Translation: Explorations and the Significance of Editing by Aparajita Dutta


Translation–What does this very word remind you of when you hear it? Converting expressions of one language into another? Perhaps, this is the basic idea which is present in all of us. But, dealing with translation, one will be astounded to see so many elements linked with it. Translation is not just about conversion; it’s about expression, a self discovery, an act which creates new spaces, connects and creates languages and cultures; it’s all about discovering the word, the language, the culture, the society and the politics.

The myth of the Tower of Babel goes like this … there is this huge sculpture where a certain message has been written in various languages. It not only pointed out the existence of more than one language in this world but also gave birth to translation which would help human beings to communicate with one another. Since ancient times, translation has been practiced in various corners of the world, be it Greece or India.

Today, in this twenty-first century, translation has evolved, taken new routes and shapes and has gone far beyond the issue of mere conversion from one language into another. Language has been used as a weapon by the powerful to subjugate the weak other. Remember Man Friday’s dialogue to Robinson Crusoe? “You taught me language and now I can curse you,” Man Friday had said. This very sentence reveals the power of language and how it has been used as Repressive State Apparatus by the colonisers to dominate over the colonised. The colonised too, took had to fall back upon language to fight back, many a times, using translation as a tool.

Considering this dynamics of power play among languages, translation has begun to play a vital role in forming the socio-political-cultural scenario of a country. When one is translating from one text to another, the very first question that arises is the ‘ readership.’ Who is the target audience? The target audience can be anyone and everyone. It can comprise of mainly people with similar cultural roots or people from a different culture or  both.

Translators like Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, even defined the readership to be only ‘scholars/ teachers.’ So, when a translator is translating and when the publisher agrees to publish that particular translation, the readership and the socio-political scenario in which the translation has been done plays a major role. Editing, therefore becomes an important factor in translation. It is the editor, who can bring the perfect balance between the translator’s translation and the publisher’s expectations. Wondering what are the ways in which editing can add value to the translated text? Well, the areas are simple and easy for anyone to understand:

  • Glossary: The Glossary plays a pivotal role in translation. Since it’s impossible to represent every culture-specific term of the Source Language, in the Target Language, the translator has to make a glossary of the terms retained and explicate the meaning. It is the editor’s duty, to make sure all the words of the Source Language have been explained well in the Glossary. Also, since the editor is much more aware of the readership, s/he is perhaps the best one to judge whether a particular word should be retained or not and whether new words should be brought in or deleted.
  • Diacritical Marks: Diacritical marks are often found in translated text. Thorough editing is needed for they are crucial in representing the exact word of the Source Language in the script of the Target Language.
  • Structure of the translated Text: No two languages are same. The structure of a language differs from one another. Hence, it rests upon the editor and the translator, whether one should make the translated text, a concise one or elaborate it. This depends on the nature of the Source Language and the Target Language. This structuring seeks editing help in order to make the translated text, a very reader-friendly one.

The field of Translation Studies is developing and today’s world is witnessing an increase in the practice of translation. Apart from editing, there are a number of issues which need to addressed, one of them being translator’s rights. However, that calls for a separate discussion. At the end of the day, what is important is to discard the idea of the translated text as a sub-ordinate to the original. Translation is an art, and translated text is a creation, borne out of this art, practiced by the translation. The translated text is a new creation, with links to the original; it helps in understanding the original and often throws light on perspectives which otherwise might have been overlooked.

Aparajita Dutta is a research scholar in Comparative Literature. A passionate writer, she got selected by Penguin India as one of the authors of their upcoming anthology, Tell me a Story (which will be released in July 2015). She writes for the football site, GOALden Times and been contributing author for a number of anthologies. Samples of her writings can be found in her She is an associate of the NGO, Civilian Welfare Foundation.

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