High Level Textual Properties of German Translation

For translators who wish to produce German translations that minimize loss of meaning, it is necessary to take a broader view of a source text in order to determine its rhetorical strategies and posit it within a wider culture. This can include examining a text on the level of the sentence, the paragraph, the section or chapter, etc, in order to get a sense of the source author’s purpose, as well as his or her method of execution. It may also require a translator to place the source text within a wider cultural context, which will help him or her to decide upon an approach that will allow this to come through in the target text. From the macroscopic phonic / graphic level through the macroscopic evaluation of the entire piece, German translations must be the culmination of a series of careful evaluations and well thought out decisions on the part of the German translator.

The Big Picture

When looking at the “bigger picture” of a translation project, the first level of consideration should encompass everything from the relationships between sentences, within a paragraph, paragraphs within a chapter / section, and chapters / sections within the piece as a whole. Thinking about these relationships within German translations, which is known as examining on the discursive level, allows the German translator to track the source author’s intentions, strategies, and meanings throughout the piece. Important characteristics to look for on this level include coherence and cohesion. The former can be defined as an implicit connection between sentences or ideas, such as a common theme or a narrative structure. Cohesion, meanwhile, refers to the explicit connections between sentences using common connector words, such as: “so,” and,” “then,” et al. The translator must also take care to preserve the larger elements of the source text, such as its author’s reasoning, tone, etc. German translations must be carefully evaluated at the discursive level if they are to be accurately represented in a new language.

Intertextual Relationship

Perhaps the largest level of examination must be made on an intertextual level that is, assessing the source text’s relationship to other texts in the source language, as well as its place within the source culture. Elements such as parody and allusion to other texts must be considered within the source cultural context, and translators must consider whether or not it is possible to preserve them in the target text. Moreover, care must be taken so that no unintended new allusions crop up in the target culture, although in some cases, this is inevidiv, as the translated text will have a different cultural effect within the target cultural milieu.

Although German translations cannot be perfect replicas of their sources, the only difference being the use in another language, one of the goals of translation is to produce a target text that loses as little of the source text’s original meaning as possible. In order to achieve this, a translator must evaluate the source text on a variety of different levels, ranging from the smallest phoneme to the culture at large, and make deliberate choices on how best to represent the source material in the target language.

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