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The science of translation
2015-09-16

What is the relationship between a translator, information, and an audience? Professor Christiane Nord explored the connection in a series of lectures hosted by the Linguistics and Language Practice Department and the Department of Hebrew of the University of the Free State (UFS) Bloemfontein Campus.

Since 2007, the professor for Translation Studies has been a research associate and professor extraordinary in the department, assisting translation and interpreting students in gaining a global perspective on their disciplines.

The world-renowned German scholar and trained translator for Spanish and English is also an author, with over 200 published articles on the so-called Skopos Theory, which formed the basis of the lectures on 7 and 8 September 2015. The addresses were centered on the functionality and limitations of translations.

Translation as a purposeful activity

According to Prof Nord, all translations should be geared towards conveying messages which the audience understands. This communicative purpose involves taking into consideration the cultural background of the recipient.

As a seasoned practitioner, Prof Nord has been guided by Skopos Theory in her teaching endeavours. Hence her firm stance: “If you do not have a theory, you cannot justify your translational decisions.”

Within the context of the Skopos Theory, she explains that, in order to produce a functional translation, the translator must analyse the purpose of the translated text, which includes the questions for whom, when, where, and through which medium will it reach the intended audience.

How to deal with doubt in functional translation

“Doubt is something we are accompanied by when we’re translating.” Such doubt may be caused by “insufficient proficiency with regards to source and target languages and cultures, domain and terminological knowledge, and knowledge in translation theory and methodology,” said Prof Nord. However, the top-down approach offers a solution to overcome uncertainty, at least to some extent. This approach considers, first and foremost, the target audience for which the translation is tailored. Based on this consideration, the translator is able to determine the approach that is most suitable for the audience, hence eliminating doubt.

In sum, the extraordinary professor asserted that there are no rules for translation, contrary to popular belief. According to Prof Nord, the main focus of a translator or interpreter should be to produce texts in the target language and culture which meet the requirements of the translation brief set by the client or commissioner.

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