Recently, a lot of my blog posts have been centred towards translation – who, what, when, where and why kind of stuff. But it’s also important to go further back than that, and remember how translation is possible in the first place.
In some upcoming posts, I’m going to go through some of the core translation studies theories and give a brief summary of what they are and how they can affect translation practice. Before all that, I think it’s important to look at what translation IS, and how some scholars have defined translation.
In this instance, I’m focusing on the case of equivalence and translatability. Before we look at foreign languages and translation, it’s important to consider that there are several ways of defining translation. Roman Jakobson defines translation in three variations in his essay ‘On Linguistic Aspects of Translation’:
- Intralingual translation – translation between words of the same language. Perhaps rephrasing, paraphrasing or using synonyms or explication (rewording).
- Interlingual translation – between words or two or more different languages. In this case, you are selecting the word or phrase that best represents the source text message or image in the target culture lanaguge. For example Car–> Auto/Wagen/Coche
- Intersemiotic translation – translation of words into a different sign system – into pictograms like wet floor or fire exit.
Although these categories generally make separating different translation forms easy, there are, of course, exceptions to every rule. For instance, these categories don’t take cultural borrowing into consideration – what happens in cases where the target culture adopts the source culture’s words/phrases, because it doesn’t have an equivalent? Similarly, what is the case of British Sign Language? Is it intralingual – from one form of English to another? Or is it intersemiotic – into a different sign system?
For more information about Jakobson’s paper, read this great, concise summary by The Cultural Reader.
What, you might ask has this got to so with anything? In its most basic form, translation is from one language to another. But how did we get to the point where we can work from two (minimum) languages confidently? Today’s post is really about my Lingholic Language Map, that I created a little while ago. Sometimes, with all the learning, it’s easy to lose the wider perspective of languages, both your native languages and those that you have learnt/are learning/will learn/want to learn.
The software colours the map according to your fluency: native, A1/2, B1/2, C1/2, want to learn. The A/B/C all correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) that determines a language learners proficiency. A1 is the most basic level, whilst C2 is highest below native. A1 is the equivalent, roughly, to a foundation level GCSE paper, whilst B2 is the equivalent to an A2 Level in the British education system. Other comparisons for other countries can be found here.
Overall, it doesn’t necessarily matter what language(s) you speak best and to what level. Ultimately, what the Lingholic map shows you is how many opportunities you have to speak the languages you know. As a native speaker, red shows me all the countries that have English as their primary language (interestingly, Canada is marked under French only?!), purple is German, blue is Spanish, orange is French and a little pink dot by German is Holland. It’s only when it’s all put out in front of you, that you realise who diverse languages are, and how far and wide they travel.
A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about language learning. She told me that I should be proud of the achievement of speaking German. Until she mentioned it, I’d rather taken it for granted. Maybe I’ll print out my map, to help remind me of how much I’ve learnt over the past 13 years.