'If I've arksed youse boys once, I've arksed youse boys a thousand times!': Translation strategies in the German translation of Phillip Gwynne's Deadly, Unna?

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Author: Leah Gerber
Date: May 2007
Publisher: Deakin University
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 3,453 words

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The primary focus of work in the area of translation studies is to observe the continuum in which a translation takes place; the textual and extratextual constraints imposed on the translator (Bassnet & Lefevere 1998, pp. 123-4) when creating a translation strategy. The following aspects have been cited as most integral to the study of translated children's literature: (1) the assumption that children's books build bridges between different cultures; (2) text-specific challenges to the translator; (3) the polysystem theory which classifies children's literature as a subsystem of minor prestige within literature; and (4) the age-specific addressees either as implied or real readers (Tabbert 2002, p. 303).

The merging of cultural studies with translation studies in the 1970s gave rise to the polysystem theory as a way of viewing the function of literary translation in a certain (cultural) context or system. The final product of the act of translation is the result of the relationship between a 'source system' and a 'target system' (Even-Zohar 1981). In viewing translation as part of a transfer process, the translation occurs from one language to another, but also from one system to another (Shavit 1986, p.111). Children's literature exists within this literary polysystem. This article will focus on the key question of how certain Australian cultural signifiers are transferred from the Australian source text to the German target text through the act of translation.

Following Wilhelm von Humboldt's view that a language is embedded within its speakers (Lefevere 1992, p.40), 'culture' can be defined as both 'knowledge and behaviour' and 'expectations and norms' so that language is judged as an expression of both the culture and the individuality of the speaker who observes the world through the given language (Snell-Hornby 1988, p.40). The translator must be both bilingual and 'bicultural' (Snell-Hornby 1988, p.40). In terms of 'testing' the translation, it is important to observe the interrelationship between language and culture, cultural values associative with context, the translatability of a culture, meaning, and variability of language and culture.

The traditional principle applied to the translation of children's literature is that a translator should be free to alter the content of the source text to such an extent that spelling, idioms, cultural signifiers, language, length, illustrations, names and setting are changed in order to make the translation more comfortable for the foreign child reader. Scholars talk about the translator's 'manipulation' of the target text: changing, enlarging, abridging, deleting or adding material so that the target text reduces the flavour or 'spirit' of the original. According to Shavit, these translational procedures are permitted 'only if conditioned by the translator's adherence to two principles on which children's literary translation is based': (1) adjusting the text to make it appropriate and useful to the child (in accordance with what society regards,' at the time, as educationally 'good for the child'); and (2) adjusting the plot, characterisation and language in harmony with society's perceptions of a child's ability to read and understand certain material (Shavit 1986, pp.112-113).

This maxim no longer...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A166696876