This paper is an attempt to explore the translationese of the literal translation. Among the difference methods of translation, literal translation is commonly used by the translators. However, unless being conducted properly, it is more likely to create misleading and misunderstanding. This term paper focuses on translationese in literal translation from various aspects based on a sample short story, “Love Overflowing” translated by Ma Theingi from Myanmar to English. The data are analysed based on the translation theories, methods and procedures proposed by Newmark (1988). There is also findings and discussion session along with suggestion as a result of the study.
1.1 Background to the Study
Translation is one of the modules that foreign language learners need to learn. Concerning translation, there are various methods and procedures to focus on. Literal translation also known as direct translation or word-for-word translation is regarded as one category in translation methods (Larson (1984:15)). However, in translating word for word, it is obvious that not every word can be always translatable. In such cases, translationese may occur. Therefore, this paper aims to study common errors found in the literal translation of the short story translated by Ma Theingi, who is the Burmese writer and English translator, and also contributing editor to the Myanmar Times and Enchanting Myanmar, a travel magazine.
1.2. Aim and Objectives
This study aims to explore the translationese in the literal translation of the short story “Love Overflowing” by analyzing the translation procedures used by the translator.
The objectives of the study are:
(i) To study the translation procedures and methods used in the short story
(ii) To analyse the data from the short story in terms of the translation procedures proposed by Peter Newmark
(iii) To find out the translationese in the literal translation of the short story
1.3. Scope of the study
This paper focuses on translationese occurred in the literal translation of the Myanmar short story cspfarwåmuydkygw,f (cifESif;,k) into English by Ma Theingi.
2. Literature Review
2.1 What is translation?
Translation is the process of transferring the message of written text from one language to another. (www.nationalnetworkfortranslation.au.uk)
2.2 Different Translation methods
According to Larson (1984:15), literal translation is the form-based category of the translation method. It is also one of the methods closet to the source language (SL). It follows the form of SL such as SL grammar, word order and the original meanings of all the SL words. Since it translates closeness to SL, it is useful for the purposes related to the study of the source language, legal agreement, technical report and some papers which need to be translated specifically.
Literal Translation is a basic translation procedure. Under literal translation, words can be translated one by one, group by group, collocation by collocation and clause by clause. Literal translation may not work on the long sentences; however, it does when SL meaning and TL meaning correspond each other. Due to the fact that it is word for word translation, it may cause translationese (i.e. inaccurate translation). It can sometimes lead to meaningless sentences and has little communication value.
(b) Word-for-word Translation
Word-for-word translation is translating words of the source language directly without considering the grammar and word order of the target language. It is effective only for brief and neutral sentences.
(c) Faithful Translation
This translation method reproduces the precise contextual meaning of the original language within the constraint of the target language. It transfers the cultural words and faithfully follows the grammatical form of the source language.
(d) Semantic Translation
Semantic translation is the process of translating the contextual meaning of the source language concerning its aesthetic value- beautiful and natural form. Therefore, there is no assonance or repetition in the translation.
(e) Free Translation
Free translation is translating the general meaning of the source language without being bonded by structures.
It is the freest translation method that describes the source text in another different ways in the target language. It is usually used for translating cultural matter such as play or poem.
(g) Idiomatic Translation
Idiomatic translation is the translation of the meaning of the source language while adapting the nature of the target language by preferring colloquium or idiom to distort nuances of meaning.
(h) Communicative Translation
This method attempts to convey the exact contextual meaning of the source language in a way that both content and language are readily acceptable and comprehensible in the target language.
1. Literal Translation
Translating a word or a group or a clause or a sentence from source language to target language without changing meaning or sense of source language is called literal translation. In which grammatical constructions of source language are converted to their nearest target language but each word is translated singly.
Transference is the process of conveying a word from source language to target language. It is commonly used in translating people’s names, titles of plays and films, titles of untranslated literary works, names of private companies and institution, names of public or nationalized institutions, street names, addresses and so on. In fact, it is used when there is lack of vocabularies in target language.
In translation, when source language word is succeeded to target language adapting normal pronunciation and original word forms of the target language, it is called naturalisation.
4. Cultural Equivalent
Cultural equivalent is a translation process that is used in expressing concept of source language into target language.
5. Functional Equivalent
When there is source language word that is functionally different in target language, it cannot be translated directly to target language. A translator must know the real meaning and function of the word to be able to translate. It is the most accurate way of translating culture words.
6. Descriptive Equivalent
Description in translation is sometimes used based on the function of SL words. For example, “tractor” is translated into “v,fxGefpuf” because it is used in pulling farm machinery.
Synonymy is used in the context where a SL word has no clear and suitable one-to-one equivalent in the target language. Usually, the word may be adjectives or adverbs and has little importance for the text. A synonym is recommended only in the situation where literal translation is not possible because it is not important enough for componential analysis.
It is the literal translation of collocation, names of organizations, the components of compounds and phrases. It is also called calque or loan translation. It should be used when it is already recognized or registered.
9. Shift or Transpositions
In Shift or Transpositions, grammatical structure is changed from SL to TL. It is used when SL grammatical structure does not exist in TL and when SL grammatical structure does not sound natural in TL. It includes changing from singular to plural, neutral adjectives to subjects and complex sentence to simple sentence.
According to Vinay and Darbelnet, modulation is a variation through a change of viewpoint, of perspective and very often of category of thought. The other modulation procedures are part for a whole, abstract for concrete, cause for effect, one part for another, intervals and limits, change of symbols and active for passive or vice versa.
11. Recongnised Translation
Newmark stated that it occurred when the translator used the official or generally accepted translation of any institutional term normally.
12. Translation Label
New institutional term is translated temporarily which should be made in inverted comma and it can be withdrawn later. It is called translation label.
It occurs when loss of meaning in one part of a sentence is replaced in another part of a sentence or next sentence.
14. Componential Analysis
Source language word can be translated into two or three or more target language words according to sense or culture. The meanings of SL word and TL word are similar but not one to one equivalent.
The translator usually use this method intuitively in some cases, in adhoc manners and others to make at least one shift, especially in poor written text. It is the removing the elements from the source text.
Newmark explained this procedure with reduction. Expansion is adding elements in translation and reduction is removing. These two procedures are usually used in poorly written texts. Expansion procedure occurs when the translator tries to turn implied elements into very detailed.
This is an amplification or explanation of the meaning in target text. This procedure also is used in poorly written or important implication and omissions.
This procedure occurs when the translator combines two different procedures. They are common for cultural words.
19. Notes, Additions, Glosses
Notes are additional information in translation. When the additional information is applied within the text, the procedure is called addition. When it is put at the bottom of page, the procedure is called notes. Then when it is put at the end of the chapter or at the end of book, the procedure is called glosses.
Translationese is awkwardness or ungrammaticality of translation, such as due to overly literal translation of idioms and syntax. (www.yourdictoinary .com)
2.5 Biographies of Authors
2.5.1. Biography of Ma Theingi
Ma Theingi is a Burmese writer and she is well known for her numerous English works on various Burmese topics, including travel, history and cuisine. Moreover, she is a contributing editor to the Myanmar Times and also editor of Enchanting Myanmar, a travel magazine. Then, she is also an English translator and has translated the works of KhinHnin Yu and other Burmese writers into English.
2.5.2. Biography of KhinHnin Yu
KhinHnin Yu was a two-time Myanmar National Literature Award winner and is considered one of the most influential Burmese women writers. Her stories are known for their realistic portrayals of life in post-World War II Burma. Almost all her over 50 published novels involve young heroines who have to struggle for their survival.
3. Research Methodology
In this paper, qualitative and descriptive methods are employed to analyse the data. The data are extracted from the original version of the short story “cspfarwåmuydkygw,f” written by KhinHnin Yu and its English version “Love Overflowing” translated by Ma Theingi. In this term paper, several steps are taken. Firstly, theoretical basis of translation procedures proposed by Newmark (1988) are studied. Secondly, English and Myanmar versions of the short story are well read. Thirdly, the data are analysed based on the procedures suggested by Newmark. Fourthly, the examples of translationese of literal translation are collected from the short story. Fifthly, the analysed data are compared and counted. Finally, the interpretation is made and presented in the discussion session.
3.1 Research Questions
(1) How much percentage of literal translation is used in the short story?
(2) How much percentage of translationese is found in the literal translation of the story?
(3) What are the effects of the translationese of the literal translation on the target text?
4. Analysis of the data
Among 36 items of literal translation used in the short story, 18 items (50%) are translationese.
In some cases, translaionese changes the original meaning when translating into the target language.
1. Source Text – olonfxHk;pHtwdkif;rdbrsm;xHvufzuf;nfav;wdkufumjyeftyfayrifh (Line- 42)
Target Text – She arranged a little ceremony with tea and cakes for the girl’s parents
Context – The responsibility of parents concerned with their children’s marriage.
The sentence is translated with the combination of literal and near-idiomatic translation. The translated text is understandable but does not carry the holistic message of the source language. The translated text emphasizes on arranging a little ceremony for the girls’ parents while the actual meaning emphasizes on meeting between parents from both sides to arrange their children’s wedding.
Since it is the matter of culture, literal translation is not recommended. It should follow the re-creative translation (the translation of meaning behind words) and couplet translation procedures to carry the actual message, to make it understandable and to avoid translationese.
2. Source Text – b,fom;orD;rSq,fh;SpfESpfqdkrdbt;dyfrcdkawmhbl; (Line- 66)
Target Text – No children after the age of 18 live at home (Line- 95)
Context – The lifestyle of those who are over the age of 18 in western countries
The sentence is translated with literal translation. In the translated text, it changes the sense of the original message of source language. “rdbt&dyfrcdkawmhbl;” is translated into “live at home”. The translation is acceptable literally. However, in this case,”rdbt&dyfrcdkawmhbl;” does not mean “live at home” but “not depend on parents”.
3. Source Text – olwdkY todkif;t0dkif;aevmaom pepfMuD; (Line- 69)
Target Text – Their traditional system of living together in harmony (Line- 98)
Context – The family tradition that family members live in harmony.
The phrase is translated with literal translation. The message presented in the target language deviates the actual message of the source language and is misunderstanding. In the translated text “pepfMuD;”is referred as ‘traditional system’ meaning that it is traditional system of Myanmar. However, in the source language, it is not regarded as traditional system of Myanmar but their family tradition. It makes the misunderstanding that the whole Myanmar people have the tradition of living in harmony.
4. Source Text – wpftdk;wnf;pm; (Line- 25)
Target Text – We eat from the same pot (Line- 35)
Context – Daw May Kyi talking about her family lifestyle.
It is translated by the use of literal translation. When literal translation is used, the meaning of this line leads to just eating from the one same pot whereas the original meaning of it is that family members are living together, sharing meals and depending on each other so they become united. Due to literal translation, readers are not able to know the real meaning because it changes the sense of the original message.
5. Source Text – pkaygif;pm;;onf (Line- 24)
Target Text – they all ate together (Line- 33)
Context – Daw May Kyi talking about her family lifestyle
The sentence is translated by using literal translation and translationese occurs because it makes readers misunderstand the original meaning which is sharing meals made by their mother. However, it changes the sense of having their breakfast, lunch and dinner every day because of literal translation.
6. Source Text -rdb 0wÅ;m;qdkonfrSm ay;a0;if;ESD; qdkonfh (Line- 82)
Target Text – Parents must give capital to their children (Line- 113)
Context – The responsibility of parents
In this phrase, the translator uses literal translation and it makes the reader misunderstand the original meaning. In here, “ay;a0&if;ESD;”means ‘supporting their children’. However, it is translated into ‘give capital’ which means ‘give money’, which is irrelevant to the concept of the source language.
7. Source Text-vTwfay; (Line- 70)
Target Text- set him loose (Line- 99)
Context- Daw May Kyi expecting Tun Thar can do well for his own living
Translator translated “vTwfay;vdkufrS”into “set him loose” by using literal translation. The meaning of “set loose” is stated as “to allow a person or an animal to be free” in Longman dictionary. Therefore, being translated literally, the meaning of source language “letting him live separately” is mistaken as “setting him free” and it is called translationese.
When translating directly, some incorrect usages in the target language structure appear and lead to translationese.
1. Source Text – xGef;omusrSusL;SifawGay;;wmvnf; tarm……. (Line- 4)
Target Text – with Tun Thar, in spite of the many special tuition classes he attended (Line- 7)
Context – The condition of Tun Thar failing exam.
In Myanmar, it is used as also as “xGef;omeJYusrS”. The translator use literal translation and directly translated into “With Tun Thar”. This is not the correct collocation in English and becomes translationese. Instead, it is used as “For Tun Thar”.
2. Source Text – tdrfaxmifonfwkdif; pm;p;dwftwGufaiGxnfhMuonf (Line- 24)
Target Text – each family contributing money towards the cost of food (Line- 33)
Context – Daw May Kyi talking about her family lifestyle.
It is translated by using literal translation. According to Longman Dictionary, contribute means to give money, help, ideas etc. By mean of it, “aiG” does not need to be translated into “money” when “Contribute” is used as verb. Therefore, there is translationese and translating it into “each family contributing towards the cost of food” is enough.
3. Source Text – eHeufwdkif;awmhom;rsm;tdrfu if;wpfcGufpDydkYay;onf (Line- 28)
Target Text – Every morning a plate of curry from each of the three houses would arrive for the mother. (Line- 41)
Context – Daw May Kyi’s thought about her mother-in-law
The translator uses literal translation to translate the above phrase. However, there are two translationese occurred in the target language: wrong usage and grammar. In English, it is rarely used as “a plate of curry” but as “a dish”. Moreover, the grammar structure sounds awkward.
4. Source Text-tdrflaomt&mudkb,fvdkwnfaxmifyghrvJ (Line- 62)
Target Text- How was he to conjure up a house? (Line- 89)
Context- Daw May Kyi worrying about Tun Thar
With the use of literal translation, “tdrflaomt&mudkb,fvdkwnfaxmifyghrvJ”is translated into “How was he to conjure up a house?” . According to Oxford dictionary, “conjure up” means “to make something happen or appear unexpectedly”. So the use of “conjure up” to translate “wnfaxmif”and also the use of “a house” for “tdrflaomt&m”mislead the original meaning of the source language ,which is how he can lead the family and it is translationese.
5. Source Text – vufxyf (Line- 33)
Target Text – Marriage ceremony (Line- 50)
Context – Mya MyaKyi’marriage
The word is translated by using literal translation. It tends to mean the wedding. However, it is directly translated from Myanmar version of the word, “vufxyfyGJ” into “marriage ceremony”. Since this usage is not the correct one in English, the literal translation becomes translationese.
6. Source Text – ynmrwwf (Line- 62)
Target Text – without education (Line- 89)
Context – Tun Thar’s life
The translator uses the literal translation to translate the word which means uneducated. It is assumed as he is lack of education and is translated into “without education”. In fact, it is not the common usage in English, and it is usually used as “uneducated”.
7. Source Text – udk,fhxrif;udk,fawmif&Smrpm;EdkifbJ (Line- 38)
Target Text – Can’t even earn for his own food (Line- 55)
Context – The muttering of HlaHlaKyin to Daw May Kyi about her brother
8. Source Text -vlaerIpepf (Line- 31)
Target Text – the way of life (Line- 46)
Context – The family lifestyle of Daw May Kyi’s mother-in-law
9. Source Text – t&if;tESD; tarhrSmbmusefawmhvdkYvJ om;&,f (Line- 80)
Target Text – What money do you think I have left? (Line- 110)
Context – Daw May Kyi explaining about her financial situation to her son
In the translation of above phrases 7, 8 and 9, the translation uses literal translation and these exact translation results the translationese in the target language. It is not correct to use “own food” instead of “own living”. It is also uncommonly used as “the way of life”. The correct form is “the lifestyle”. Moreover, it is completely wrong to use “what money” in English. It is usually used as “how much”.
In some situations, translationese is found because being too literal in translation causes improper word order in the target text.
1. Source Text – olYom;ynma&;u arQmfvifhp&mr&dSawmhyg (Line- 79)
Target Text – Any chance for his education was hopeless (Line- 109)
Context – The description of Tun Thar’s education
2. Source Text -tJh’Dwkef;uvnf; udkvS’ifudkowd;onf (Line- 22)
Target Text – Then too, she missed KoHla Din (Line- 30)
Context – Daw May Kyi missing her husband when her daughter gets married
When the translator is using the literal translation, she accidentally uses word-for-word translation, which is similar with the literal translation, except the arrangement of the structure of the sentence. Therefore it makes the wrong word order in English as in the above phrases. These words order are not the correct usages.
5. Findings and Discussion
Table 1.1 Translation Procedures used by the translator
Translation Procedures Number of items Percentage of usage
1. Literal 36 57%
2. Expansion 7 11%
3. Functional equivalent 6 10%
4. Transposition 6 9%
5. Modulation 4 6%
6. Synonymy 3 5%
7. Reduction 1 2%
Figure 1.1 Percentage of Translation Procedures used
5. Findings and Discussion
In translating the short story, 7 procedures out of 19 translation procedures proposed by Peter Newmark are used. They include literal translation, expansion, functional equivalent, transposition, modulation, synonymy and reduction. The number of items and percentage of the usage of these procedures are shown in the Table 1.1.
In the translation of the short story, literal translation is mostly used by the translator. Almost 57% (36 items) are translated by using literal translation.
However, 50% of the literal translation is spotted to be translationese. Translationese in literal translation causes some negative effects on the target language such as changing the sense of the original meaning and misleading the actual concept. For instance, translation of “olonfxHk;pHtwdkif; rdbrsm;xHvufzuf&nfav;wdkufumjyeftyfayrihf” into “She arranged a little ceremony with tea and cakes for the girl’s parents” is translationese because it deviates the original concept or message. Moreover, when translating directly into the exact words, some usage appears not to be in the correct form of the target language such as translating “if;wpfcGuf” into “a plate of curry” instead of “a dish” and “vlaerIpepf” into “the way of life” instead of “the lifestyle”.
In addition, following the word order of the source text and translating it directly to target text result in translationese. For instance, “tJh’Dwkef;uvnf; udkvS’ifudkowd&onf”is translated into “Then too, she missed KoHla Din” without changing the word order and it leads to awkward translation.
When the short story, “Love Overflowing” is translated from Myanmar to English by Ma Theingi, literal translation is mainly used. However, translationese in literal translation of this short story occurs when the translated text does not carry the meaning of the source language and does not follow the sentence structure of the target language. In addition, translationese is also found when cultural words are translated directly into the target language. Therefore, it is not suitable to use literal translation as the main method in translating this short story because literal translation follows the source language whereas translating short stories needs to reflect the context of the target language. However, it is not necessary to avoid literal translation since it is a useful basic translation procedure. Based on literal translation, other translation methods and procedures should be applied in order for the better translation of the short story.
A deep sense of gratitude is extended to all who do not hesitate to help us with everything until the term paper is successfully structured.
First of all, we would like to express our gratitude to Dr. Kyi Shwin (Rector of Yangon University of Foreign Languages) for giving this great opportunity and valuable experience.
Secondly, we would like to extend special thanks to Dr. Ni Ni Aung (Professor and Head of the Department of English, YUFL) for her constant encouragement.
Moreover, we would like to extend our deepest thanks to our supervisor, DawThan ThanHtay (Lecturer of the Department of English) for her invaluable review and feedbacks on every stage of this term paper.
Last but not least, we are sincerely grateful to our teachers for guiding us for this term paper regardless of their tight schedule.