Tuesday, 5 May 2015
After Babel: Aspects of language and translation, 3rd Ed.,
George Steiner, OUP, 1998, page 28
After talking about the way costume alters one's perception of a Shakespeare production, Steiner comes to what he says is the vital starting point:
When we read orhead any language-statement from the past, be it Leviticus or last year's best-seller, we translate. Reader, actor, editor are translators of language out of time. The schematic model of translation is one in which a message from a source-language passes into a receptor-language via a transfornational process.
There is a barrier: the languages are different, so encoding and decoding takes place to effect the transfer.
Exactly the same model - and this is what is rarely stressed - is operative within a single language. But here the barrier or distance between source and receptor is time.
If we have this difficulty translating language - where the information or emotion that the author wishes to communicate has already been expressed in a language - how much more will there be a barrier when translating between cultures, between life-styles, between expectations. These things are rarely codified using words in any language, yet are crucial to a proper understanding and effective translation. When the distance of time is also stirred into the mix, the possibility of a good translation starts to fade.