LINGUIST List 12.2856

Wed Nov 14 2001

Review: Schaeffner, English-German Annotated Texts

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  1. Guido Oebel, Review: Schaeffner & Wiesemann, Annotated Texts for Translation

Message 1: Review: Schaeffner & Wiesemann, Annotated Texts for Translation

Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 09:18:17 +0900
From: Guido Oebel <>
Subject: Review: Schaeffner & Wiesemann, Annotated Texts for Translation

Schaeffner, Christina (2001) Annotated Texts for Translation:
English-German. Multilingual Matters, vii+296pp, paperback ISBN
1-85359-406-7, GBP24.95, Topics in Translation 20 (with Uwe

Guido Oebel, Faculty of Culture and Education, Saga (Japan)
National University.

The authors Christina Schaeffner and Uwe Wiesemann present
nine English source texts (henceforth: ST) along with their
German translation (target texts - henceforth: TT) to illustrate
their functionalist approach to translation. These texts represent
a variety of kinds, text types and genres, dealing with several
topics, arranged into the following six categories:

(1.1) user manual taken from 'Hoover Ecologic, Washer dryer:
(1.2) user information 'How to make an Emergency '999' Call'
	taken from the Ethnic Relations Department for native-
	speakers of German living and working	in the West
(2.1) popular-scientific texts in the media: 'Infuriatingly
	Misleading Forecasts' published in 'The Economist' on 23
	April 1994, p.103.
(2.2) popular-scientific texts in the media: 'Proof against heart
	attacks' published in 'Time' on 27 December 1993;
(3.1) political texts: 'Bad Faith and Dishonesty' by Gerry Adams
	published in 'The Guardian' on 12 February 1996;
(3.2) political texts: John Major's address spoken on the occasion
	of the Warsaw uprising, 50th Anniversary Commemoration,
	Warsaw, 1 August 1994;
(4) 	reviews: Herbert Riehl-Heyse's book 'Goetterdaemmerung'
	published in 'The Economist' on 3 February 1996;
(5) 	promotional texts: 'Birmingham - Europe's meeting place' -
	illustrated brochure published by Birmingham Marketing
	Partnership in 1995 - two alternative TT solutions;
(6) 	legal texts: revised version from 1/96 of 'Mission statement
	and code of practice' by the Association of Independent
	Railways and Preservation Societies Ltd. (AIRPS).

For each category, brief introductory comments are provided,
summarising specific translation problems posed by texts in that
category. As the book is ^V according to the authors ^V not meant to
be a textbook, i.e. that the texts presented might be worked
through from the first to the last, the texts are not arranged
according to their degree of difficulty. The discussion of each
sample text follows the same pattern: the English ST is provided
with a specified translation assignment, then a sample TT in
German is presented, followed by detailed annotations including:

- a repetition of the translation assignment at the very beginning,
i.e. the specification of the purpose;

- a ST characterisation, i.e. brief comments on the ST as a so-
called 'text-in-situation-in-culture' (see p.46);

- a TT specification, i.e. brief comments on the required TT-profile
again as a 'text-in-situation-in-culture';

The then following lengthy annotations are arranged accordingly.

All STs are authentic texts with their corresponding German
translation in full -- apart from text 1.1 -- including information
about when (between 1992 and 1998) and where the ST was published.
Though the texts presented are somehow dated, newness should not be
regarded an absolute requirement, as the goal of this book is, according
to the authors, the illustration of a functionalist approach. Each text
clearly provides translation problems on the basis of which more general
conclusions can be drawn for translating similar texts of the same genre
or on a similar topic.

Authentic translation assignments existed for texts 1.2 and 5,
respectively, the others were translated specifically for inclusion
in this book, however, a realistic assignment seems quite possible.
All texts were translated by the authors either jointly or
individually, except text 5 for which a German TT-version
already existed. Since this text, according to the authors,
displays some (but according to my assessment, however, a few and
slight) deficiencies -- caused by individually different
'Sprachgefuehl', i.e. feeling for language -- they produced an
alternative version of their own. Furthermore, the authors stress
that, in principle, they consider their TTs sample translations in
every respect admitting alternative solutions and thus,
fortunately, not claiming absoluteness. Most commendably, they
themselves do provide in their annotations alternative versions
for sentences or clauses. In these annotations, Schaeffner and
Wiesemann comment on how they arrived at their solutions and
why they opted for a particular one, often backed up by additional
evidence, e.g. examples from parallel texts. By doing so, they
illustrate their decision-making process, how and why they are in
favour of a certain translation alternative. Thus, it is much easier
for the readership to understand the authors' argumentation and
their decisions for the TT profiles. In sum, the book is intended to
illustrate an awareness of translation problems and potential
translation strategies will result in appropriate TTs, and in the
reviewer's judgment, it does so successfully.

The aim of this book is to present a specific framework for dealing
with recurring translation problems in a number of genres
frequently translated. The decisions taken in the production of
TTs are commented on by using illustrative English-German
sample texts. These texts are grouped according to types and
genres whereas the corresponding annotations provide a detailed
account of relevant translation decision-making processes.

The addressees of 'Annotated Texts for Translation: English-
German' are primarily students of translation who may feel
encouraged to use the English STs for producing their own TTs
and then to compare them with the author's TTs. Studying their
extensive and detailed comments in the annotations, undoubtedly,
help develop and enhance ones own translation competence in
general and the corresponding sub-competences, such as:

- linguistic competence
- cultural competence
- textual competence
- domain/subject-specific competence
- (re)search competence
- transfer competence.

By focusing on recurring translation problems and illustrating the
translation strategies applied, Schaeffner and Wiesemann
demonstrate that critical reflection on a translation assignment
helps translators to make informed decisions, to comment on
them, and, if required, to defend them. The authors do not just
provide a number of comments on grammar, vocabulary, style,
etc., but a systematic and comprehensible discussion of problems
within the framework of translation practice. Thus the readership
of this excellent book is furnished with clear guidelines and tools
for ones own decision-making processes in translation.

I have only a few slight reservations about this book.

First, the authors introduce 'SL' as the abbreviation for 'Source
Language'; in between they use the term 'SL-text' for 'Source
Language text' and 'TL-text' for 'Target Language text'; later on
the term 'Sample Text' is used. This is somewhat confusing, as I do
not understand whether, in the further course of the book, 'ST' is
exclusively used for 'Sample Text' or for 'Source Text'. Nevertheless,
this lack of clarity, does not seriously interfere with the reader's
comprehension. (If the book had offered a list of abbreviations, this
cause for misunderstanding could have been avoided.)

Undisputedly, the main author Christina Schaeffner is an acknowledged
expert in the field of translation studies, but the number of references
(17) to her papers, lectures and books seems excessive.

In conclusion, let me express the hope that this book may contribute
to somehow promoting greater esteem for professional translators'
almost 'handicraft skills', which are unfortunately all too often
regarded contemptuously as unoriginal, particularly by their 'patrons'.

Guido Oebel (PhD in contrastive studies English- German)
is a native German and currently employed as an associate
professor for German as a Foreign Language (DaF) and FLL
with Saga National University and as a visiting professor
with Kurume University, both on the Southern island of
Kyushu/Japan. His main areas of research are: SLA/FLL,
sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, minority languages, German
dialects, adult education (action-orientation and learner-
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