What is the Russian word for bank?

In other words

The perfect translation remains utopia

by Jekatherina Lebedewa

The French philosopher Voltaire put it in a nutshell: translations, he said, are like women: either faithful or beautiful. Translation studies, an interdisciplinary subject that includes linguistics, literary studies and comparative studies as well as computer science, psychology and neurology, deals with the far more complex problems of translation. Because it is not enough to translate a text word for word, it is important to use the "spirit of the language" from the original into the translation
to rescue.

In the parable of the Tower of Babel, God used different languages ​​to separate people. The proverbial "Babylonian language confusion" refers to the helplessness and the inability to act that arises from linguistic isolation. Translators and interpreters are bridge builders who connect separate banks - people and cultures - with one another. But how does the bridge have to be constructed for the exchange to work? How does what is transmitted get to the other bank, and what is received there? "Translation studies" asks such questions. The term "translation studies", which is fuzzy but naturalized, is often used as a synonym.

Translation studies is a very young and interdisciplinary science that only emerged in the 20th century and remained a mystery even to some colleagues from classical philologies. This also applies to the University of Heidelberg - although Heidelberg, along with the Humboldt University of Berlin and the University of Leipzig, is one of the three German centers for translation and interpreting studies with an international presence.

The subject, initially referred to as "translation studies", only developed into an independent academic discipline after 1945. One of the first specialist magazines, "Babel", has been published in Amsterdam since 1955. Translation studies in Western Europe remained oriented towards contrastive linguistics until the 1960s. Around two decades ago, it was finally recognized that translation and interpreting as an interdisciplinary subject must include linguistics, literary studies and comparative studies. Modern translation studies also include computer science, communication science, psychology and neurology.

In contrast to Western European translation studies, which initially had a predominantly linguistic orientation, translation research in Russian culture was already more oriented towards literary studies in the 1920s. Western European translation studies benefited from Russian theory: in the wake of the Russian "formal school", Czech structuralism and Russian cultural semiotics, Western European translation studies also came to the conclusion in the 1960s that the basis of translation was not individual words and sentences but the whole thing, the text.

Every text needs interpretation

The Russian semiotic Roman Jakobson also brought the point of interpretation into translation theory. Because every text is dependent on interpretation, and the intellectual contribution that every translator has to do is interpretation - it is also the most frequently overlooked, misunderstood, disregarded or even forbidden translation achievement. In the tradition of Roman Jakobson and the Russian formalists, the translator has to decide what the "dominant" of a text is, the elements relevant to the text, for example a certain technique or the function of the text, which must be preserved in the translation. With this "translator's decision" and interpretation, in contrast to mechanical fidelity, the effect on the addressee came to the fore in translation theory. The reader of the translation has a different cultural background than the reader of the original. In the case of a mechanical copy, a word-for-word translation, a reader with a different cultural context would not understand much and much in a distorted sense.

In the 1980s, Professor Hans J. Vermeer from the Heidelberg Institute for Translation and Interpreting made important contributions. With his function-oriented approach, the "Skoposheorie", he puts the emphasis on the goal (Greek skopos) of the translational action and on the translator as an expert who is responsible for the optimal achievement of this goal. This translator must be an expert in the source and target culture and thus intercultural communication. Language barriers are also barriers to understanding, knowledge and culture that can be overcome by translating cultural contexts. If the text is viewed as a verbalized part of a socioculture, then translating means transferring the text from one source culture into a culturally different target culture, i.e. redesigning it. The cultural-historical embedding of cultural peculiarities in intercultural contexts is the prerequisite for bridging communicative gaps through translation. Understanding and transferring a text means not only understanding words and structures but also grasping what is meant as part of a socioculture. "The words are translated correctly, the words perish," said Hans Vermeer at the beginning of the 1980s. Researching and conveying norms and conventions of the target and source culture as well as their textualization strategies is not just a decorative addition to the translation, but a central component of translation research and teaching.

Western Europe owes its civilization to translation

The history of translation and interpreting in the various human epochs and language areas from the Egyptian Empire to our time has not yet been adequately researched. In the Egyptian Old Kingdom people believed in the unearthly powers of the interpreter, who could not only mediate between people, but also between people and gods. The most famous evidence of an ancient translation comes from 196 BC. And was found in 1799 in Rosette, a small village in the western Nile Delta. The "Rosette Stone", which can be seen today in the "British Museum" in London, is inscribed in two languages ​​(ancient Egyptian and Greek) and in three forms (hieroglyphics, demotic, Greek). The Toledo School of Translators is considered to be the first to hold theoretical lectures. After the fall of the Moorish rule in Toledo (1085), the treasures of books there became accessible to Christian scholars, and a wave of translations from Arabic into Latin began. As a result, Europe was able to benefit from the Arab sciences and - through them - from the achievements of antiquity, which is reflected in the establishment of the first European universities.

The principles of translation theory have changed constantly since ancient times. Ancient translators and interpreters tried to surpass the original aesthetically and rhetorically; today it's about getting closer to the function and effect of the original. The views of Martin Luther (translation of the Bible), Friedrich Schleiermacher (translation of philosophical texts) and Wilhelm von Humboldt (translation of artistic texts) proved to be fundamental to German translation studies.

Martin Luther described his translation principle in the "Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen" from 1530 with the famous sentences: "You have to ask your mother at his house / the children on the streets / ask the common man on the market drum / and see him open the mouth / how they talk / and then dolmetzschen / that is how they understand it / and notice / that one speaks German with jn. " Luther's "Germanizing" translation method focused on the target language and the target culture with the requirement to "look the people in the mouth". This translation strategy is also called "domestication" or "naturalization".

Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, professor of theology at Berlin University, had the first thoughts on an independent "translation science". In his essay "Old Literature", published in 1814, he demanded: "Theories are the order of the day with us, but no theory of translations based on fixed assumptions, carried out completely and with identical consequences, has yet appeared (...): You only have fragments set up and yet, as certainly as there is an ancient science, so certainly there must also be a translation science. " In his treatise "On the Different Methods of Translation" (1813), the most important theoretical contribution to translation in the German-speaking world in the 19th century, Schleiermacher addressed problems that a theory of translation should deal with, for example with the different types of text, which place different demands on the translator. Schleiermacher first distinguished between interpreting, which relates to texts from business life, and translation, which has to do with texts from science and art. For him, texts in which language is only a means of conveying facts posed different translation problems than texts in which the language form and the conveyed content form a unit of a higher order (artistic texts). In contrast to factual texts, the "textual reality" of poetic and philosophical texts cannot be measured and possibly corrected using objects and facts outside the textual reality. That is why Schleiermacher considered texts from science and art to be untranslatable.

This view, also represented by Wilhelm von Humboldt, occupies translation studies to this day. According to Schleiermacher, the "spirit of the language" of the original must also be conveyed to the reader in the translation. According to Schleiermacher, the translation must be based as much as possible on the language of the original, i.e. on the source language and culture. This method of "alienating" characterizes "an attitude of language that is not only not commonplace, but also suggests that it has not grown entirely freely, but rather has bent over into a strange similarity". The accusation of "awkwardness" has to be accepted, because otherwise the "spirit of language" cannot be saved from the original culture into the target culture.

In the foreword to his translation of "Agamemnon" by Aeschylos, which was published in 1816, Wilhelm vom Humboldt also dealt with the alienation of the translation. He distinguished between "foreignness" and "foreignness": "As long as it is not the foreignness but the foreign that is felt, the translation has achieved its highest purpose; but where the foreignness in itself appears, and perhaps even the foreign is obscured, the translator betrays it that it is not up to its original. " Like Schleiermacher, Humboldt was interested in the expansion of language and culture.

Translators live dangerously

Today there are both supporters of alienation and supporters of naturalization among literary translators. The decisive factor is which goal (Skopos) the translator favors, whether he wants to introduce (alienate) foreign elements into the target culture and / or make the thoughts of the source text understandable for the target group (naturalize). Since language norms and reception conditions are subject to permanent changes, the linguistic challenge also changes. Every translated text already implies the request for a new translation.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe also compared the two fundamental translation principles: "There are two translation maxims: one requires that the author of a foreign nation be brought to us in such a way that we can see him as ours; the other, on the other hand, does to us the demand that we go over to the stranger and find ourselves in his condition, his way of speaking, his peculiarities. " Both translation principles have something in common. Whether we bring the author over to us or whether we bring ourselves to him - in any case we have to cross over to the other bank.

It's risky. Because not every translator reaches the bank. Translating is a dangerous job, the dangers of which the philosopher of language Martin Heidegger put it like this: "Here translating becomes a crossing to the other bank, which is hardly known and lies across a broad river and most of the time it ends in shipwreck. " Translating has the function of a ferry or forms a bridge between different languages, different cultures, countries and sometimes even continents. For the Slavic languages ​​it is above all the bridge between Eastern and Western Europe.

In connection with the millennia-old literary translation practice, reflections emerged that can be regarded as pre-academic engagement with translation theory. The poet Christoph Friedrich Haug (1761–1829) made the following rhyme for himself and us with the translation: "Will the Germanization come out? - I have no doubt; because every homicide comes to light." Arthur Schopenhauer thought that the faithful translation usually looked dead and unnatural, whereas a free translation was often a wrong translation. Voltaire provided an elegant formula for the dispute between faithfulness to the original and aesthetic effect: he compared translations with women who are either beautiful, but not faithful, or faithful, but not beautiful. Based on philological and other experiences, we suspect that bon mots may hit the core of a problem, but do not reflect the full diversity of life.

Christian Morgenstern combined a refreshing mixture of skepticism and confidence in his ironic thesis: "In the exaggerated aversion to bad translations, to translations in general, there is a certain delicacy. Large originals shine indestructibly from clumsy reproductions." Goethe's wise remark is also encouraging: "Whatever one may say about the inadequacy of translation, it is and remains one of the most important and worthy businesses in the general world."

Goethe, who himself was a passionate translator, did not see the basic question of translation, like Voltaire, in the decision between faithful or beautiful, but between literal or analogous. Using the example of the Johannes prologue, Goethe analyzed the problem in "Faust" as a "science of translation in verse":

I feel the urge to open the basic text,
With an honest feeling once
The sacred original
To be translated into my beloved German.

It is written: "In the beginning was the word!" (Greek: logos)
Here I am already! Who will help me further?
I can't possibly value the word so highly
I have to translate it differently.

When I am properly enlightened in the spirit.
It is written: "In the beginning there was the meaning."
Remember the first line
Do not rush your pen!

Is it the sense that works and creates everything?
It should say: In the beginning there was strength!
But, also by writing this down,
Something is already warning me that I won't stick with it.

The spirit helps me! Suddenly I know what to do
And write confidently: "In the beginning there was the deed!

With this Faust quote we are in the middle of the problem of translation. It demonstrates the possibility of understanding, feeling, and interpreting the same word several times - and that it is necessary to look for correspondences when translating foreign texts into German, which do not follow the unreliable shell, the "chameleon word", but rather strive for its inner life, for the meaning that fills the word, and for the spirit that has shaped the word. A word can have different meanings. Which one should the translator be loyal to? Goethe already pointed out: Every translation is an interpretation.

By order of the tsar

Interpretation harbors dangers - for the text and for the translator. The translator Etienne Dolet, for example, was burned at the stake for a translation in 1546: he had put the words in Socrates' mouth that nothing would come after death. The Paris University accused Dolet of having questioned the immortality of the soul using words that cannot be recognized in the original. But Dolet had not translated word for word, but according to the meaning. His principle was: "Those who try to translate line by line or verse by verse are fools."

Dolet's translation principles proved immortal. Not only in Western Europe, but also in Russia, where 150 years after his death they were even elevated to the "translation-theoretical order of the tsars": In 1709 Peter I spoke out against literal translation because it obscured the meaning. The main purpose of a transmission would be to make the Russian reader so familiar with the content of the original that it could be used in practice.In his order to the translator Zotov it was said: "Mr. Zotov! We have read the book about the fortifications, which you have translated, and find that you have conveyed the relevant discussions fairly well and sensitively, but how to build the fortifications , [...] that remains in the dark and incomprehensible. (...) the translation should not be retained word for word, but the meaning should be precisely captured and presented in our language as understandably as possible. " Translation studies today call this a "goal" or "function-oriented translation".

Current research work in our seminar deals, among other things, with basic problems of literary and cultural translation. Since cultural translation problems often result from differences between the source and target culture, we combine research on literary translation with imagology, the examination of self-images and the images of other cultures that shape our encounters and our dealings with foreign texts and their translations. Research into translation processes, cultural phenomena, the formation of identity and stereotypes, self-image and external image of cultures, in which historical and current experiences of intercultural encounters between tradition and modernization are reflected, promotes intercultural dialogue. How does the construction of national identity work as an affinity to foreign concepts of culture and civilization and / or as a defense against them? Are culturally hegemonic terms such as "Europeanization", "westernization" or "Westernization" at all suitable for describing the complexity of cultural translation processes? These investigations are intended to clarify the relationships between interpretation and linguistic and cultural translation. Every translation requires the interpretation of texts and cultures: translation is culture, and culture is translation. The translation creates a new cultural potential that connects the original and target cultures. Being related to other cultures is a fundamental characteristic of every culture, which can consequently be described according to the model of translation.

Expand cultural areas

Every culture processes translations from other cultures in its historical development. Therefore, a history of Russian culture as a permanent threshold to the Western Other should work with an expanded translation concept. In addition to translating different types of text, transferring and translating cultural norms, behavior and clothing patterns must also be included. The investigation of cultural translation processes captures the particularity of a culture, less in the sense of a positivistic collection of facts or an ideological classification, but under the aspect of a historically comparative reconstruction of collective consciousness and behavior patterns in their social conditionality and their special symbolic expression.

Peter I's attempts at Europeanization can be seen as a striking example of cultural translations from Western Europe to Russia. He imposed a draconian modernization program on Russia that imported Western European elements in order to make up for Russia's technical and civilizational lateness. Peter I. placed cultural translation jobs. Even the Russian capital was "relocated" to the Gulf of Finland. Another example of this repressive cultural translation is the Eastern translation of a Western European dress and hairstyle standard forced by Peter I. Wearing a beard symbolized the orthodox church culture of the epoch before Peter I. He therefore presented the wearing of beards as a symbol of the Russia's backwardness is punishable by law. When Russian nobles were unwilling to shave off their beards, Peter I himself took up scissors himself in order to force the backward "unwilling to Europeanization" to progress without a beard. The beard ban under Peter I became a Russian symbol of violent cultural transfer. Most Western Europeans will see the world-famous full beard of the writer Lev Tolstoy merely as a peculiar exoticism, at best as an attribute of male beauty. Those familiar with Russian cultural history, however, understand Tolstoy's wild growth of beard as a culturally semiotic symbol of resistance to a repressive cultural translation from West to East.

On the subject of cultural translation, Wilhelm von Humboldt put an important guiding principle on paper: "The difference in languages ​​is not a result of symbols, but rather a difference in world views themselves (...) Learning a foreign language should therefore mean gaining a new point of view be in the previous world view ... ".

Translations can bring together separate banks despite the threat of intercultural shipwrecks. Translations are able to overcome abysses, walls and borders, whether they are of a political, geographical, historical, economic or ideological nature. Translating is a dangerous but powerful activity. The same applies to the beautiful and at the same time faithful translation as applies to all ideals and utopias: they can hardly be found in their pure form. Translation theory formulates this rather dryly: "In the same way as the understanding of a text can never be absolute, but always only relative and changeable, the translatability of a text is always relative."

Every translation problem that is even remotely solved reduces the degree of untranslatability and is a step on the way to the utopia of the perfect mediation of the original, to the theoretically and practically impossible "ideal translation". Modern translation studies strengthens the translator and the interpreter as autonomous, self-conscious and responsible, who, freed from the "loyalty fetish", serves the original but is not slavishly subject to it. This autonomous perspective is reflected in a book by the Italian semiotics professor, author and translator Umberto Eco, who has succeeded in bridging the gap between theory and practice in translation. The book, which is brilliantly translated into German, is entitled: "Quasi the same in other words - About translating".

Prof. Dr. Jekatherina Lebedewa studied Slavic studies, Romance studies, English studies, interpreting / translation and literature at the Humboldt University in Berlin. She did her doctorate on the cultural significance of Russian guitar poetry in the 19th and 20th centuries, translated Russian poetry, prose and drama for publishers and theater, and completed her habilitation at the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) on the subject of "Russian Slavophilism in the 19th century as Cultural phenomenon ". Since 2004 she has been professor of Russian translation studies at the university's seminar for translation and interpreting
Heidelberg inside.
Contact: [email protected]
Phone: 06221/54 72 51