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Review of  Übersetzungstheorien

Reviewer: Elena Gheorghita
Book Title: Übersetzungstheorien
Book Author: Radegundis Stolze
Publisher: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH + Co. KG
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 28.3082

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Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


The book ‘Übersetzungstheorien‘ (Translation theories), authored by Dr. Radegundis Stolze, a practicing translator and translation researcher is part of the series ‘7 wichtige Punkte für einen erfolgreichen Start ins Thema’ (7 important points for a successful start in the topic…). It is indeed composed of seven chapters-steps, preceded by a brief introduction.

Chapter 1 is dealing with the topic of translation and the system of language. The author begins by briefly discussing the unity between language and thought, then describes the key points of universalist translation theory and presents translation process as interlingual transfer. The chapter also briefly discusses translation studies related to specific language pairs and the problem of equivalence.

Chapter 2 talks of text linguistics and the pragmatic dimension. The author first discusses the ways texts are born, then turns to translation oriented text typology, key points of speech act theory and text coordinates.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to literary translation. It opens up with facts on literary quality, then talks of the manipulation school and literature as polysystem.

Chapter 4 is a quick overview of the discipline. It talks of translation research as field theory and introduces the reader to descriptive translation studies, corpus analysis, translation studies as interdisciplinary field of research, psycholinguistic studies and translation process research.

Chapter 5 discusses functional translation theory, in particular the new general translation theory, the Skopos theory, which states that the translated text must accomplish the purpose of the source text, then turns to translation as intercultural transfer and expert relations, as well as didactical aspects of translation.

Chapter 6 is about translation and power relations. It brings up the postmodern and cultural turn, talks of translation as political ethics and of the translator’s visibility.

Chapter 7 gives the reader a taste of translation hermeneutics by presenting key points concerning hermeneutical translation competence and harmony as the goal of translation.

After the seven chapters an example of a text comes, followed by its three different translations: beginner’s translation accompanied by error analysis, functional and hermeneutical translation, each also followed by a brief comment. The book also contains a summary section, glossary of main terms, several tasks, references and subject index.


The practitioners are often too busy to write books and if they do, they often come up with collections of empirically based practical advice for fellow translators and translation trainees, leaving the theory aside. The book under review, on the contrary, provides a condensed portion of knowledge about translation theory and translation studies, which can easily be expanded, should the reader feel the need to do so. It is printed in pocket book format, which makes it very handy to carry and read once you have a few spare minutes over a cup of tea or coffee, during the break in the booth or on your way to university.

The title suggests that this is going to be a guidebook in translation theories. However, the book is rather an overview of what translation is and how it is or may be studied, rather than a mere review of theories, as it may appear at first sight. The title, of course, may sound a bit misleading initially, but in the long run you do get answers to ‘the ultimate questions of life, the universe and translation’ (if we were to rephrase the famous quote from Douglas Adams): what is translation, what does a translator do and what are translation studies dealing with? Having read the introduction to the book, one does understand why it is entitled ‘Translation theories’, since the author defines the theory as thoughts about practice (p. 9).

The publisher claims that this beginner’s guide is ideal for those who do not have any previous knowledge in the field of translation studies. Indeed, it is quite fit for this purpose and may very well serve as a crash course in translation and translation studies theory to a practicing translator who wishes to update his or her knowledge of modern trends in translation studies. This is where the section with the tasks will come in handy. Answering the questions will help the reader gain a better understanding of the material presented in the book. The questions are grouped by chapters and the correct answers, for self-check, may be downloaded from the publishing house’s web-page (p.), which is going to be quite handy should the book be used for self study.

The publisher also recommends the book to students, who could use it for preparation for seminars in their first semester. The students may actually find the book useful not so much as a good theoretical source, but rather as a reliable resource book. The text of the chapters quite conveniently highlights important terms for each piece of information brought up. The interested reader will easily find a way to get additional information.

Both students and practitioners will certainly find useful the section where there is a sample text, followed by three different translations: beginner’s, functional and hermeneutic. The beginner’s translation is accompanied by specific error analysis. The functional and hermeneutical translations are followed by brief comments describing their peculiarities. These example translations will certainly contribute to a better understanding of the content of Chapters 5 and 7.

The glossary will be a useful point of reference for both practitioners and students, as it provides concise definitions of key terminology in the area, also mentioned in this pocket book. It is a welcome thing for any translation studies student and even teacher or researcher. The bibliography section may very well serve as a list of further reading.

The guidebook coheres quite well. It certainly was not meant to open up or suggest, either empirically or theoretically, potential future research, as it only scratches the surface of the universe of translation studies. Its meaning is rather to give a taste of what translation is and how it is or may be studied. In this respect it aids both beginners and practitioners wishing to embark on a journey in theoretical studies by providing a good starting point in its seven chapters, or steps, giving a practical example of differences between translations of the same text, warning beginners against particular “don’ts”. In my pocket it will have its rightful place whenever I am going to teach a class in translation studies, or to discuss potential future research in translation studies with total beginners.
Elena Gheorghita is a practicing conference interpreter and assistant professor at Department of Germanic Linguistics and Intercultural Communication of State University of Moldova. Her research interests lie in the area of translation studies and translator training, in particular translation process as strategic game, decision-making in translation, cognitive approach to translation, translation as means of inclusion.