cobuild Dictionary of Idioms; Longman Idioms Dictionary, Makkai, A. - Boatner, M. T. - Gates, J. A.: A Dictionary of American Idioms; Oxford Idioms Dictionary for Learners of English; Spears, R. A.: NTC's American Idioms Dictionary; The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English Language (eds. M. Benson - E. Benson - E. Ilson), Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Foreign Students, etc.

Dictionaries of slang:

Partridge, E.: A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English; Wentworth, H.- Flexner, S. B.: A Dictionary of American Slang; Aito - Simpson: The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang; Green, J.: The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang; New Dictionary of American Slang (ed. R. Chapman,); Spears, R. A.: Slang American Style, etc.

Dictionaries of geographical varieties and dialects:

Dictionary of American Regional English (ed. F. G. Cassidy); The Australian National Dictionary (ed. W. S. Ramson); Moss, N.: British-American Dictionary; Allsop, R.: The Dictionary of Caribbean English usage; A Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principals; The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (ed. K. Barber), etc.

Dictionaries of synonyms;

Webster's New Dictionary of Synonyms; The New Oxford Thesaurus of English; The Penguin Modern Guide to Synonyms and Related Words; Chambers Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms, etc.

Very useful dictionaries are those specialized ones focused on the sphere and object of human activity in which the words are used - special field/ subject dictionaries, for example the so-called cultural dictionaries:

Longman Dictionary of Language and Culture; Hirsh, E. D. - Kett, J. F. - Trefil, J.: The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

Especially useful are dictionaries dealing with business, agriculture, marketing, computing, and other specialized fields, e.g. Adam, J. H.: Longman Dictionary of Business English; Peter Collins Specialist Dictionaries: Dictionary of Agriculture, Dictionary of Computing, Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, etc.

Similar to general-purpose dictionaries but focusing more on the needs of special group of users - non-native speakers (foreign learners) of English are learner's dictionaries, e.g.: Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary; Longman Exams Dictionary; Collins Cobuild English Dictionary for Advanced Learners; Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary; Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners; Longman Language Activator, etc.

Present-day/newer dictionaries are based on large corpora, some of which contain as many as 600 million words, such as Bank of English, Cambridge International Corpus, Longman Corpus Network, British National Corpus, World English Corpus, Brown Corpus, and others. See also Machine translation, Ch. 7.2

Slovak dictionaries of English

At present Slovak users have at their disposal the following medium-sized and small bilingual general-purpose dictionaries of different quality, for example: Fronek, J. - Mokrá, P.: Anglicko-slovenský slovnk s najnovšimi výrazmi, Barac et al.: Anglicko-slovenský slovnk; Barac et al.: Slovensko-anglický slovnk, Šimko, J.: Anglicko-slovenský slovnk (several editions); Rusznák. E.: Slovensko-anglický a anglicko-slovenský prekladový slovnk; Drábik - English - Zambory: Anglicko- slovenský a slovensko-anglický slovnk; and many other smaller dictionaries have been published in several editions.

Among specialized dictionaries can be mentioned:

Bártová, E. et al.: Anglicko-slovenskýpdohospodársky slovnk; Bočková, V. et al.: Anglicko-slovenský ekonomický slovnk; Kol.: Technický prekladový slovnk anglicko-slovenský; Kvetko, P.: Anglicko-slovenský frazeologický slovnk, Kvetko, P.: Slovensko-anglický frazeologický slovnk; Fronek - Mokrá: Slovensko-anglický frazeologický slovnk / Slovak-English Dictionary of Idioms; Langová, T.: Slovensko-anglický slovnk medicny; Langová, T.: Anglicko-slovenský slovnk medicny; Chorvátová, I. - Mokrá, P.: Právnický slovnk: Anglicko-slovenský a slovensko-anglický; Šaturová-Spová, M.: Anglick skratky, and many other dictionaries of different size and quality, covering different spheres of life and fields of science and technology.


Suggestions for further reading:

Blatná-Čermák 1993, Jackson 2002, Kvetko 2005, Landau 1995


7.2 Machine translation aids

The term Machine Translation (MT) means the use of computers in translation from one language to another. It is usually divided into two basic types: unassisted machine translation and assisted machine translation. Unassisted machine translation (called also Fully Automatic High Quality Translation - FAHQT) is a translation created solely by a computer. Assisted machine translation uses both a human translator and a computer. It may be subdivided into Computer Aided Translation (CAT), when a translator uses machine help, and Human Aided Machine Translation (HAMT), when a machine uses human help.

Computer-assisted translation (CAT), also called computer-aided translation, is a form of translation where a human translator creates a target text with the assistance of a computer program, i.e., the machine supports the translator. Computer-assisted translation is a term covering a range of tools, from the fairly simple to the more complicated, such as: spell checkers, grammar checkers, terminology managers (allowing the translator to manage his own terminology bank in an electronic form), dictionaries on CD-ROM, terminology databases (either on CD-ROM or accessible through the Internet), full-text searches (of translated texts or reference documents of various kinds), concordances, bitexts (merging a source text and its translation), databases of text segments in a source language and their translations in one or more target languages (Translation Memory Managers, TMM), etc.

Electronic dictionaries are available in several forms: as software that can be installed in the computer; as CD-ROMs and through the Internet, which gives us access to a variety of monolingual and bilingual dictionaries in many languages (although it is sometimes necessary to become on-line subscribers). On-line dictionaries organize material from their corpus because they are not simply a collection of words in isolation. That is to say, they allow immediate cross-access to information. The advantages of electronic dictionaries are that it takes far less time for there is immediate access to related data through links, and it is possible to use several dictionaries simultaneously by working with multiple documents.

Computer concordances provide a list of all the occurrences of a word/expression within a defined corpus. They provide statistical data about the number of words in terms of frequency, and identify the exact context in which the words occur.

Among numerous software programmes available on the market at present, and useful programmes for translators, can be mentioned: Trados, Djá Vu X Wordfast, WordFisher, and others.

The use of translation machine tools and software improves the translation process considerably. Machine translation can help to save time but it requires a pre- editing and a post-editing phase. It usually provides "draft" translations of documents. In general, computers may be relatively successfully used for translating in technical texts dealing with a narrow topic in a relatively monotonous style for example, but fail when applied to literary works.


Suggestions for further reading:

Hrehovčk 2006, Hutchins - Somers 1992, Internet

7.3 Translation and criticism

According to Newmark (1998) translation criticism includes: analysis of the source language (stressing its intention and functional aspect); the translator's interpretation of the source language text (purpose, methods and likely readership); selective and representative detailed comparison of the translation with the original; evaluation in the translator's terms and in the critics' terms; assessment of the likely place in the target language culture.

In evaluation/judging we should make a distinction between the errors relating to the source language and the errors related to the target language; between functional errors and absolute errors (cultural and language); between systematic (recurrent) errors and random (isolated) errors. We should also take into consideration whether the error influences the text as a whole, the coherence and cohesion of the target text, the degree of deviation from the source text or the communicative level of the target text.

In UK the following criteria are applied for assessing translations: (a) accuracy: the correct transfer of information and evidence of complete comprehension; (2) the appropriate choice of vocabulary, idiom, terminology and register; (3) cohesion, coherence and organization; (4) accuracy in technical aspects of punctuation, etc. (Munday 2005)

Suggestions for further reading:

Gromová 2003, Hochel 1990, Hrehovčk 2006, Munday 2005, Newmark 1998

Section ii.

Tasks and exercises

1 Translation and translation studies

1.1 Translation studies

Talking points

1. Characterize different approaches to translation and explain the difference: linguistic approach, descriptive approach, functional approach, cultural approach and integrated approach.

2. Discuss the relation of translation studies to: applied linguistics, literary studies, socio-cultural and area studies, psychology, sociology...

3. Explain the terms: medium-restricted, area-restricted, rank-restricted, text-restricted, time-restricted, and problem-restricted translation studies.

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