The following steps are important to keep in mind when you translate a poem or any complex text. If you decide to write the accompanying essay please refer to several of the points mentioned in what follows.
When one translates, there are three phases to be distinguished:
1. Preliminary phase
2. Operational phase
3. Evaluating phase
These entail the following considerations:
- Which kind of translation do you aim at: an “adequate” (i.e. a translation which aims at being most faithful to the original text) or an “acceptable” one (i.e. a translation which maximizes the rules and possibilities of the target language and its literary tradition)?
- Do you want ‘to say the say the same’ as the original text or don’t you mind differences, also serious differences, between ST and TT? Will your translation be based on identity (or at least the will to establish identity) or on difference (or at least to let differences play their role)?
- Which elements of the source text do you absolutely want to keep in the target text?
- Which formal features (rhyme, rhythm, figures of speech, …) do you want to keep?
- Which other patterns from the source text (isotopies, paronomastic links, sound patterns …) do you want to maintain?
- Have you analyzed the text in advance and do you want to express this interpretation in your translation?
- Which are the specific difficulties you experienced/met as you tried to realize the aims you set yourself in the preliminary phase?
- Are these difficulties mainly of a technical nature?
- The target language will oblige you to use other words, other images, other concepts. How strong is the conflict between wanting to say ‘the same thing’ and being obliged to do ‘other things’? Do you want to ‘cover up’ this difference or are you prepared to let difference act its play?
- Or is it the interpretation which causes more problems?
- Use some striking examples to illustrate how you deliberated, mentioning the options not chosen but weighed against your final choice.
- Do you think your translation is a good rendition of the source text?
- How many of your original aims have you been able to realize?
- Which aspects of your translation do you value most / least?
- What is your own over-all judgment / assessment of this translation?
- Does your translation enable another interpretation or another meaning that is not present in the source text?
Henri Bloemen (Translation and Intercultural Transfer, Antwerp Campus, KU Leuven)