Skopos in Practice: Building an Appealing Brand Image in the Translation of Soft News
The Skopos theory posits that translation is produced for particular recipients with specific purpose(s) in a given situation. The maturing of the Skopos theory results in the dethroning of the source text and the de-mystification of "equivalence," foregrounding the significance and implication of "purpose" that contributes to the translation as a sort of social construction. In a small case study, the translation of a piece of soft news regarding the launch of theme collections by Swarovski is analyzed by comparing my translation and the version from PR Newswire. The significant differences between my version and PR Newswire's one demonstrate the Skopos in practice that determines the adoption of different translation strategies. The purpose of constructing a glamorous, graceful and vibrant brand image of Swarovski leads me to present a polished version with literary style, which is characterized by a refined and evocative vocabulary, whereas PR Newswire may treat this translation as one of numerous daily assignments of "hard news" that is to be completed as soon as possible. So its translation is direct, plain and down-to-earth and reads like an unsophisticated draft version in comparison with my version.
In 1980s, translation was increasingly conceptualized as cultural transfer rather than a linguistic operation. Translation is appreciated as socially-enacted communicative practices, which is oriented towards the function of the target text (Snell-Hornby 1990). Regarding translation as one type of social action, Vermeer (1989a) claims that translation is produced for particular recipients with specific purpose(s) in a given situation (Skopos). A translator accomplishes his/her translation assignment with such purpose(s) in mind. The specification by the client on the translator's task (commission) is treated as an essential prerequisite for the realization of Skopos. According to Vermeer (1989a), the goal of the translational action and the conditions under which the anticipated goal shall be attained are negotiated between the client and the translator. The translator assumes authority as an expert, who is consulted with and has right to decide what role the source text could play in his/her professional job. The target text is "functional" to fulfil the expectations and needs of target audience. Vermeer (1989b:20 in Nord 1997: 29) explains Skopos rule as follows: "[T]ranslate/interpret/speak/write in a way that enables your text/translation to function in the situation in which it is used and with the people who want to use it and precisely in the way they want it to function."
Skopos theory challenges the notion of "equivalence" proposed by Nida (1964). Dynamic-equivalence translation is defined by Nida (1964:136) as a rendering of "the closest natural equivalent to the source-language message" in both meaning and style, which generates similar responses on the receivers in the target culture as compared with those on the receivers in the source culture. The dethroning of the source text and the multiplicity of readings and purposes lead to a multiplicity of translation(s), which runs counter to said equivalent effect. In this way, equivalence may be one possible aim in translational action(s) (Aveling 2002). Nord (1997:35) dismisses "equivalence" as "a static, result-oriented concept." As Reiss and Vermeer (1984:113 in Shuttleworth & Cowie 1997:19) claim, "the message produced by the translator must be interpretable in a way that is coherent with the target recipient's situation."
The application of Skopos in the translation of soft news
In order to illustrate the effective operation of Skopos, the translation of a piece of soft news regarding the launch of theme collections by Swarovski (a world-renowned jewelry brand) is analyzed by comparing my translation and the version from PR Newswire, a worldwide news service (http://www.prnewswire.com/). The "meaning" in the explanation below refers to the literal meaning except explicitly stated. For the two translated versions in full, please see the appendix below.
International Event in the Swarovski Crystal World
Crystalinspired by Africa
Wattens, Austria: African supermodel Alek Wek was the dazzling highlight of a spectacular show staged by Swarovski to present its Autumn/Winter collection 2004 "Out of Africa." Just for the evening, the Swarovski Crystal Worlds, created by Austrian multi-media artist Andre Heller, were transformed into a dream world inspired by Africa. More than 180 international fashion and design journalists, as well as guests from the world of culture and business, witnessed a scintillating show which marked the start of a new direction in the company's brand strategy. Our theme collections and new products convey universal values and emotions such as beauty and joie de vivre. But we will also continue to depend on our traditional company strengthsinnovativeness, creativity and constant quest for perfection, says member of the Executive Board Robert Buchbauer, who, together with fellow board member Markus Langes-Swarovski, was the host of the international event in Wattens in the Tyrol.
We could think of a fictitious scenario where I (the translator) am paid by Swarovski to translate this piece of news, which is to appear on Swarovski China's official website.
Client: Obviously Swarovski is my client. But it is important to note that the translated version could be carried, either intact or modified, in a Chinese newspaper or magazine. It is expected to appear in the page featuring entertainment news for an evening post. It could also appear in specialized newspapers or magazines devoted exclusively to entertainment and fashion.
Target readership: The translation would be read by average readers who are interested in fashion and entertainment and professionals working in the areas of fashion and entertainment.
Purposes: As a translator, I am expected to be aware of the reading expectations from both the lay audience and Public Relations (PR)/Brand Director in Swarovski. This sort of "soft news" is different from the "hard news," which is supposed to present fact and information of current affairs. So the purpose of such "soft news" is not only to inform, but more importantly, to promote a high-profile brand image of a specific company and its products. The translated text would be featured in Swarovski China's website, archived in its PR file, and used for Swarovski's marketing and promotion in China. Usually such "soft news" may originate from the press release of the said company, and corporate professionals may involve in the reporting activity. Fashion magazines or lifestyle section of some newspapers will provide some coverage on certain brands and products such as Swarovski's jewels and accessories. Such reports would be a rewriting or rephrasing of corporate press release. Thus the style and appeal of my translation is to be compatible with Swarovski's brand image, which is characterized by glamour, taste, grace and its new directionvibrancy and cheerfulness. The use of fancy words in the original news is expected to bring sensual pleasure and aesthetic elegance to readers.
International Event in the Swarovski Crystal World
Crystalinspired by Africa
The headline shall capture the attention of readers immediately and highlight the story. PR Newswire's near-literal translation of 'Crystalinspired by Africa" "为非洲获得灵感的水晶" (wei feizhou huode linggan de shuijing), meaning 'the crystal that obtains inspiration from Africa,' may not be sensational enough to hook the readers. Because the performance and multi-media artwork are designed to construct an aesthetic and glamorous brand image of Swarovski, I render "Africa" as "非洲风情" (feizhou fengqing), meaning 'amorous feeling from Africa' with sexual and romantic implications. I translate "inspired by" as "催生" (cuisheng), with the literal meaning of 'hastening child delivery by midwife' and figurative meaning of 'inducing.' I render "Crystal" as "梦幻水晶世界" (menghuan shuijing shijie), meaning 'dreamy crystal world' to yield a feeling of wonderland. Hence my headline translation literally reads as 'the dreamy crystal world that is induced by amorous feeling from Africa.' In addition, PR Newswire literally translates 'event' as 活動 (huodong), meaning 'activity,' while I render it as 盛会 (shenghui), meaning 'a grand meeting.'
The first sentence in the original: "African supermodel Alek Wek was the dazzling highlight of a spectacular show staged by Swarovski to present its Autumn/Winter collection 2004 - 'Out of Africa'".
Here two things are expressed and stressed at the same time: (a) following journalistic convention, the first sentence shall serve as the news lead, which is to summarize and emphasize what the news is aboutSwarovski launched its products in "Out of Africa" as a "spectacular show"; (b) it also seems to emphasize the supermodel, who personifies the theme of "Out of Africa" as "dazzling highlight." PR Newswire's version follows the sequence in the original to present the supermodel first, but average Chinese reader may not be familiar with the model and the brand name of Swarovski is not the first phrase to capture the reader's attention. Therefore, I decide to reverse the sequence in the original by putting "Swarovski company" as the first phrase in the translation, and attempt to combine and emphasize both (a) and (b) in one Chinese sentence rather than separate them into two sentences. I use a parallel structure and add two adverbs indicating degree to reinforce the double-emphasis"...the...show is indeed spectacular, while the supermodel... is especially dazzling" (the back translation). More importantly, the issue is how to translate "spectacular show" and "dazzling highlight" in order to build an enchanting brand image for Swarovski.
PR Newswire translates "spectacular" as "引人注目" (yinren zhumu), meaning 'eye-catching and noticeable.' It would fail to deliver the connotation of "a spectacular" product launch as a visual feast. So my translation is "绚丽多彩" (shuanli duocai), meaning 'magnificent, bright and colourful,' echoing the sparkling visual effect of Swarovski luxury products (including jewelry), fashion show and Crystal World (the artwork).
"dazzling" is rendered by PR Newswire as "耀眼" (yaoyan), meaning '(something) is very bright and illuminating in your eyes,' which would be a word too plain to demonstrate the impact of the supermodel's beauty. So my rendering is 璀璨夺目 (cuican duomu), meaning 'shining as of beautiful jade that catches your eye,' which is intended to capture the effect of "dazzling" and personalize the image of crystal.
The second sentence in the original: "Just for the evening, the Swarovski Crystal Worlds, created by Austrian multi-media artist Andre Heller, were transformed into a dream world inspired by Africa."
"Just for the evening" :
PR Newswire's rendering is "专门为了这个晚上的展示会" (zhuanmen weile zhege wanshang de zhanshihui), which literally means "the show that is specifically (staged) for this evening." But I think this adverbial phrase indicating time is employed to provide the background for the artistic exhibition (Crystal Worlds) to shine. Therefore, I render it as当夜幕降临 (dang yemu jianglin), meaning 'when the curtain of the night has fallen,' which intends to present the 'evening' as the backdrop for the show.
"created by ..."
Creation, for artists, would mean personal expression of originality and arduous work. The article from Cosmopolitan depicts this artwork as a unique and splendid spectacle (see Chinese resource 1). The literal equivalent of "create" in Chinese is 创作 (chuangzhuo), which would fail to convey such an implied meaning. PR Newswire's rendering is "创建" (chuangjian), meaning 'to establish; to set up,' is not the appropriate word because it is often used to mean "establishing a company/organization," not "creating an artwork" in Chinese. I use two Chinese idioms "匠心独运精心打造" (jiangxinduyun jingxindazhao), which means 'having originality as of a craftsman/artist and working out something meticulously and exquisitely.'
"were transformed into a dream world..."
The rendering by PR Newswire"被变成了" (bei biancheng le), meaning 'is changed into,' is not effective because it not only fails to express the magic effect of "a dream world," but has the misuse of "被"(bei, a marker indicating it is in passive form) as the magic here implies that the artwork itself actively creates "a dream world." Moreover, if "were transformed into" is literally translated as 转变为 (zhuanbian wei), meaning 'to change into' or 转化为 (zhuanhua wei), meaning 'to convert into,' it fails to capture the sensational pleasure induced by the artistic setup and is reads like some phrase in an academic textbook. So I render it as "幻化成" (huanhua cheng), meaning 'convert into something like mirage and fantasy.'
The third sentence in the original: "...witnessed a scintillating show which marked the start of a new direction in the company's brand strategy."
"witnessed a scintillating show":
The literal meaning of 'scintillating' is "sparkling like a diamond that scatters bright rays." The rendering of this word by PR Newswire is "眼花缭乱" (yanhua liaoluan), meaning 'having blurred vision and feeling confused at the disorder.' This is not a good translation because it fails to express the vibrant beauty of Swarovski's new products and show and leads to some negative connotations. Furthermore, it also diminishes the aesthetic pleasure of "scintillating" Swarovski. So I translate it as华美眩目(huamei xuanmu), meaning 'gorgeous and glaring.'
The fourth sentence in the original: "...convey universal values and emotions such as beauty and joie de vivre"
"beauty and joie de vivre" :
"joie de vivre" literally means "joy of living." PR Newswire's rendering of this phrase as "beauty and the enjoying of your life" fails to convey the refined rhetorical effect of the deliberate use of a French expression. So I render it as 生命的魅力与欢愉 (shengming de meili yu huanyu), meaning 'life's charm, allure and delight.'
The last sentence in the original: "But we will also continue to depend on our traditional company strengthsinnovativeness, creativity and constant quest for perfection,..."
"continue to depend on our traditional company strengths":
PR Newswire offers a direct translation "继续依靠我们公司的传统强项" (jixu yikao women gongsi de chuantong qiangxiang). But this phrase could be paraphrased as "continue to promote Swarovski's existing brand personality as of the following:." "depend on" here does not exactly mean "rely on," but "recognize/appreciate/promote." So such a direct translation is inadequate. My translation is "继续推崇施华洛世奇（Swarovski）固有的品牌个性"(jixu tuichong Swarovski guyou de pinpai gexing), meaning 'continue to hold in high esteem the inherent brand personality of Swarovski.'
"innovativeness, creativity and constant quest for perfection"
PR Newswire's rendering is "创新性，创造性和不懈地追求完美"(chuangxinxing, chuangzaoxing he buxiede zhuiqiu wanmei), meaning 'being innovative, being creative and untiring pursuit of perfection.' But this translation is detached from the cultural implications of Swarovski's brand image. Swarovski's traditional product line is characterized by decorative accessories of sophistication, taste and grace. As one online article (see Chinese resource 2) comments, different from the innovativeness of a high-tech company, Swarovski's innovativeness stands for 情趣 (qingqu), meaning the 'temperament and taste' of being unique and stylish. So I render "innovativeness" as 情趣 (qingqu), meaning the 'temperament and taste,' "creativity" as 创意 (chuangyi), meaning 'originality,' and "perfection" as 完美 (wanmei), meaning 'perfection.' Because the original presents "perfection" as "constant quest for perfection," I deliberately add some pre-modifiers to first two words "innovativeness, creativity" in my translation in order to achieve the balanced parallel in Chinese . Then the entire phrase is rendered by me as 别致的情趣 (biezhi de qingqu), meaning 'pleasingly unconventional temperament and taste,' 丰富的创意 (fengfu de chuanyi), meaning 'plentiful originality' and 对完美的不懈追求 (dui wanmei de buxie zhuiqiu), meaning 'untiring pursuit for perfection.'
The Skopos theory goes beyond the dichotomy of faithful vs. free translation, positing translators as cultural workers (Gentzler 2001). The maturing of the Skopos theory results in the dethroning of the source text and the de-mystification of "equivalence," foregrounding the significance and implication of the "purpose" that contributes to the translation as a sort of social construction. The significant differences between my version and PR Newswire's one demonstrate the Skopos in practice and how it determines the adoption of different translation strategies. The purpose of constructing a glamorous, graceful and vibrant brand image of Swarovski leads me to present a polished version with literary style, which is characterized by a refined and evocative vocabulary, whereas PR Newswire may treat this translation as one of numerous daily assignments of "hard news" that is to be completed as soon as possible. So its translation is direct, plain and down-to-earth and reads like an unsophisticated draft version in comparison with my version. My version tends to enhance and magnify the appeal of the descriptive words in the original, and as a result represents Swarovski as an attractive brand. PR Newswire's version tends to understate and weaken the appeal of the descriptive words in the original, and consequently characterizes Swarovski as an unappealing brand.
PR Newswire's version is available at [2005, July 25]
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1. 非洲之旅Swarovski (The trip to AfricaSwarovski) [Online]. Available:
2. 炫店 炫店 炫店 (Dazzling shops, Dazzling shops, Dazzling shops) in 消费周刊 (Consumption Weekly) [Online]. Available:
The translated version from PR Newswire [美通社]
德國現實新聞社－亞洲網WATTENS 奧地利5月28日電：施華洛世奇多媒體水晶世界（Swarovski Crystal Worlds）舉行國際活動/從非洲獲得靈感的水晶（在奧地利的Wattens舉行）：非洲超級模特Alek Wek是由施華洛世奇舉行的一次引人注目的展示會上的耀眼的明星，該公司舉行這次展示會的目的是為了推出它的2004年秋冬系列──"走出非洲"。專門為了這個晚上的展示會，由奧地利多媒體藝術家Andre Heller創建的施華洛世奇多媒體水晶世界被變成了一個從非洲獲得靈感的夢幻世界。超過180位報導時裝與設計的各國記者以及來自文化界和企業界的賓客觀看了這次令人眼花繚亂的展示會，它標誌著該公司品牌戰略中的一個新方向。執行委員會成員Robert Buchbauer說："我們的主題系列和新產品傳達的是普世的價值觀和情感，諸如美和享受生活等。但是，我們還將繼續依靠我們公司的傳統強項──創新性、創造性和不懈地追求完美。"Robert Buchbauer與另一位執委會成員Markus Langes-Swarovski是在Tyrol 的Wattens舉行的這次國際活動的東道主。
奥地利华登斯消息: 施华洛世奇（Swarovski）公司为其2004年秋冬季系列产品举行的题为"非洲之旅"展示会着实绚丽多彩, 非洲超级名模阿来客.韦克(Alek Wek)尤其璀璨夺目. 当夜幕降临, 由奥地利多媒体设计师安德.海勒(Andre Heller)匠心独运精心打造的施华洛世奇（Swarovski）水晶世界幻化成由非洲风情催生的梦境. 约180位来自国际时尚及设计业的记者与文艺界商界的嘉宾一同观赏了华美眩目的新品展示. 此次新品发布标志着施华洛世奇（Swarovski）公司的品牌战略揭开了新的篇章. "表达人类共同的价值和情感, 诸如生命的魅力与欢愉, 是我公司主打及新款产品孜孜以求的境界.同时我们也继续推崇施华洛世奇固有的品牌个性 - 别致的情趣, 丰富的创意与对完美的不懈追求." 施华洛世奇公司董事罗伯特.布希宝尔(Robert Buchbauer)如是说. 布希宝尔和另一位董事马可思·朗恩斯(Markus Langes)共同主持了施华洛世奇公司此次在奥地利华登斯(Wattens) 举办的"非洲之旅"国际盛会.
Published - November 2008
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