Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Translation Equivalences and Its Relation with Translation Techniques

Understand the Translation Deeper

One of crucial element in translation is determining the exact equivalence in target language (TL) text which has the same value as source language (SL) text. The different cultures and language structures between two languages are certainly one of the biggest challenge for a translator when transferring message in source text (ST) to target text (TT). Thus, there can be no fully exact translation or absolute equivalence since no two languages are identical either in the meanings or in the styles. However, the translation may be close to the original, but there can be no identity in detail. Furthermore, Venuti in his book “The Translation Studies Reader” explains:

“Messages differ primarily in the degree to which content or form is the dominant consideration. Of course, the content of a message can never be completely abstracted from the form, and form is nothing apart from content; but in some messages the content is of primary consideration, and in others the form must be given a higher priority.”
(Venuti, 2000, p.126-127)

The explanation above obviously clarifies that it is hard to find the precise equivalence in form and content simultaneously since the translator itself must choose and emphasize whether it is the meaning or the form that will be given the priority. The decision certainly depends on the kind of text will be translated as well as its purpose. Nevertheless, by generally speaking, the form is commonly sacrificed for the sake of the content.  Hence, Venuti (ibid.) further says that only rarely can one reproduce both content and form in a translation.

 The notion of equivalence in translation has written extensively by some experts, however, this article solely discuss equivalence theory according to Eugene A. Nida (ibid.) which divides equivalence into two types: formal equivalence (F-E)  and dynamic equivalence (D-E).

Formal equivalence (F-E) focuses attention to the message of the text, both in form and content. F-E translation is basically a source-oriented, hence it should match as closely as possible with the source text (ST)’s languages and cultures. F-E translation’s characteristics are to preserve a. grammatical units, b. consistency in word usage, and c. meanings in terms of the source contexts. Especially for point (a.), preserving grammatical units of source language including transferring the same word class, not changing sentence boundaries, paragraphs, punctuations, etc. This obviously implies that formal equivalence is mechanically reproduce the form of ST into TT which brings to the fulfillment of accuracy and correctness. Consequently, the translation tends to be absurd, rigid, and not readily intelligible to the average readers of receptor language (Nida, ibid., p.134-135).

Dynamic equivalence (D-E) works the opposite of F-E. D-E translation is more flexible since according to Nida (ibid.),  it is mentioned as the closest-natural equivalent to the source-language message. The definition clarifies briefly 3 essential characteristics of D-E, namely: a. equivalent, which points toward the source language message, b. natural, which directs to receptor language, c. closest, which binds the two languages together on the basis of the highest degree of approximation. The D-E aims to complete the naturalness of expression. It produces a natural translation which is acceptable for target readers i.e. the TT should comprise of a. language and culture of receptor language as a whole, b. the context of particular message. This D-E translation is directed primarily toward equivalence of meanings rather than forms. It makes the receptor reader or audience feels like not reading a translated text. The effect is essentially identical as the original receptors read the ST (Nida, ibid., p.136).

Considering the explanation of both equivalence types by Nida (ibid.), it takes to conclusion that F-E preserves the form of the original without concerning the content looks like in the receptor language due to its persistence regarding accuracy and correctness. It is transferring sentence to sentence and concept to concept. Conversely, D-E is oriented to the naturalness and acceptability of the receptor language. It strongly precedes the contents rather than the forms.

The notion of equivalence types by Nida is basically the same as translation ideology which firstly introduced by Venuti (1995, p.20) namely, domestication and foreignization. Venuti (ibid.) defines domestication as “an ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to target-language cultural values, bringing the author back home,” while foreignization is, “an ethnodeviant pressure on those values to register the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text, sending the reader abroad.” Thus, the former one is receptor-oriented by replacing the source culture with the target culture which has the same concept as D-E by Nida (1964), meanwhile the latter one is source-oriented by preserving the differences of the source culture in the target culture which has the same notion as F-E by Nida (1964). Therefore, by narrowly speaking, writer concludes that it is merely a different term proposed by both experts. D-E = domestication, F-E=foreignization.

The notion of equivalence type which has described above will be explained further by relating it with translation technique to know which technique that is including into F-E and which is including into D-E (However, before you read further, it is advisable that you have understood each of translation techniques proposed by Molina & Albir). According to Nababan (2013, p.34), translation techniques that belong to foreignization or F-E are: pure borrowing, natural borrowing, calque, and literal translation, meanwhile the rest belongs to domestication or D-E. Borrowing and calque is clearly F-E since it contains foreign words which adapted to receptor language. The literal translation which preserves form and meaning of ST is definitely includes to F-E as well. The rest of 15 techniques are definitely D-E since the translation which using those techniques are adapting to receptor text both in form and meaning.

In the light of above, here is the table to clarify latter explanation.

Equivalence Type
F-E / Foreignization
D-E / Domestication
Pure Borrowing
Natural Borrowing
Literal Translation

Established Equivalent
Linguistic Amplification
Linguistic Compression
Literal Translation

Written by: Lista Rani
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