Oral Texts in Italian Translation I
A text may be written or oral in nature. The same subject matter may feature in both written and oral texts, but there will be a discernible difference in the handling of the subject matter in the two kinds of texts. An oral text will call for certain devices, attitudes and assumptions on the part of the speaker, which will be at variance from the devices and attitudes adopted by the writer. For example, a story narrated to a group of friends will take a certain form, while the same story in print will take another form. With regard to oral texts in Italian translation, matters would be simple if clear-cut distinctions could be maintained between oral and written texts. But, to the contrary, an actual oral performance may be based on a written text, for example, the dramatization of a play, or the delivering of a speech, and many printed texts, in their turn, manifest features of oral composition.
Oral texts are marked by certain characteristics like repetition, formulaic structures, stock epithets, and construction through balance and antithesis. Complementary to oral texts are gestures, facial expressions and body language combine to reinforce the message of the oral narration. Oral texts tend to focus on simple and single subject matters. The pace of narration is usually slow. Such techniques are adopted to minimize confusion and facilitate comprehension in the audience. Despite the fact that written texts often form the background for oral narration, there is still the scope for spontaneity and improvisation. Forgetting the lines can lead to improvisation, as can unexpected reactions from the audience. An oral text can therefore diverge in spirit and intent from the written text on which it is based.
An understanding of these characteristics is necessary for an individual who wishes to embark on the complicated task of producing Italian translation of an oral text. An oral text in Italian translation will naturally imitate the patterns and rhythms of the language in which it is spoken. Therefore, simple verbal transposition into the target language will mar the effect and the message of the source oral text. Respect for the source material and the source technique will have to be accommodated with recognition of the speech patterns and rhythms of the target language. The Italian translation will also have to be accompanied by appropriate gestures and facial expressions culled from the target culture.
The problems associated with oral translation become most pronounced in the case of translating a song and its lyrics. Any song will have to be translated with the tune unchanged. That creates problems at the phonic/graphic and prosodic levels because phonic/graphic and prosodic properties differ from language to language. For example, compared to Italian, English is marked by an excessive use of short vowels, and consonants in the English language combine in odd and difficult to articulate ways. Translators of songs thus find it easier to introduce new words and new meanings in the target language while keeping the tune unchanged.