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Original title: Literary Translation Quality Assessment

By: Ph.D. Mª Beatriz Rodríguez Rodríguez

Publisher: LINCOM GmbH 2007

ISBN: 978 3 89586 182 6

Number of pages: 190

Price: EUR 65.20; USD 91.28

This work, made by Ph.D. Mª Beatriz Rodríguez Rodríguez, lecturer of literary translation in the University of Vigo, Spain, provides with a comprehensive view of the principal approaches to literary translation quality assessment and its current challenges. Published by LINCOM GmbH in 2007, Literary Translation Quality Assessment offers a practical approach to state-of-the-art translation criticism and evaluation. The study is divided into five different chapters. The first three ones could be grouped together as an introductory part in which the applied theoretical framework is explained. The fourth chapter represents the block of study, in which a corpus of translations of the Spanish anonymous El Lazarillo de Tormes into the English language is analyzed, by focusing on Rowland’s version, the first English translation, due to its relevance in the English target polysystem. Finally, a conclusion chapter is presented together with bibliographical references and two appendixes on footnotes and graphics.

As an introductory chapter, Rodríguez briefly presents the framework of study, the hypothesis of work and a summary of the four chapters to follow. Upon which, in order to complete a detailed analysis of the first English translation of El Lazarillo de Tormes, or any other target text, she fully discusses the role of translation criticism and evaluation within Translation Studies, which has often been disregarded, seen as a secondary subject of study and misplaced somewhere amidst Translation Studies, Comparative Literature, contrastive linguistics, Comparative Stylistics and translation comparison. However, it is this interdisciplinarity that makes it interesting as per not only translation quality assessment but translation teaching. In fact, she collects some authors’ views, such as Wills’s or Valero’s, according to which “translation criticism possesses enough characteristics to become a field in its own right”. Holmes includes translation criticism within what he names Applied Translation Studies, but a few years later, Toury argues that it should be considered as an applied extension of the discipline. Despite the absence of agreement on the actual position of translation criticism (which normally includes translation quality assessment), the question that most scholars agree on is, in Newmark’s words, that “the stress is to be laid in the need to connect theory and practice of translation”, i.e. the very foundations of Rodríguez’s purpose.

Nevertheless, the heart of the discussion is focused on the assessment criteria which are going to establish the methodology to follow in the chapters dealing with translation analysis in the presented study case. She criticizes that the difficulties arisen in this data interpretation part of the study led many other evaluations to be unsystematic lists of some mistakes with even subjective comments. Consequently, she stresses the need for a set of criteria as objective as possible to be reliable (Hatim and Mason, or Brunette already realized this reality) and again she emphasizes the fact that “it seems almost impossible to achieve a framework which can be universally applied to the analysis and assessment of all diversities of texts” (Sager, Hönig, Larose, Bowker). As a result, these assessment criteria should be applied a posteriori in the analysis of each text according to the specific characteristics it presents, although a frame of reference for assessment study should be brought about previously. Criteria such as good or bad translations are obviously discarded for their lack of specificity. On the contrary, the author mentions Caroll’s proposal of two criteria, informativeness and intelligibility whereas Nida and Taber address the problem from three basic parameters: comprehension, correctness and adequacy. She carries on fully developing this set of criteria by enhancing it with other authors’ proposals, although she realizes that it is critical to understand that translation quality assessment is not only focused on the possible labels tagged to the different translation problems. Indeed, it goes far beyond that by analyzing some other factors, which the analyst cannot overlook. The type of text, as Suger suggests, is a crucial factor when addressing translation evaluation along with the parameter function and the initiator –which are pointed out by the functionalist school and, more specifically, by Nord– and the historical factor Amparo Hurtado mentions in her works. In regards to Rodriguez’s opinion, this historical factor (also named situation by authors such as Hatim and Mason) plays a remarkable role, for it goes without saying that the time and place in which both text were written certainly condition the translation process itself to a large extent. Apart from that, she offers some views on the logic factor, that is, coherence and cohesion which should shape the translator’s choices along the whole process. Purpose is one criterion that should not be ignored regarding both the translator’s and the author’s roles and the particular  conceptions of the original and translated texts, within the reception of both text in both polysystems accounting for the postulates of the Theory of Polysystems discussed by authors such as Toury or Even-Zohar . Looking back to the author’s intention, there is another factor which, at times, is overlooked but should be at the very center of the translation process – style. Particularly in literary translation, style plays a key role for it is the means by which the author expresses his/her intention. Once this variety of factors is analyzed, the author claims the inclusion of two other: intertextuality (influences and relations between texts) and “acceptability or the relevance of the text within its language” (Toury).

As observed, according to the author’s views, descriptive and functional studies are the essential start point to develop, from the actual practice of translation, a series of evaluation parameters; upon which translation criticism is to be addressed. The lack of clear procedures is what led the author to take this step forward in the aim of consolidating the position of (non-)literary translation quality assessment within Translation Studies. In addition, she clarifies that, although her work is based on the literary context, quality assessment criteria could be applied to any text typology. For those reasons, she offers this case study whose methodology is exhaustively developed along the third chapter and then implemented in the core chapter of the book, in which she analyses Rowland’s translation in depth.

The methodology is, as stated before, based on the assessment criteria we have discussed. Its implementation is commented in this third chapter. One of the ideas Rodriguez’s points out here is that no fixed analysis structure can be systematically applied; otherwise we need to relate said series of evaluation parameters in base of the original and translation texts we are confronting on a case basis. In this study, the author selected a corpus of texts including the seventeen translations of the Spanish picaresque novel El Lazarillo de Tormes into the English language published in the UK and in the US. Published in 1586, David Rowland’s translation is the first one of El Lazarillo de Tormes into the English language, and it has been awarded a prominent podium of exhaustive analysis due to its impact on the evolution of English literature.

Chapter 4 deals with the practical analysis of Rowland’s translation. It is divided in three main sections as follows: 4.1. Analysis of the Target Text; 4.2. Analysis of the Source Text; 4.3. Study of Units of Analysis. In the first two sections we detect what was previously named the macrotextual analysis of both texts, which includes all criteria ranging from the situation or historical factor of both texts to their reception in both cultures, along with comments on the different translations of the corpus of study. In the third section, the microtextual analysis or the linguistic and translative procedures per se are comprehensively discussed (we should bear in mind that translation quality assessment is regarded from descriptive studies as a helicoidal process, in which some elements of the macrotextual analysis may be relevant to comment one particular aspect of the microtextual analysis, or vice versa). Here the presentation applied is based on the following procedures: she offers original text segments with the translated text segment in which the shift or deviation (Toury, Rabadán) were made. Afterwards, she comments these shifts, their justification or the absence of it and includes all relevant information accounting for any of the criteria proposed either in the macrotextual or microtextual context, or some of the other translations, for she proposes a comprehensive and global analysis.

The areas covered in this case study are expansions (justified, non justified, explanations, tautologies, recreations), reductions (justified, non justified, reductions of tautology), modulations (reversal term, part/whole, cause/effect, indirect/direct speech, comparison/identification, affirmative/negative, affirmative/interrogative, active/passive), calques, adaptations, transpositions, paronomasias, repetitions, antithesis, idioms (literal translation, non literal translation), sayings (literal translation, non literal translation), mistakes (understanding, wrong term, expansion, reduction, influence of the French translation, order, person, number). However, the scheme may vary from text to text depending on their particularities.

We find of valuable interest the mistakes caused by the influence of the French (the lingua franca at that moment in history) translation in the English one; still a problem in the translation process into Spanish of texts from distant cultures, such as Chinese or Japanese, which are translated from a previous French or English version, not from the original text. This is largely due to economic issues, which were not the case in Rowland’s, for whom French was a more ‘familiar acquaintance’ than Spanish. Actually the author claims that the intertextuality factor could be applied in this case and in the other translations since obvious influence of previous translations can be traced.

In the last chapter, data collection from this corpus of English translations of El Lazarillo de Tormes, from the analysis of Rowland’s first translation, and from the theoretical approaches to translation quality assessment and translation criticism let the author conclude that there is a need for a systematic, objective and practical implementation of translation quality assessment procedures, and that it is impossible to apply a universal framework of study due to each text particularities, even within literary texts which can differ in nature, in language, style, type of text, etc. She points out her intention to develop an assessment analysis of literary translated text which should be flexible and broad enough to be specific and redefined a posteriori as research and data collection progress in order to include every mentioned parameter. However, the focus on each parameter should also be leveled a posteriori for characteristics of texts and need for analysis may vary. She emphasizes the aim of her work to be fairly practical so as to illustrate this theoretical approach with a clear example – the proposed corpus of texts, which was not randomly selected. In fact, the great number of reprints of El Lazarillo de Tormes made the author realize the importance of this Spanish masterpiece in the shaping of English literature. Moreover, she concludes that a degree of flexibility and taking the particular characteristics of each text into consideration were intended with the purpose of attaining critical objectivity. She clarifies that a comprehensive, objective translation quality assessment analysis could be useful for not only translation criticism but translation teaching, an issue frequently pointed out. She finalizes her presentation by arguing that “this evaluative scheme may be applied to a wide corpus of literary texts in order to verify the conclusions reached”.

Finally, we encounter the bibliographical references and some auxiliary texts gathering all footnotes included in Rowland’s translation and some graphics and charts, which illustrate the classification of segments or units of analysis of Rowland’s translation.

In our view, this book reflects a commendable aim of the author to contribute to relating Translation Studies theory to translation practice, using a coherent theoretical framework of study, at a time flexible enough and sufficiently solid so as to be potentially applied to whichever the literary text by weighting the relevance of each criterion mentioned above. The teaching validity of this approach is well-grounded since it allows students to compare translations, assess their acceptability and accuracy, and thereafter extract conclusions which will deter them from making the same possible mistakes on future occasions. More studies, however, should be implemented in order to assure that this model of quality assessment might be applicable to all text typology in which author’s, translator’s, recipient’s and translation necessities may sharply vary from one text type to the other.



Boris Vázquez-Calvo biography

I am currently finishing my degree in Translation and Interpreting in the University of Vigo, Spain. I have studied English, French, Italian and Spanish at a university level and I find myself in the first year of my degree in law. I have been living and studying abroad, such as the academic year I spent at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, where I also worked as a Spanish language assistant, or summer stages in Canada or the UK. I have also work as an Erasmus assistant and a data analyst for teaching quality assessment purposes in the University of Vigo and as an English language assistant in a Spanish private school in Lugo. My areas of interest go from literary translation criticism, literary and non literary translation quality assessment, legal and economic translation, translation teaching, second language acquisition to international law, and diplomacy and etiquette in the role of the interpreter as a diplomatic, cross-cultural and linguistic mediator. At the present moment, I have a conditional offer to enter the University of Westminster, London, in their M.A. in Interpreting, Translation and Diplomacy and I intend to continue my studies up to a doctorate level.

Should any inconvenience, question or doubt arise, please contact me at boris . trad [at] gmail . com.

Actualmente, estoy finalizando el quinto año de la licenciatura en Traducción e Interpretación en la Universidad de Vigo. He estudiado inglés, francés italiano y español a nivel universitario y, además, estoy en mi primer año de la licenciatura de Derecho en la UNED. He vivido y estudiado fuera como lo demuestra el año universitario que disfruté en la Universidad de Glasgow gracias a la beca Erasmus. Allí, también trabajé como tutor de español para anglófonos o como las estadías de verano en Canadá o el Reino Unido. También he trabajado como asistente en la recepción de alumnos extranjeros para la Oficina de Relaciones Internacionales de la Universidad de Vigo así como en la realización de las encuestas docentes para la antedicha institución. Mi rango de intereses van desde la crítica de traducciones literarias, la evaluación de calidad de traducciones literarias y no literarias, la tradución jurídico-económica, la enseñanza de la traducción y sus aplicaciones en la enseñanza y adquisición de lenguas extranjeras hasta el derecho internacional, la diplomacia y el protocolo en el papel del intérprete como mediador interlingüístico, intercultural y diplomático.

Póngase en contacto conmigo en

Published - February 2009

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