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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Naturalness in translation

Naturalness in translation

By hamideh hashemi | Published  12/29/2009 | Art of Translation and Interpreting | Recommendation:
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Key words:Naturalness, Unnaturalness, Interference, Adjustment, Shift, Culture

I. Introduction
All through the history of translation study, the concept of naturalness has been changed by different definitions. It has been affected by some misunderstandings and false assumptions. There is no doubt that offering a natural translation cannot be assumed to be an easy issue inasmuch as it can turn out to be very troublesome in practice and needs very sensitive decision-making on the part of both translator and reader within translation process and evaluation.
Lack of consensus can be considered as the major problem. Each of translation studies’ scholars have offered their own definition that will have been rejected or taken under questions by another one. If the scholars consider a set of criteria for their particular definition, it can be possible to depict a shared platform for them. The principle for presenting a new discipline includes two facts, firstly to have a comprehensible definition and then introducing a set of basic rules for it.
Naturalness is a reader-oriented approach and can be checked at both macro and micro structural level (Lambert and Vangorp, 1985). In order to judge about naturalness of translation, the norms of target language are considered as the scales of evaluation. These norms are specified by native speakers of that language. Native speaker is defined by The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary as follow: “A person who speaks a language as their first language and has not learned it as a foreign language”.
All languages have particular terminology, some of which are deeply rooted in the culture of the speakers of the specific language; consequently, they can pose unique difficulties in the comprehension of culture specific texts. To evaluate naturalness of a translation, reader should be aware of these items which are constituent of target culture norms.

II. Principles Of Naturalness
With this section, the author attempts to approach the concept of naturalness based on different definition offered by several scholars. Barnavel in his book “introduction to semantic and translation” (1980) says, for a translation to be acceptable is to use a natural form of target text. New mark (1988a) believes a translation which is written in ordinary language -he means target language grammar, idiom and words- is the natural one. In his classification of different types of translation, communicative translation and its subsets are nearer to this definition. Nida and Taber (1969) consider a translation a good one when it doesn’t show to be translation. Venuti explain the same concept by the term ‘invisibility’. However both scholars are rejected by followers of fidelity theory, such as Gutt (1991). Beekman and Callow (1983) have offered another criterion for assigning the naturalness of translation. Their definition is based on the term ‘ease’. They say there is correlation between ease of understanding the meaning of a text and the level of naturalness which it has.
In all abovementioned approaches there is a dichotomy between what is considered as natural and unnatural while there is no necessitate assuming such polarity; proposing a continuum begins from naturalness and go toward unnaturalness is a more practical approach. Toury (1995) suggests a degree between adequacy (unnaturalness) and acceptability (naturalness). Herman (1999) rejects existence of such axis, explaining that translation is a sociocultural activity, so assuming such a dichotomy for distinction of naturalness and unnaturalness is not appropriate. It is the norm of a language which determines naturalness. With regard to nature of dominant norms in a society, which are under the shadow of cultural changes, it is evident that they are dynamic so subject to any changes. It is resulted that considering a set of abstract principle in order to evaluate naturalness of translation and even the source text is not possible .Finally it should be mentioned that some scholars say two terms of naturalness and unnaturalness shouldn’t be considered as two opposite concept but along each other with a leveled gradation.
There is agreement among all theorists that clashes are prior factor for unnaturalness; what causes clashes in a translation firstly are interferences from source language. As Mollanazar (2001) says interference is a universal phenomenon in translation and adjustment can somehow treat the problem. Toury (1995) reminds interference happens whenever translator fails to adapt translation to target language. In other word differences between source and target languages pattern may cause interference from source language.
There is an agreement about discarding the problem of interference; as it was said adjustment is the offered solution. Shifts can be taken into account as a useful technique for making adjustment. Shifts in translation show translator’s awareness in finding the necessity of deviating from the source language form. Catford (1965) considers two kinds of shift: (1) shift of level and (2) shift of category:
Level shifts are shifts between grammar and lexis. Level shifts are subdivided into structure shifts, class shifts, unit shifts and intra-system shifts. Since a survey on usage of shifts, where it sounds necessary, can be regarded as a useful strategy in measuring naturalness of translation.
However based on theories of translation no one can specify a set of factors for grading the naturalness of a translation. Some theorists call translation a relative task; when a translation is good for a particular reader in a special time, may be regarded absurd for him in another situation.

III. Conclusion
Generally, translation’s naturalness is not a characteristic under the effect of abstract variables. Naturalness represents a real challenge for both novice and professional translators. It is evident that culture, language norms and the reader feedback to a translation are determinant features of naturalness for a translation. Being familiar with both source and target culture, enables translator to infer some implied information, i.e. culture specific bound terms. Based on the foregoing information, it is significant to stress that the influence of culture on translation’s naturalness is undeniable. Different translation procedures to achieve naturalness have been presented. Overall, it should be noted that translators do not always use the same strategy to achieve naturalness.
Those parts of translation seem unnatural can be treated through different strategies such adjustments. Shift of translation are the most common techniques. Shift, as its denotative meaning refers, causes changes in different translation levels. Having briefly discussed shifts’ analysis in this respect, is a way of influencing the system of norms which are dominant on translation process (Hatim and Munday 2004).
The goal of natural equivalence is to communicate as much of the source text as possible in a way that is useable for the type of readers that the original author targeted.

Barnwell, K. (1980). Introduction to semantics and translation. lorseleys Green, England: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Beekman, J. and Callow, J. (1974). Translating the word of God. USA: The Zondervan Corporation, for Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Catford, J, C. (1965). A linguistic theory of translation. Oxford: Oxford.
Gutt, E. A. (1991). Translation and relevance: Cognition and context. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hatim, B. and Munday J. (2004). Translation an advance resource book. London and New York: Routledge.
Hermans, T. (1999). Translation in systems: Descriptive and system is approaches explained, Manchester: St. Jerome.
Lambert, J. and van Gorp, H. (1985). On describing translation, in the manipulation of literature: Studies in literary translation, ed. by T. London: Croom Helm.
Mollanazar, H. (2001). Naturalness in the Translation of novels from English to Persian (On line unpublished PHD Thesis). University of Warwick.
Newmark, P. (1988a). A Textbook of translation. Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall
Nida, E. and Taber, C. R. (1969). The theory and practice of translation. Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill, for the United Bible Society.
Toury, G. (1995). Descriptive translation studies and beyond. Amsterdam: Benjamins Library.
Venuti, L. (1995a). The translator’s invisibility: A history of translation. London and New York: Routledge.

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