Thinking German Translation
Author: Hervey S., Higgins I., Loughridge M.
This course is not a disguised version of a ‘grammar-and-translation’ method of language teaching. Our focus is on how to translate, not on how to speak or write German. It is assumed that students already have the considerable linguistic resources in German that they need in order to benefit from the course. We also assume that they have already learned how to use dictionaries and, where appropriate, databanks. Naturally, in using their linguistic resources to produce good translations, students inevitably extend and improve those resources, and this is an important fringe-benefit.
The course is not intended as a disguised version of translation theory, or of linguistics. ‘Theoretical’ issues do, of course, arise in it, because translation practice and its deployment of linguistic resources are so complex. However, such issues are not treated out of theoretical interest, but out of direct concern with specific types of problem encountered in translating. That is, our slant is methodological and practical—theoretical notions have been freely borrowed from translation theory and linguistics merely with the aim of rationalizing methodological problems. Throughout the course, we have provided instant and simple exemplification of each theoretical notion invoked, and linked these notions instantly and directly to practical issues in translation.
The course has a progressive overall structure and thematic organization. After setting out the fundamental issues, options and alternatives of which a translator must be aware, it examines a series of layers that are of textual importance in translation (‘upwards’ from the nuts and bolts of phonic and graphic details to the generalities of intertextuality and culture). It then moves on, via a series of semantic and stylistic topics (literal meaning, connotation and language variety), to a consideration of textual genres and the demands of translating texts in a range of different genres. If literary genres have, on balance, a higher profile than ‘commercial’ ones, this is partly offset by the use of non-literary texts of various kinds throughout the course (such as speed translation exercises). In any case, ‘commercial’ texts tend to present translation difficulties that are far too narrowly specific in subject matter to be suitable for a general coursebook on translation method. Our aim has been to produce an integrated, non-specialized approach to the various aspects that need to be discussed in the context of a general methodology of translation. While we cannot claim that this approach is exhaustive, it does have a wide scope and a coherent organization, and it is applicable to translating virtually any type of text likely to be encountered by graduates who go on to translate professionally.