Saturday, January 16, 2010

Translation : Art or Science

Since time immemorial, human beings have yearned for knowledge. Inventions of fire by flinting two stones and then of wheel, were the most revolutionary inventions of history. These inventions led human beings settle down in a group, making the framework of a society. With the formation of society came the apparent urge of acquiring knowledge and sharing it. In today’s world, communication between different nations with different languages is feasible through translation.

Translation is putting some content into the words of a different language; maintaining the spirit of the source language. In the same way, Pinhhuck (1977: 38) defines translation as "a process of finding a Target Language equivalent of the Source Language.

Is translation a scientific study or artistic endeavor, researchable theory or technical craft, a branch of linguistics or of literature? Being utilized as a means to act as a bridge between two cultures, translation seems to be a complicated and multi-faceted activity or phenomenon.

According to Benjamin (1923), the twentieth century has been called the age of 'reproduction' or, as Jumplet (1923) points out 'the age of translation' (as cited in Newmark, 1988a:1); however, the constant debate as to whether translation is an art or science has a long history. Some scholars may argue that translation is a process of creative thinking; consequently, it is subjective and cannot be systematized by laws.

As Savory (1957:49) claim, "it would almost be true to say that there are no universally accepted principles of translation, because the only people qualified to formulate them have never agreed among themselves"; therefore, he does not tend to consider translation as a science.

According to Kelly (1979:51), Hieronymus (also known as St. Jerome, 4th century A.D) as well as others followed Cicero's 9106-43 B.C) claim constantly that translation was a branch of oratory, and Holmes (1979a:23), specifying two branches of translation studies, namely pure and applied, points out that the aim of pure translation studies is to describe the phenomenon of translation and to investigate all related aspects of it; however, applied translation studies focus on the application of translation theories to such aspects of translation as translation practice, the teaching and learning of translation.

He believes that all factions of translation are interrelated and their relationship is dialectical; however, Toury (1995:7) puts forward that the relationship between pure and applied translation studies is unidirectional--theoretical studies serve as a nurturing source for the applied studies. Furthermore, Toury (1982:7) believes that translation, as a cognitive science, has to reach beyond linguistics, and calls it "interdisciplinary"; consequently, it seems that he considers translation a science. This science seems to be warmly welcomed by some scholars in the form of 'word for word.' For instance, Norton (1984:59) quotes Horace (65-8 B.C) to state that, "it is the duty of a faithful interpreter to translate what he undertakes word for word."

Nevertheless, Chukovskii (1984:93) does not take translation into consideration as a science when he confirms that, "translation is not only an art, but a high art." Moreover, Newmark (1988a), referring to translation as "a craft" Some scholars consider translation a science. Though the most salient features of a field of science are precision and predictability, Berkeley (1991:83) notes that some sciences, principally those dealing with the humanities, do not attain a one hundred percent predictability level. However, Baker (1998:4) points out that translation is a separate academic discipline which, "like any young discipline, needs to draw on the findings and theories of the other related disciplines in order to develop and formulate its own methods." Nevertheless, distinguishing between science and translation, Karra (2000:1) writes that "my colleagues never understood why I chose the world of translation over science."

Translation is an art, not a science; like most arts, it is a lot more complicated than it looks. (Translation, 2005:2)

Translation studies can be regarded as a science. However, if we take the product of translation into account, it seems rational to think of it as a craft or art. Whether translation is regarded as a science, art, or craft, it seems significant to note that a good translation should play the same role in the TL as the original did in the SL.

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