Discourse on “How has the Formation of Nations Influenced the Formation of Translation Strategies”

    On February 20, at 17:00, Enlight analyst and editor-in-chief of translator’s department Heghine Aleksanyan delivered a speech on “Nation: How has the formation of nations influenced the formation of translation strategies following the example of Germany.  She referred to the German school of translation and especially Friedrich Schleiermacher introducing his famous lecture.

    First, Heghine briefly introduced the German theologian, philosopher, and representative of German romanticism of the 18-19th century Friedrich Schleiermacher. The lecture ‘On the Different Methods of Translating,’ which Friedrich Schleiermacher delivered at the Berlin Academy of Sciences on June 24, 1813, had a turning significance for the Prussian national movement turning translation into its vital part. In the lecture, he first referred to the nature of translation introducing it as an everyday and hourly process typical for people, and mentioned that translations took place not only between different languages but within the same language as well, for example between different dialects, social and educational classes.

    Schleiermacher separates translation from interpretation. Thus, he separates written translation from oral translation. In terms of their application areas, he notes that interpretation is more specific to the business world, and translation is appropriate for the fields of scholarship and arts. Afterward, Schleiermacher addresses the problem of understanding. According to him: whoever has acquired this art of understanding, through the most diligent treatment of the language, through an exact knowledge of the whole historical life of a nation, and through the most rigorous interpretation of individual works and their authors —he, of course, but only he- can desire to open up to his compatriots and contemporaries that same understanding of the masterworks of art and scholarship. He also talks about the two methods of translation: paraphrase and imitation. The first one suggests free translation, and its importance lies in making the reader easily understand the content, while in the case of the second one, all the language differences and the effect of the original source are preserved. Schleiermacher suggests choosing between these two methods based on the field of usage: to apply paraphrase more in the field of scholarship, whereas imitation more in that of arts. Schleiermacher also defines the true translator and translator’s choice. For Schleiermacher, “the true translator” is the one “who really wants to bring together these two entirely separate persons, his author, and his reader, and to assist the latter in obtaining the most correct and complete understanding and enjoyment possible of the former without, however, forcing him out of the sphere of his mother tongue.”Speaking about the ways that are open to the translator for that goal, he gives the following definition: Either the translator leaves the writer alone as much as possible and moves the reader toward the writer, or he leaves the reader alone as much as possible and moves the writer toward the reader. In the first case, the translator takes all the textual “pains” to compensate for the reader’s lack of understanding of the source language, while in the second case the translator makes the foreign author talk like a German to a German (in the case of a German translation). He believes that between these two translations there cannot be any golden mean and a clear choice should be made. Schleiermacher himself prefers the option of “moving the reader toward the writer” for, according to him, it is impossible to make a foreign author speak another language.

    The speaker also mentioned that Schleiermacher’s choice depends on the period he was living, so she referred to that aspect during the second part of the speech. It was when Latin was considered the language of intellectuals, and the other European languages were in an “embryonic state” and deemed to be poor languages of the lower class. Therefore, Schleiermacher wanted German to be rich with new words and terms, as, from his perspective, it was nearly impossible without keeping the richness of a foreign language and entering new concepts, terms into one’s vocabulary.

    In Schleiermacher’s opinion, the Germans differed from other European nations out of respect for foreign culture, which, according to the speaker, would afterward become the basis of nationalism in Germany. Based on this method of Schleiermacher, the German national culture was formed. As a result, German acquired the necessary richness of terms, creating the base of German philosophical language and school. German philosophical intellect and school flourished (Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, etc). According to Schleiermacher, his system cannot work for those languages that aren’t that “free” or recognize any hegemonic language.

    Once again, going back in history, the speaker brought attention to the influence of both the war between France and Prussia in 1806 and the signed humiliating peace agreement on Schleiermacher’s views that led him into nationalism. In her speech, the speaker mentioned that the German translation tradition was in constant opposition to the French one. In this regard, she introduced the contradiction between the German nationalistic idea and the domesticating strategy of French translation in A. W. Schlegel’s ironic dialogue of 1798.

    In the end, Heghine substantiated her choice of the topic mentioning that she wants translators from now on to ask themselves these questions inherited by Schleiermacher: What should a translator do? Why and how he/she should translate?

    At the end of the meeting, a discussion was held on the topic with those present. The latter also shared some impressions of the speech.

    Prepared by Narine Galoyan.

    Get acquainted with  Heghine Aleksanyan’s analytical articles by following this link.

     Translator: Sona Naghdalyan © All rights reserved.