The translation of children’s literature: culturally-bound words and expressions in the light of skopos theory | Статья в журнале «Филология и лингвистика»

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Рубрика: Вопросы переводоведения

Опубликовано в Филология и лингвистика №2 (8) май 2018 г.

Дата публикации: 10.04.2018

Статья просмотрена: 34 раза

Библиографическое описание:

Габдуллина З. Е., Кусаинова Г. М. The translation of children’s literature: culturally-bound words and expressions in the light of skopos theory // Филология и лингвистика. — 2018. — №2. — С. 38-41. — URL https://moluch.ru/th/6/archive/89/3263/ (дата обращения: 23.10.2019).



Nowadays it is a common practice to describe the role of the translator as a mediator who establishes a “dialogue” between the source text and its target readers. Nowhere else is the mediating role of the translator so strongly felt as in translation of children's literature. This is due to the fact that for children who do not master foreign languages translations are viewed as a bridge of entering into genuine contact with foreign literatures and foreign cultures. Nevertheless, every book written for children includes a number of translation challenges among which cultural interference appears as the most crucial. With regard to this, some chapters from the contemporary children’s novel Awful Auntie has been translated with an aim to shed light on the cultural differences when translating children’s literature from English into Russian. The translation is performed in the light of Hans Vermeer’s skopos theory, and the commentary assess to what extent the principles of the skopos paradigm has been successfully applied to the translation of the chosen chapters.

Key words: translation, children’s literature, skopos theory, culturally-bound words.

The children’s novel Awful Auntie written by the famous English comedian and author David Walliams is probably one of the most popular children’s books in the UK. Published in 2014 the book has become the UK’s bestseller, while its author was declared as the new Roald Dahl — the British iconic children’s author whose writings include the famous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the equally well known BFG. As well as the Dahl’s literature masterpieces, Awful Auntie received much critical acclaim and was met with high marks from the reviewers [1].

Nowadays David Walliams’ place within the British children’s literature is in the front rank. His books gained enormous success among children as well as reached a wide audience among the adults. Awful Auntie is the seventh book by Walliams, and as another children’s author Philip Ardagh [2] admits his “best book yet”. Awful Auntie presents a story of Stella Saxby, a teenage girl whose parents were killed in a car accident and whose dreadful aunt Alberta is plotting to trick her out of her inheritance. After Lord and Lady Saxby die, Alberta and her Bavarian Mountain owl named Wagner launch a plan to stop Stella at nothing to get the family home, Saxby Hall, from her. Other characters featured in the present novel are Soot — the cockney ghost of a chimney sweep helping Stella to expose her aunt’s plot and fight back, and the “ancient” butler Gibbon — one of the most eccentric among all the Walliams’ characters that brings to the novel an additional vein of humor. Firstly using a ghost as one of the main characters of the story, Walliams has successfully created the quite spooky novel savored with his audacious sense of humor. Such a decision was warmly welcomed by the target audience, the children of 12–13 years old, and the book immediately became a bestseller. Six million copies sold only in the UK show the author’s success and the recognition from the public [3]. Here it worth mentioning that the clear author’s style became a guarantee of Walliams’ reputable place in the contemporary British literature. His extraordinary characters, the particular way of writing, great illustrations and the wacky humor became the writer’s calling card. As a result, Walliams’ books are easy to read, and as Sue Townsend [4] fairly admits “give you another insight into Walliams; you realise that he is on the side of children”. Indeed, the author’s writing creativity reflects the language that children speak and the culture they grow up in. Therefore, the Walliams’ books are replete with culturally bound expressions, slang and made-up words. The novel under the present analysis constitutes no separate exception. All the features mentioned previously form the basis of Awful Auntie which in its turn presents a particular interest for a translator.

Before examining the challenges behind the process of translating Awful Auntie, firstly it is important to present a detailed description of the subject matter, i.e. the main patterns of translating for children. Children’s literature has always been considered as the subject of the tremendous translation activity [5, pp. 14–25]. Nevertheless, for the present moment the debates about its translatability have become more frequent and widespread. As O’Connel [5, pp.14–25] states this is due to the fact that children’s literature still remains largely ignored both in translation research and training. In another line of investigation into children’s literature, Stolt [6, pp.67–83], as well as Thomson-Wolgemuth [7], make a similar assertion by saying that in the theoretical works in this subject one hardly finds anything relevant. As a result, nowadays translating for children is increasingly recognized as a literary challenge in its own right. However, the reason lies not only in the fact that the research on children’s literature translation is still in its formative stages. The reason is that there are a lot of specific translation problems which require a special kind of attention by a translator. For example Spink [8, pp.16] states, when we embark on translating for children we have to go through several steps which include cultural, intellectual, emotional, social, moral and those concerning children’s personality and world knowledge. Moreover, if we accept the fact that children’s literature is a separate genre in its own right, then we must acknowledge that it requires an imaginative and creative translator who is always aware how special the audience is. Therefore, unlike the translator for adults, the translator of children’s literature must define the characteristic features of the target audience: their knowledge, level of experience, stage of emotional development and the ability to adapt and learn new information. This is because “children’s literature is based on the idea that there is a child who is simply there to be addressed and that speaking to it must be simple” [9, pp.1]. This idea underlines the main difference between adult and children’s literature, which resolves itself in the target reader. Apart from what has been stated above, one more important feature of children’s literature must not be ignored. Any text translated for children should accord with the established standards of social formality in the specific culture which in most cases poses the greatest difficulty for the translator. The reason is that he/she must constantly consider how far the target recipients can acquire the experience of the foreign cultures and other unknown facts. This struggle between keeping most of the original sense and regard for the intended readers is a fundamental concern in the context of children’s literature. Moreover, it is one of the greatest obstacles in the process of creating a high quality translation.

From what have already been written above, it could be concluded that the process of children’s literature translation is tightly interwoven with the requirements of the target audience. This means that while translating for children the translator has a specific goal or skopos which is to move in the direction of children’s needs for the sake of producing a translation that considers the sensitivity and vulnerability of the taste of the target readers [10]. In other words, in terms of children’s literature skopos theory places the child to the centre of the translation process. In order to understand this argument that leads us to Hans J. Vermeer’s translation theory, firstly it is necessary to reveal the idea behind skopos paradigm. Skopos paradigm or skopos theory was firstly introduced by the German scholar Katharina Reiss, and later in 1978 Hans J. Vermeer formulated it as the skopos rule. This approach to translation stresses the importance of the function of the translation, and as Askari et al. [10] admits “scrutinizing the real and exact function of the target translation is the sole and mere aim of skopos paradigm in general”. In other words, under skopos theory the source text is no more sacred, i.e. the priority is given to the target text and its recipients. Therefore, in the context of the children’s literature, skopos theory focuses on achild as a reader. Within the boundaries of skopos theory the translator is given freedom to decide what principles will constitute his/her translation approach. This emphasizes the role of the translator as the creator of the target text whose “final translation product is a text which has the ability to function appropriately in specific situations and context of use” [11, pp.3]. Therefore, skopos theory states that in order to make the translation work in the target culture, it is important to analyse the target readers’ requirements. As it follows, the role of the translator involves more than just transferring a text from one language into another. This idea moved skopos theory to a higher linguistic level towards the communicative purpose of translation which assumes target-cultural environment or intercultural communication. To confirm this Vermeer [12, pp.109] highlights that “the translation must make sense within its communicative situation and culture”. In this way, the requirements of the target readers should be achieved and the communication between different cultural domains should be established. Therefore, it becomes clear that in the context of skopos theory translation is regarded as “a cultural product” and the process of translation as “a culture-sensitive procedure” [12, pp. 10]. Thus, skopos theory views translation as the process of intercultural communication which is particularly important while translating such a novel as Awful Auntie.

While translating Awful Auntie culturally-bound words appeared to be especially problematic. The first culturally embedded expression is Tiddlywinks which can be found in chapter three ABeastly Child. The word Tiddlywinks as it is explained in Awful Auntie stands for “…a very popular game at the time played with a pot and different sized discs or “winks” [13, pp. 47]. It is interesting to note that the explanation of this word is given by the writer himself, just after the first mention of it. This indicates that the author considers this word problematic even for British children’s understanding. On the other hand, in Walliams’ definition it is mentioned that the game was popular “at the time”. As the book describes events that take place in the early 1930s, the writer’s explanation is well founded. There is a strong possibility that the provided definition makes the author sure that the word Tiddlywinks will not distract children from the reading process as there is no need to search the definition in the dictionary. As we can see, the writer tries to present the term in the most understandable way for his readers. Therefore, the same should be done in the Russian translation. However, when we embarked on the translation of Tiddlywinks we came to the conclusion that the additional information provided by the writer does not make the meaning of this word apparent. The reason is that the definition explains only the game rules, but the word itself remains unrevealed. In terms of how to deal with this word in translation, there appeared two possible options. The first was simply to transliterate the word from the English alphabet into Russian and provide the descriptive definition as the writer did. However, this simple automatic process carries a risk to produce a sense of foreignness in the target culture because it does not fully express the internal semantic scope of the term. Moreover, such a description could be considered useful, but not necessarily by all the readers. The second option, therefore, was to find the closest counterpart with which the Russian readers would be familiar. Thus, to make our translation function in the target culture we used the name of the Russian game called Игра в Блошки as the equivalent for Tiddlywinks. This option was chosen not at random, but has some reasons behind it. Firstly, as my own research showed, both the games represent a kind of indoor game which have the same rules and exactly the same playing equipment. Therefore, as the Russian equivalent exists it was decided to choose the second possible option. We posit that such a decision helps to avoid misunderstanding caused by a concept that makes no sense in the target culture and emphasizes the role of the child as the reader. Moreover, this gives the priority to the purpose of producing a target text that is easy to understand and read by its recipients. In support of our position Vermeer and Reiss (1984:4) state that “skopos requires equivalence of functions between the source and target texts”. For another thing, the second option was chosen because it allows the use of the existing Russian equivalents associated with the game Игра в Блошки while translating the rules of Tiddlywinks. For example, such words as wink and squidger which have no direct equivalences in the Russian language were translated as блошки and фишка, i.e. with the help of the words that are used to describe the playing equipment in the Russian game. Thus, the decisions applied in both these cases were determined by the skopos of the present translation. As the result, the terms that appeared as a translation challenge express exactly the same meaning as they do in the original text. In this cases equivalence may be one possible aim in the translational action that allows to be coherent with the target readers. One more issue that should be mentioned here is that some information from the original text was omitted. For example, in the sentence ‘One Christmas, Chester bought his big sister The Tiddlywinks Rulebook by Professor T. Wink’ [13, pp.51] the words ‘by Professor T. Wink’ were intentionally omitted in the target text. It was decided that the presence of them indicate a kind of explanation which cannot be provided due to the translation decision above. Moreover, if to leave these words the translated sentence would sound weird as there is no connection between the Russian game and Professor T. Wink. As skopos theory allows to judge which information to add or omit from the source text the translation decision in this particular case is considered as the appropriate one.

To return again to the problem of cultural interference there were several points which appeared as the biggest challenge to process for the readers with a different cultural background. Under these translational challenges we united the translation of slang and idiomatic expressions which would not be recognizable to a non-specialist Russian reader. The first example that falls under these challenges is the idiomatic expression for donkey’s years. This British informal phrase is used when meaning “a very long time” [14]. It should be emphasized that in the source text the idiom appears in two forms as for donkey’s ears and for donkey’s years. The extensive definition of these expressions taken from the Oxford English Dictionary says that they both have exactly the same meaning. However, the former is used occasionally as “a punning allusion to the length of the donkey’s ears and to the vulgar pronunciation of ears as years” [15]. This definition explains the appearance of donkey’s ears in the text as the character who used this idiom in his speech is a cockney. Cockney dialect that “traditionally refers to the speech of those born within the sound of Bow Bells that is in the City of London” [17] also appears as an indication of a working-class society. Due to their social background the representatives of such a society use their own vocabulary and grammar which usually differ from those used by the upper-class. Therefore, the character rephrased the idiom when talking to Stella [14, pp. 144] as his speech contradicts the upper class speech patterns. In terms of translation, the challenge was to show this difference to the target audience and, what is more important, to present the idiom in a way understandable for the readers. With an aim to correspond to the purpose of our translation it was decided that the idiom should be domesticated as this allows to translate “in a transparent, fluent, invisible style in order to minimize the foreignness of the target text” [12]. Due to the complex nature of idiomatic expressions in general, domestication is viewed as the best and the easiest way to convey exactly the same or rough meaning of the expression. What the translator needs is to find an idiom with a similar meaning in the target language. This strategy was used while translating donkey’s years. The closest Russian equivalent that we have found was со времен Царя Гороха. In spite the differences in the lexical items the Russian idiom conveys the same meaning which makes possible to suggest that the chosen strategy offered the ideal translation solution. Moreover, the Russian idiom is often used in children’s fairy tales where Царь Горох (literally the King Pea) appears as a funny character. Therefore, it is assumed that the translation would meet the requirements of the target audience since they are familiar with the image the target text produces. As to the indication of the differences between the cockney dialect and the upper class speech it should be said that in this particular case we simply emphasized that Stella did not understand what Soot was talking about. In this way, in the target translation Soot explains what the donkey’s years means:

Со времен Царя Гороха. То есть целую вечность.

— Since the time of the King Pea. That means for ages.

The present commentary has outlined several of the numerous examples of culturally marked words and expressions that were revealed during the process of translation. What the commentary has shown is that if the aim of the translation is to adjust the source text to the target readers’ requirements, then cultural elements must be interpreted in a way that corresponds to the readers’ cultural values and beliefs. As skopos theory is target-oriented and allows to recreate the source text to the children’s needs, then it is regarded as a successful approach in translation of children’s literature. The commentary has demonstrated that while translating culturally–bound words and expressions the easiest way to transfer them is to find the closest equivalent in the target culture. In most the cases equivalence is more successful than other strategies as it allows to use those expressions and words that the target readers are familiar with. Nevertheless, the freedom of the translator’s decisions within skopos theory makes it possible to expand the boundaries of an accurate translation and choose the strategy that better suits its goal. In this way, the translator could modify the source text and make it appropriate with the norms and values of the culture of the target readers. Here it must be acknowledged that in the process of translating for children it is particularly important for the translator to have a strong bicultural vision. In line with the advantages that skopos theory presents the thorough bicultural vision of the translator will help to be coherent with the target readers as much as possible.

References:

  1. Hill, Susan. (2014, 16 May). ‘Spectator books of the Year: Susan Hill on David Walliams’. Spectator. Available at http://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/11/books-of-the-year-15/ (accessed 25 August 2016)
  2. Ardagh, Philip. (2014, 25 September). ‘Awful Auntie Review — David Walliams Best Book Yet’, The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/25/awful-auntie-david-walliams-review-childrens-book (accessed 3 September 2016)
  3. A’Court, Michelle (2015, 16 May). ‘Awful Auntie: David Walliams’, Auckland Writers Festival. Available at https://vimeo.com/131163315 (accessed 3 September 2016)
  4. Townsend, Sue. (2012, 16 March). ‘Sue Towsend on David Walliams’. The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/16/happy-birthday-childrens-books-site
  5. O’Connel, Eithne. 2006. Translating for Children in Lathey. G. (ed.) The Translation of Children’s Literature: A Reader (Toronto: Multilingual Matters), pp.14–25
  6. Stolt, Birgit. 2006. ‘How Emil Becomes Michel On the Translation of Children's Books”, in Lathey, G. (ed.) The Translation of Children’s Literature: A Reader, (Clevedon: Multilingual Matters), pp. 67–83
  7. Thomson-Wolgemuth, Gaby. 2009. Translation under State Control. Books for Young People in the German Democratic Republic (New York and London: Routledge)
  8. Spink, John. 1990. ‘Children as Readers: A Study’, in Oittinen, Rita. Translating for Children. (New York & London: Garland Publishing Inc. Rascua Febles), p.16
  9. Rose, Jaquilene. 1974. The Case of Peter Pan: Or, the Impossibility of Children’s Fiction. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), p. 1
  10. Askari, Mojtaba, Akbari, Alireza, and Amiryousefi, Mohammad. 2015. ‘Translating Children’s Literature: Keeping Functions in Translator’s Possible Interpretations’, in Elixir Ling. & Trans. 83 (Iran: University of Isfahan), pp.33193–33196
  11. Schaffner, Christina. 1998. ‘Action (Theory of Translational Action)’, in Baker Mona (ed.) Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. (London: Routledge)
  12. Vermeer, Hans. 1994. ‘Translation Today: Old and New Problems’, in, Snell-Hornby, Mary, Franz Pöchhacker and Klaus Kaindl (ed.) Translation Studies: An Interdiscipline (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins), p.10
  13. Walliams, D. 2014. Awful Auntie (Harper Collins Publishers)
  14. Cambridge Dictionary Online. Available at http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/workhouse (accessed 3 September 2016)
  15. Oxford English Dictionary. Available at
  16. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/gnash (accessed 25 August 2016)
  17. Minsheu, John. 1617. Ductor in Linguas. Edited by Schäfer, Jürgen. (Delmar: Scholars Facsimiles and Reprint, 1978)
Основные термины (генерируются автоматически): BFG, время Царя Гороха.

Ключевые слова

translation, children’s literature, skopos theory, culturally-bound words

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