LESSON 11

Re-creative translation

Literal translation is the first step in translation, and a good translator abandons a literal version only when it is plainly inexact or, in the case of a vocative or informative text, badly written. A bad translator will always do his best to avoid translating word for word. Re-creative translation – ‘contextual re-creation’ as Delisle (1981) calls it – which means, roughly, translating the thoughts behind the words, sometimes between the words, or translating the sub-text, is a procedure which some authorities and translation teachers regard as the heart or the central issue of translation (‘get as far away as possible from the words’). The truth is the opposite: ‘interpret the sense, not the words’ is, to my mind, the translator’s last resource; an essential resource, certainly, and a touchstone of his linguistic sensitivity and creativity, not to mention his alertness and perspicacity, when words mislead. Further, contextual re-creation is likely to be more common in interpretation, if delegates are speaking off the cuff, than in written language translation, where words are more carefully measured and perhaps closer to thought. But most translation is not creative in this sense. You have to like struggling with words before you reach the longer passages (Newmark, 1988, p. 76).

Bibliography: Newmark, P. (1988). A textbook of translation. New York, NY: Prentice Hall.