Self-translation1 May 2009 at 4:26 AM | Posted in News | 12 Comments
“This paper examines the process of self-translation undertaken by German exile writers who translated their own works, written in English, the language of their host country, back into their mother tongue, German. It postulates that the necessary precondition for self-translation is not just bilinguality but also biculturality and that it is this bicultural status of the self-translators as cultural mediators and not their poetic licence that leads to the significant changes and restructurings that the self-translators make in their German version. The awareness of the heteroskopic nature of the translation, that is, differences in knowledge base between the readerships of the English original version and the German version with regard to the German intertext are the motivation for restructuring their original version. In this process, self-translators differ from other translators and cultural mediators only in their access to the pre-stage of composition, access to the intertext, the intention and the inner language that preceded the original English version. Thus the self-translators act as editors of their own text and take their decisions to expand or reduce an aspect of their text based on the familiarity of their readership with the German cultural environment or intertext that informs the text.”
I’m too cheap to buy and read the full text of the article, but the abstract points to a good area of investigation for multilingual critics – self-translation. Jung mentions biculturality – now a familiar concept for readers of this blog – but one apparent conclusion of the paper (that self-translation can be reduced to privileged editing) seems dubious (at least, until I get to read the entire paper). I’ve tried to translate myself from Filipino to English and the other way around, and believe me, it’s much harder than translating other people’s works either way (which I get paid to do now and then). In fact, I was asked once to translate a full-length play that I had written in Filipino into English for a publication in Hawaii and I gave up. I did manage to translate another, shorter play, Kuwadro (in Filipino), into Portrait (in English), but the English text is not really the same as the Filipino text, as anyone that has read or seen the play in both languages will tell me for sure (no one has really seen both, since Philippine audiences watch only the Filipino version and foreign audiences watch only the English one).