Do Translators Exist?

Of course translators exist; if they didn’t, there would be no translation work done at all. However, the jury is still out on what the translator’s role is in the actual translation project—do they play a recognizable part or do they fade into the background? Lawrence Venuti, publisher of the controversial book The Translator’s Invisibility, has argued that too often the translator’s voice isn’t heard in translations. He proposes that translations should retain some elements of the source text and source culture, rather than completely integrating them into the target culture. This way, the translation is still obviously a translation, and the translator doesn’t disappear behind the scenes.


However, most translation theorists disagree with Venuti’s idea, contending that the goal of translation work is actually to completely assimilate the translation into the target language and culture. This is especially true when dealing with business or marketing translations, where the project goal is to convey a message to the target audience in a comfortable and effective way. But when translating literary texts, translations are often so integrated into the target language that it’s easy to forget that they’re translations at all. Is it better to try to maintain some elements of the source in the translation, to remind readers that it is a translated work, or transfer it completely into the target so that they can’t even tell it’s been translated? Translators and theorists are still undecided as they continue to debate about which approach is best. 


JS 11/2012


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