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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 environment.
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.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
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.