Are Translators Really Traitors

Centuries ago, the French attempted to translate The Divine Comedy, the memorable book by the Italian poet Dante. However, apparently none of the translations appealed to the Italians. Driven by their idolization for Dante, the Italian intellectuals attacked the French translators saying “traduttore, traditore”, which means: Translator is a traitor. They claimed that translators failed to convey the true meaning and beauty of Dante’s words. This leaves us with one question to contemplate: In which case translators can be considered traitors?
It has been settled long time ago that it is impossible to live without translation in a world embracing more than 6500 languages. Nowadays, we have well established extensively debated approaches in the field of translation. Each of these approaches claims that its respective methodology is the best way to convey a text from one language to another “faithfully”. For instance, the literal approach dictates that the translator should imitate every word and sentence structure in the original text, claiming that this is the best way to preserve the meaning as much as possible.
Nevertheless, a text may include numerous puns and idioms, and consequently the intended meaning may be lost in “literal” translation. In such case, a translator can also be regarded a traitor if he/she insisted to stick to the literal approach. Translation is not only the art of transferring words; it is also the art of traveling from one culture to another. The translator is more familiar with the target audience, and should ensure the reader understands the translated text exactly as the original text intends. It is important, however, to realize that a translator is a subjective being, who may unintentionally leave his/her own impact on a text. After all, a translator translates a given text as he/she interprets it.
Treason remains a matter of perspective in the art of Translation. No matter what approach he/she adopts, a professional translator would always take full responsibility to convey the meaning intended by a given author and eliminate his/her subjective interferences, bearing in mind the different aspects of the target culture. Even if a treason is inevitable in translation, it is still a treason in a good faith.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *