In the study and discussion of translation, the reader has not gone unnoticed, and deservedly is becoming more important to translatologists. Readers of translations span a spectrum, from those who do not speak any foreign language, and urgently need a translation for instrumental purposes, such as a manual, to those who, in spite of their proficiency in the target language, choose to read a translation in order to exercise their powers of critical analysis. Some scholars take sides and debate in terms of extremes, particularly it seems, those who prefer author-oriented, foreignised approaches, such as Nabokov and Venuti. In practical terms, however, the translator working towards a deadline will be looking for balance, creating a work that is not necessarily easy to read: no reader has a right to expect that from any author, and no author has a responsibility to write ‘easy-reading’. Rather, the translator will be working towards a text that is coherent, unambiguous (unless required to be ambiguous) and holds the readers’ interest.
There may be contexts in which the reader does need help. Information contained in data analysis in a scientific paper, or mechanical processes in a patent application, for example, must be as full as possible.
Clients, as Nord points out, do not always give an explicit or correct brief: an agent may not know for sure the purpose or ‘skopos’ of the translation required (Nord 2001: 30. We do not know for certain who the reader is. We can target a certain kind of reader, but there is no guarantee that that kind of reader will be the actual recipient, or that they will react in the way we expect. Readers change books, and translators are readers. How do we give the best service to the reader we do not know?
About the Speaker:
Valerie Pellatt is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Interpretation and Translation at Newcastle University. Her research interests include the interpretation of numerical values, numbers in Chinese language and culture, translation theory and practice, including transcreation and re-writing, and paratext. She co-authored Thinking Chinese Translation with Eric Liu. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Linguists and in addition to teaching and researching, has been an examiner of Chinese language and translation and interpreting for over twenty years.