Functional Theories of Translation

Translation studies have been an argumentative and disputable topic for scholars over the recent years and the amount of theoretical ground of translation has been growing for decades. However, theoretical approach to translation itself has undergone some changes within the period of time since the theory and practice of translation were formulated into a study. The contemporary researchers view translation as the bridge connecting two cultures, two different nations, transferring someone’s thoughts, beliefs and works into the understanding of the others and, in the end, establishing cultural, political and economic relations between the countries in the world. This paper will make an attempt to overview some of the most significant and widely known translation theories, observe the main signs of their interconnection and deduce what impact they have on the modern translation practice.

There are basic and most popular scientific approaches presented by worldwide famous scholars. According to J. A. Naude, it is impossible to produce a translation of high quality avoiding subjectivity and reformulation, keeping the subject of the original at hundred percent authentic. Therefore, the equivalence-based theories neglect sociocultural conditions that should be taken into account in the process of transference from one language into another. Thus, this causes a slight social misunderstanding between the representatives of two cultures. It is perfectly clear that translations never occur in isolation, neglecting such aspects as time and social background, what results in the replacement of prescriptive methodology by the descriptive one. Other scholars, Hatim and Mason, developed an idea that translation conveys the foreign text by  interacting with the reader according to four conversational maxims: quantity of information, truthfulness quality, relevance or consistency of context, and manner or clarity Moreover, they consider the whole text as  the unit of translation. Ernst-August Gutt represents the opposite doctrine, deeming cognitive environment to be the significant part of a successful rendering.

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Naturally, his point of view may be contradicted, but cognitive elements such as knowledge, certain values, and beliefs of the target reader pertain to their understanding of the interpreted text. Thus, the latter aspects need to be taken into consideration by the translator. It is apparent that due to the above-mentioned factors a mediocre reader may not be likely to comprehend a wordiness of the complicated text and be able to evaluate the material even if the target text is absolutely faithful and accurate. Unfortunately, one of the most poignant problems of contemporary translation is the intellectual and cultural gap between the translator and the target audience, which is partly triggered by the lack of interpreters’ skills to simplify their works and make them more approachable for an average reader. Gutt’s theory manifests one of the most important rules of text interpretation, which lies in observance.

Hence, this proves that there should be the emphasis on the process of translation rather than the translation itself. A Chinese scholar Yan Fukang developed a theory, which included faithfulness, that means being true to the original spirit, expressiveness that implies being acceptable to the target reader and elegance that presupposes using the educated language. The scholar claimed his translations to be metaphorical. The repercussions of the manipulative theory he advanced were passed to the newer generations to be manipulated. Another prominent Chinese researcher, Sengrui, investigated the issues in the process of transference from the source language into the target one. He criticized any usual approach to translating names, as the scholar considered it to be disrespectful within the confines of Chinese tradition to link the names to the essences of their holders., Chinese linguist Sengyou prepared a significant amount of material for his descendants. He deemed that translation was the mediator way between elegance and plainness. His works inspired a great many translators, giving them necessary directions in performing their work.  

Therefore, these theories have been regarded as the most influential ones. All of them have certain aspects, formulations and theses in common. Each hypothesis is a unique investigation of the major subtleties of translation. The theories contributed a great deal of the scientific background to the development of theoretical and practical translation studies. The current tendencies are greatly influenced by the shortcomings of the above-mentioned researches as they assist the translator with substantial tips and basically comprise the bottomless theoretical source, without which any interpretation cannot exist. One of the advantages of the current research is the synthesis of the most popular translation theories and their thorough overook; a consistent look at the contemporary theories and the theories conducted decades ago but having a huge impact on current translation tendencies. Moreover, the paper specifically provides some information on Chinese scholars who carried out vital studies for theoretical translation. The paper is limited to certain extent since some valuable resources were not available due to the author’s rights laws. This is why the paper is confined to relatively few theory examples. The paper also doesn’t cover the solution of translation problems since the mentioned theories do not include this aspect.

In conclusion, translation has been of a huge interest for scholars all over the world. Each researcher contributed his/her significant part to the development of theoretical and practical studies. China appeared to be one of the most prolific countries, where many scholars conducted their researches, having enriched world scientific resources. The translation ideas presented by Chinese theorists possess the divergent and even poetic approach to the products of the translator’s work. Subsequently, these theories may be called functional since they are the most dominant nowadays They are manifested in rendering the information from one language to another and determine the essence of contemporary translation. 

This review has set up my interest for translation studies; carrying out this essay I obtained new knowledge about the theory of translation and its theoretical peculiarities in every above mentioned scholar’s work, which gave me the idea of the popularity degree of contemporary translation studies. The research also gave me a profound understanding of the complexity of translation and its sophistication. My work will be a significant contribution to my future researches on translation as I am planning to connect my profession with this very phenomenon. The research got me even more involved into contemporary translation than I had been before since the scientists with the works of whom I got familiar inspired me to work on the topic of translation further and make a deeper investigation of  the problems of contemporary translation in particular.

May 26, 2020 in Informative
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