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Review of  Thinking German Translation

Reviewer: Christopher D Sapp
Book Title: Thinking German Translation
Book Author: Ian Higgins Hervey Sandor
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Subject Language(s): German
Issue Number: 18.478

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AUTHOR(S): Sandor, Hervey; Loughridge, Michael; Higgins, Ian
TITLE: Thinking German Translation
SUBTITLE: A course in translation method: German to English
SERIES: Thinking Translation
YEAR: 2006
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)

Christopher D. Sapp, Department of Modern Languages, University of Mississippi

Thinking German Translation is a textbook to be used in a course on
translation from German to English. The book is intended primarily for use
by native speakers of English studying German at the advanced-undergraduate
or beginning-graduate level; however, the book could also be used by native
German speakers at advanced levels of study in English. It is not intended
to be a course in translation theory or in German-language skills; rather,
it is a practical introduction to translation, particularly
German-to-English translation. Although there is no instructor's edition,
an instructor's handbook for using the textbook exists in .pdf form and can
be downloaded free of charge.

Each chapter in Thinking German Translation discusses some aspect of
translating, be it a concept that applies to translation in general or a
topic specific to German-English translation. Important points are
illustrated with a source text (usually German) and a target text (usually
an English translation of the German source) side by side. Each chapter
concludes with some practical activities: some of these require the student
to evaluate a source text and its published translation, while others
require the student to translate a text into English and justify certain
aspects of his or her result.


The book is structured as follows. The beginning chapters address the
fundamentals of translation. Chapter 1, ''Preliminaries to translation as a
process'', introduces key concepts, especially the notions of gist
translation and exegetic translation. Chapter 2 is entitled ''Preliminaries
to translation as a product'' and deals with degrees of freedom in
translation (from literal to idiomatic) and questions of equivalence
between the source and target languages. Chapter 3, ''Cultural issues in
translation'', discusses the degree to which elements of the text should be
translated not only into the target language but also into the target
culture. Chapter 4 presents ''Compensation'': since direct translations
often result in a loss of meaning, the translator may need to add
information that is not in the source text. The issues that genre presents
to translating are treated in Chapter 5.

The next section of the book is on the formal properties of texts. Chapter
6 discusses ''Phonic/graphic and prosodic issues in translation''. Phonic
issues such as rhyme and alliteration mainly play a role in literary
translation, but prosodic issues arise in all sorts of texts, since the
nuance that modal particles and word order add to a German sentence are
often best conveyed in English by intonation. Chapter 7, ''Grammatical and
sentential issues in translation'', deals with several aspects of
translation that arise from the specificities of German grammar, such as
separable-prefix verbs and extended adjective constructions. Chapter 8,
''Discourse and intertextual issues in translation'', treats the connections
between sentences within a text (anaphora, conjunctions, etc.), as well as
the connections between texts.

The next two chapters treat the problems of meaning in more detail.
Chapter 9 covers literal meaning, concentrating on cases where the semantic
correspondence between words is not one to one. Chapter 10 turns to
connotative meaning, discussing nuances that arise through allusion,
attitude, register, etc.

The next section of the book is dedicated to particular kinds of
translation. Chapter 11, ''Scientific and technical translation'', treats
problems faced by the non-specialist when dealing with technical texts,
such as specialized meanings of everyday words. Chapter 12 turns to
consumer-oriented texts, which have to be sensitive to the culture of the
target language in order to be successful. Chapter 13 discusses revision,
i.e. checking a translation for accuracy by comparing it with the source
text, and editing, i.e. polishing a translation.

The final three substantive chapters of the book provide linguistic
contrasts between German and English, addressing three problems that are
particular to translating between these languages. German modal particles
are treated in Chapter 14, which concludes with an exhaustive list of these
particles, their functions, and suggested renderings into English. Chapter
15 discusses constructions where German is more concise than English,
namely in verb-adverb and verb-verb collocations. Chapter 16 covers the
relationship between focus and word order and discusses various
possibilities of rendering into English common German structures such as
object-first (i.e. object-focus) sentences.

After a brief conclusion, the authors offer some tips on seeking a career
as a translator. Following that, there are a glossary of technical terms
used in the book, a bibliography, and an index.


Thinking German Translation is an excellent textbook for German-to-English
translation. In reviewing this book, I learned many new things about
translation and gained a formal knowledge of several aspects of translation
for which I previously had only an intuitive understanding. This book is
an insightful and extremely practical resource for students who will seek a
career in translation, be it in a literary, technical, or commercial

On the other hand, most undergraduate students of German at North American
universities are probably not preparing for careers in translation.
Rather, they spend most of their study time acquiring language skills,
usually in a communicative environment that attempts to replicate immersion
in the target language with as little reference to English as possible.
For students in this type of program, Thinking German Translation is not an
appropriate textbook, since it does aim to improve active knowledge of German.

However, even for those not training for work as professional translators,
there is much to be learned from this book. Since German and English are
both Germanic languages spoken in similar cultures, one may sometimes be
tempted to assume that the two languages are more alike than is actually
the case. Thinking German Translation reminds the reader over and over
that every German word and its English ''equivalent'' must be scrutinized,
given the often subtle denotative and connotative differences between
words. The three contrastive chapters can be useful to advanced learners
of German, as they make explicit what most speakers of German, both native
and non-native, know only intuitively. For these reasons, instructors of
advanced German grammar and composition may wish to use parts of the book
in their courses.

Although intended as a textbook, Thinking German Translation could
certainly be used in environments other than the classroom. The book is so
clearly written and well organized that it could easily be used for
independent study, and the activities and discussion questions are concrete
enough that the user can learn the intended points even without an
instructor to grade the translations or guide discussion. Moreover, the
established scholar or translator may find the book, especially the
chapters on modal particles and focus, to be a useful reference work.

Christopher D. Sapp is an instructor at the University of Mississippi,
where he teaches German language linguistics. His area of specialization
is Germanic linguistics, primarily diachronic syntax.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0415341469
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 256
Prices: U.S. $ 35.95