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Hybrid texts, sources and translation


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Abstract: Since long, war and attempts to dominate a nation, colonialism, and more recently, advances in technology and globalization have made people communicate widely with each other. These phenomena, more strongly the more recent ones, have influenced the whole levels of human life. Among such levels, the linguistic one is to be elaborated on in this article. The primary focus is on “hybrid texts” which are studied from a translation studies perspective. First the term is defined and located within the field. Then varying factors influential in the creation of such texts – what is called hybridization – are discussed. Finally, the relation between translation and hybrid texts is argued. The article indicates that translation, depending on the approach of the translator, has both a hybridizing and a dehybridizing effect when it comes to such texts.

Key words: hybrid texts, globalization, post-colonialism, domestication, foriegnization, expatriate writers, in-between space

1. Introduction and Background

Throughout the history of human kinds phenomena of different types and natures have existed, phenomena which made nations interact with each other. However bitter or sweet they were for instance wars or trading, they are much less embracing and influencing compared to the fast-growing phenomenon of globalization. Hand in hand with new technologies, globalization is changing the life of the humankind, making it a highly interrelated one. Multinational corporations and international organizations with their many branches all around the world, along with the fast-moving vehicle of our time, the Internet, have resulted in the widespread interaction among the whole nations of the world. Due to such phenomena, we are now experiencing many changes in many, if not all, levels of human life: social, political, economic.

The way language is used has not been uninfluenced by such phenomena. Take for example the way English is used as a lingua franca all around the world without the features attributed to the English in Britain or America, or any other land where it is the native language used with an underlying cultural background. Here this lingua franca has lost its cultural identity: that it belongs to some specific nation(s) giving identity to those specific people. According to Snell-Hornby (1999: 109),

we can say that the world language English can be viewed from three different perspectives. Firstly, there is the free-floating lingua franca (‘International English’) that has largely lost track of its original cultural identity, its idioms, its hidden connotations, its grammatical subtleties, and has become a reduced standardised form of language for supra-cultural communication – the ‘McLanguage’ of our globalised ‘McWorld’ or the ‘Eurospeak’ of our multilingual continent. Then there are the many individual varieties, by and large mutually intelligible, but yet each an expression of a specific cultural identity with its own idioms, metaphors and cultural allusions (Indian English, for example, or British English […]. And finally, there are the literary hybrid forms as demonstrated in postcolonial literature, forging a new language ‘in between’, altered to suit its new surroundings.

This “McWorld” refers to a world “with fast music, fast computers, and fast food – with MTV, Macintosh, and McDonald’s, pressing nations into one commercially homogeneous global network: one McWorld tied together by technology, ecology, communications and commerce” (Barber, 1992: 53). An outright result of such outcomes is most relevant to what is generally referred to as the hybrid text by Schäffner and Adab (2001). They define a hybrid text as “a text that results from a translation process. It shows features that somehow seem ‘out of place’/‘strange’/‘unusual’ for the receiving culture, i.e. the target culture.” Immediately, however, they admonish to “differentiate between the true hybrid, which is the result of positive authorial and/or translatorial decisions, and the inadequate text which exhibits features of translationese, resulting from a lack of competence.” Such texts are characterized by features (vocabulary, syntax, style etc.) which clash with target language conventions and are “somehow contrary to the norms of the target language and culture” (Schäffner & Adab, 1997: 327; cited in Snell-Hornby, 1999: 108). 

2. Sources of Hybrid Texts

Although Schäffner and Adab were the first, according to Farahzad (2004), to do a comprehensive study on hybrid texts with regard to translation studies, they were not by any means the first to do a study on such texts. This term has been in use since 1990s, “but in another context and with an essential shift in meaning” (Snell-Hornby, 1999: 108).

2.1. Postcolonialism and Hybridization

In the early 1990s and within postcolonial studies, the hybrid text was defined as “one written by the ex-colonised in the language of the ex-coloniser (such as the Nigerian or Indian writing in English or the North African writing in French), thus creating a ‘new language’ and occupying a space ‘in between’ ” (ibid):

These postcolonial texts, frequently referred to as ‘hybrid’ or ‘métissés’ because of the culturo-linguistic layering which exists between them, have succeeded in forging a new language that defies the very notion of a ‘foreign’ text that can be readily translatable into another language.” (Mehrez, 1992: 121)

A famous example of this type of hybrid texts is the prizewinning novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. An excerpt is provided in here: 

While the Welcome Home, Our Sophie Mol play was being performed in the front verandah and Kochu Maria distributed cake to a Blue Army in the green heat, Ambassador E. Pelvis/S. Pimpernel (with a puff) of the beige and pointy shoes, pushed open the gauze doors to the dank and pickle-smelling premises of Paradise Pickles. He walked among the giant cement pickle vats to find a place to Think In. Ousa, the Bar Nowl, who lived on a blackened beam near the skylight (and contributed occasionally to the flavour of certain Paradise products), watched him walk. 

As is obvious, one needs prior knowledge of the context to comprehend this fragment. It is a description with many allusions to local places, and with names that are a combination of Christian and local traditional elements, e.g. Sophie Mol or Kochu Maria. Further, the word-play (Bar Nowl) – possibly the way an Indian child perceives English phrases – adds to the hybridity of the text.

In 2004, Christopher Rollason analyzed a translation of another Indian novel Love and Longing in Bombay into Spanish which is originally written in English. He inquired into the theoretical foundations upon which the translators, Dora Sales and Esther Monzó Nebot, had built their translation. Among them he mentions the notions of polysystem, transculturation and the twice-translated text, and the translator’s visibility. Such notions, he argues, can be seen as “furnishing the conceptual articulation that underlies” the translation. 

As regarding the polysystem theory, which is initially proposed by Even-Zohar (1990), he asserts, “Even-Zohar's polysystemic model is usefully applied to translation issues, and has indeed been explicated by Dora Sales, who states the application of polysystem theory to the practice of translation.” Thus, he repeats Sales’ Spanish words in English:

'La traducción es una realidad […] sobre este ejercicio.' ('Translation is a reality of the literary and cultural system. To translate is not a neutral act. Starting from this assumption, we believe that those who practise translation have to be aware of the need to reflect on their act in a critical and self-critical fashion').

Further, regarding the Indian anglophone text as a hybrid one, Sales prefers that it be approached more in terms of transculturation than multiculturation. Quoting from the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz (1940), she expressed her justification:

We believe that the term transculturation is the best expression of the different phases of the process of transit between one culture and another, since not only does this consist of acquiring a culture, as strictly indicated by the Anglo-American term acculturation, but at the same time the process necessarily implies the loss or uprooting of a preceding culture, or what may be called a partial deculturation, while it further points to the consequent creation of new cultural phenomena which could be called neoculturation.

Based on such notions the translators of the novel have “chosen to retain the lexical 'Indianisms' of the original, italicising them in the text and explaining them in a glossary […], and to furnish a Translators' Note at the end” (Rollason, 2004).

2.2. Globalization and Hybridization

More recently, however, this term refers as well to texts produced not by the ex-colonized in the language of the ex-colonizer but to texts produced as the direct result of globalization. Texts written in some languages simultaneously as those in multilingual manuals, or those compiled jointly by some non­native authors, like those of the European Union (EU) or the United Nations (UN) for example, assume such features attributed to hybrid texts:

In the process of establishing political unity, linguistic expressions are levelled to a common, (low) denominator. Eurotexts reflect a Eurojargon, i.e. a reduced vocabulary, meanings that tend to be universal, reduced inventory of grammatical forms. […]

Acceptance is due to the limited communicative functions of the texts. EU texts […] function within the Community within which they are created (e.g. for the staff, or for meetings of the respective bodies). This means that there are clearly defined user needs. The multinational EU institutions as such are the target culture, hybrid texts are formative elements in creating a (truly) supranational culture.

Schäffner & Adab, 1997: 327–8; cited in Snell-Hornby, 1999: 108

Snell-Hornby examines a sample of such a text, one “used as material for translation into several languages at the United Nations Translation Service in Vienna.” Below is the text:

A. Note on Morocco’s Nuclear Power Programme

Organisation structures for implementation of nuclear programme

1. The National Electricity Board (ONE)

The National Electricity Board, being a public industrial and trade authority, has the monopoly of electricity generation and transmission in Morocco. In this connection it is designated as the owner and future operator of any nuclear power-stations to be set up. This is the framework within which ONE, within the assistance of IAEA, has prepared the first planning studies, which will be examined and taken further under the agreement with France, and has also started to collect information and data on site choices. A special study has also been made of present population distribution in the area where a nuclear power-station may be built.

She recites from Didaoui (1996) that “a major problem with United Nations source texts is that they are often compiled jointly by a number of authors who are not native speakers, and they are hence linguistically defective.” She then likens an EU text to that of the UN and concludes that such a text “needs to be transedited before it can be translated,” and transedits the above excerpt into the following:

The National Electricity Board (ONE), a public industrial and trade authority, controls the generation and distribution of electricity in Morocco. Due to its monopoly of this area, it is considered to be the owner and future operator of any nuclear power stations which may eventually be set up in the country. Taking this into consideration, and with the assistance of IAEA, ONE has initiated a series of investigations which are, however, subject to approval by the French government. A survey to gather information and data on possible site choices has already begun and a special study is under way concerning the redistribution of the population which presently inhabits the area in which nuclear power stations may be built in the future.

2.3. Immigration and Hybridization

Another way for the production of hybrid texts, in a way original like the previous two channels – those rooting in post-colonialism and globalization – is through the writing of expatriate literary writers. This third channel is discussed, though briefly, in Farahzad (2004) who writes: 

An expatriate, like a postcolonial writer, faces the problem of identity. Both of them are in search of a new identity for themselves. One accepts the language of the colonizers; the other, that of the receiving society. Both exercise this “other” language as the means for exchange of ideas and communication in society, without being able to ignore, or forget, their former identity and mother tongue. Thus, both occupy the middle or in-between space and resort to that same middle or in-between language – a language which is a means for keeping their former identity, and appropriate for their new identity and life (p. 79). [my translation]

In the case of the Persian language, for example, what a farsiphone expatriate writer would produce is a combination of both Farsi (Persian) and their second language in a literary work. A sample written by Moradi (2006) is provided in below. Here, the text is originally written in Farsi and German. A translation of the Farsi parts is provided in English:

At half past ten, they ringed at the door… They were two young men in addition to an old man. I touched my beard with my hand, groaned, and grasped hard the rosary, opened the door, and gazed at them inquiringly. All of them said good morning with an smiling face. I said one unwilling “hello” to them and skeptically looked at them. One of the young men wanted to say something when the old man came one step ahead and excused for disturbing at that time of the day, and continued they wanted to meet my son. I asked, “Wer?.” They all smiled again. The old man answered, “Your son.” I said, “Und wer Sie?” and pointed to the three of them with the starting end of my rosary. They replied they are preachers of the Intelligent Wisdom, that they are acquainted with my son for some time, and that my son wants to be a follower. I touched my beard, pretended thoughtful thinking, and shook my head. “Sie Jesus?”, I asked. “Yes, the Christ, the followers of the Intelligent Wisdom,” they answered. Here I should a little raise my voice. … I said, “Ich Muslim Frau Muslim Sohn Muslim Tochter Muslim alle Muslim. Nee nicht Jesus”. The three of them were shocked. The two young ones, went back to the old man still smilingly. The old man had even a more smiling face, and said, they did respect my beliefs, of course, but that my child was old enough to know …. I cut his speech and ....

This type of hybrid text has some differences with the two former types. It is different from the first type – post-colonial texts – in that the writer’s native language is used as the main means of writing in this type while in post­colonial writing, the main means is the second language of the writer. And regarding expatriate writing and the second type – those due to globalization – one can observe that expatriate writing is literary, rooting in a specific culture, whereas the second type hardly ever bears this feature as in the case of EU or UN’s texts. Moreover, the second type writings if multilingual, like multilingual manuals, hold as their parts unified long texts though in different languages, whereas in expatriate writings the main body is in one language – the writer’s mother tongue – and there are only small chunks in another language(s) which cannot be called texts. In other words, in writings of the second type, there are parts each a unified, independent text by itself while the small chunks are dependent parts of a larger text.

2.4. Translation and Hybridization

While the preceding sources of text hybridization took place in the process of producing an original text, it can be also mentioned that translation is as well another source of text hybridization, i.e. while producing a non-original text. Now the question is how? 

Albrecht Neubert (1997) believes that an important reason for the creation of hybrid texts is that the translator may deliberately try not to get far from the source text, and try to show the differences of the source language and culture by “resisting” against the norms of the target language and culture. This is exactly in line with Venuti’s (1995) foriegnization strategy, as opposed to his domestication strategy which favors the production of a translation text as clearly similar to an original target language text as possible. Here the translator will be “invisible” while in foriegnization, s/he will be visible because of his/her resistance against the norms of the target language and culture. 

Interestingly here falls a paradox: translating is both a hybridizing, and at the same time a dehybridizing, source of text production. While a foreignizing approach, as in the case of the Spanish translation of Love and Longing in Bombay, results in a hybrid text, so rarely, however, does it occur, leaving the way open to those with a domesticating approach to translation. In fact, the general trend, as Pym (1996) says, is toward domestication, “[c]ontemporary professional non-literary translation in Europe […] is an agent of dehybridisation for the simple reason that source-text generation processes are increasingly multilingual, whereas translational outputs are normally monolingual.” Further, the general trend is toward domestication. Traditionally, good translations have been supposed to resemble most to original target language texts. Hence both the translators and publishers, if not the readers, are more inclined toward domestication than foriegnization.

3. Conclusion According to the above, one can think of the source language and culture, the target language and culture, and the space in between them as a scale on which a text, if non-hybrid, is located at either of the ends, and will be located somewhere in the space in-between if a hybrid one:

A text of this nature will be either an original piece of writing in the form of one written by an ex-colonized writer in the language of the ex-colonizer, or by an expatriate writer, or one written in international English, or, finally, this can be due to translation. Each of these may raise some problems. For instance, as Schäffner (1999: 98) maintains, “source texts written in international English can pose initial comprehension problems and may require an editing stage. Such texts, while on the one hand are a prototypical product of a supra-cultural, technological, globalized society, they require some degree of subject-area competence and insider knowledge on the part of the translator (Snell-Hornby, 1999). A literary hybrid text, on the other hand, poses different problems for translators, Schäffner (1999) continues. This is due to the “new language” that it creates which involves “elements ranging from lexical and grammatical innovation to culture-bound items” (Snell­Hornby, 1999). The handling of the latter case’s problems entails being well familiar with the background culture and local community of the writer. As a final word, so much depends upon a translator’s ultimate decision on whether to keep the text as hybrid (foriegnization) or to remove the hybridity and produce a fluent translation (domestication) although the general trend is toward the latter which is in most part a market-driven issue.

4. Works Cited

Barber, B. (1992) Jihad vs. McWorld. The Atlantic Monthly 3, 53–63.Didaoui, M. (1996). Communication interferences in a multilingual environment. The

role of translators. Unpublished dissertation, Vienna.

Even-Zohar, I. (1990). Polysystem Theory. Poetics Today 11:1: 9-26.

Farahzad, F. (2004). Hybrid texts. Translation Studies 6, 75-81.

Mehrez, S. (1992). Translation and the postcolonial experience: The francophone North African text. In L. Venuti (ed.) Rethinking Translation. Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology (pp. 120–38). London: Routledge.

Moradi, B. (2006). Father, the son, the holy spirit. Retrieved May, 6, 2007 from : http://www.rezaghassemi.org/dastan_120.htm

Neubert, A. (1997). Some implications regarding translations as hybrid texts. Available online at: www.nytud.hu/folyo/across22.doc

Pym. A. (1996). Open letter on hybrids and translation. Retrieved March 4, 2007 from http://www.tinet.org/~apym/on-line/hybrids/hybrids.html

Roy, A. (1997). The god of small things. London: Harper Collins. 

Rollason, C. (2004). Translating a transcultural text – problems and strategies: on the Spanish translation of Vikram Chandra’s ‘Love and Longing in Bombay’. Retrieved Fabruary 19, 2007 from http://www.seikilos.com.ar/LoveAndLonging.html

Snell-Hornby, M. (1999). Communicating in the global village: on language, translation and cultural identity. Current Issues In language & Society, 6, 103­

120. Schäffner, C. (1999). Editorial: globalization, communication, translation. Current Issues In language & Society, 6, 93-102.

Schäffner, C. and Adab, B. (1997) Translation as intercultural communication – Contact as conflict. In M. Snell-Hornby, Z. Jettmarová and K. Kaindl (eds) Translation as Intercultural Communication. Selected Papers from the EST Congress – Prague 1995 (pp. 325–37). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Schäffner, C. and Adab, B. (2001). The idea of the hybrid text in translation: contact as conflict. Current Issues In language & Society, 6, 167-180. Abstract retrieved February 19, 2007, from www.akademiai.com/index/L76P15M718036368.pdf

Venuti, L. (1995). The translator’s invisibility. London and New York: Routledge.









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