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Language interference in translation – main problems (Vortrag)

DateFriday, 4th November 2016
LocationRaum 104, Kollegienhaus, Universität Basel, Petersplatz 1, 4001 Basel

veranstalter: Ekaterina Andreeva (St. Petersburg)
ansprechpartner: Daria Dayter
institution: HPSL
language: Englisch
location institution: Basel
date_raw: 04. November 2016, 10:00-12:00 Uhr
date_sort: 04.11.2016, 00:00:00

Translation from one language into another poses a wide range of problems connected with the fact that translating process brings two languages into contact, the result of which is inevitable language interference. Negative language interference reveals itself in mistakes in grammar, lexis or style chosen for the text in the target language.

To be able to avoid the interference of the source language in the target one, a translator should be aware of the “conflicting” features of the two languages, to foresee situations in which the source language is likely to impose on them the wrong choice of a structure or word collocation.

In the case of Russian and English, the basic typology of translators’ mistakes, or the hierarchy of typical errors, seems to be as follows.

The wrong choice of a word is more often than not dictated by the situation when English and Russian words have a very similar phonetic shape but are characterized either by a different meaning or a different connotation. A translator, then, is tempted to use a Russian word which is evoked by the English one due to its seeming similarity, ignoring the semantic aspect and changing the meaning of the text. 

Typical mistakes in grammar can, in the first place, be explained by differences in the Russian and English ways of marking the topic and comment of a sentence. The comment in English quite regularly plays the role of the subject in the sentence, thus opening it, while in Russian the comment typically occupies the position at the end of the sentence, whatever its function in the sentence might be. Another regularly arising problem lies in Russian not having articles, unlike English. Translators tend to consider these purely grammatical words as carrying no semantics and simply ignore them, which sometimes leads to serious changes in the meaning of the sentence.

Finally, stylistics turns out to be the most difficult part of a translator’s job. In what concerns stylistic devices, principles of using metaphors and their meanings, any two languages can be very far from each other, making it impossible to “preserve” the metaphor of the source language in the text in the target language. Consequently, the translation loses much of the original meaning and cannot be called an adequate one, nor can the resultant text be considered as an equivalent to the original one.

The lecture will mainly focus on typical mistakes in the choice of grammar structures which can bring about a serious semantic distortion of the original meaning and will be based on Russian-English contrastive analysis of the structures in question. Some examples of lexical and stylistic problems will also be touched upon.

Stylistic problems will also be touched upon as well as the ways to avoid or overcome them.