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Translation Studies: The Skopos Theory Essay

2129 words - 9 pages

The Importance of the Brief for a Translator under the Framework of the Skopos Theory
1. Introduction
There has been a heated discussion in the field of Translation Studies with respect to where the emphasis should be put. Should it be on the source text and the sender, on the target text and the receiver or the process itself? This boils down to how one defines translation. This essay offers a critical view on the Skopos theory, which focuses on the translation process. A discussion is included to illustrate the importance of translation brief in both pedagogical and professional settings. Other related theories are presented as well. Finally, the essay concludes with a few remarks and ...view middle of the document...

Any action has a skopos and a result. For translational action in particular, the result is translatum, which is a specific variety of target text as defined by him. (Vermeer 1989 in Venuti 2004: 221) In addition, he suggests that the role of the source text in the translational action should be decided by the translator based on the skopos (Vermeer 1989, in Venuti 2004: 228). As a result, the Skopos theory implies the dethronement of the source text and that the source text and the target text may not be equivalent because the target text should be produced in line with the skopos while the source text merely offers information.
Nevertheless, the Skopos theory is criticized as well. Three criticisms are presented as follows. First of all, in Vermeer’s paper Skopos and Commission in Translational Action, he summarized two types of objections against the theory. The first objection claims that ‘not all actions have an aim’. Vermeer responds that if an action has no aim, then it not be considered as action any more. Even literature could have the purpose of publication. The second objection is a certain variant of the first one. It states that ‘not every translation can be assigned a purpose’. To be exact, ‘there are translations that are not goal-oriented’. Vermeer responds that when a text is produced, it has an assumed function. Moreover,’ a translatum is a text in ‘its own right’ with its own potential of use’. (Vermeer 1989, in Venuti 2004: 224-228)
Finally, other scholars, for example Pym (1996: 338loyalty), criticize that the Skopos theory helps produce ‘mercenary experts’, who can manipulate the source texts as they see fit. In order to deal with the ethical aspect of the Skopos theory, Nord (1997loyalty) suggests the principle of ‘loyalty’, which refers to translator’s behavior and attitude of acting loyally to different partners involved (senders, commissioners, receivers, etc.) during the translation process.

3. The Translation Brief
The skopos must be defined before carrying out translation is one of the claims of the Skopos theory (Schaffner). Therefore, under the Skopos theory, it is necessary to have a translation ‘brief’, which is from the German word ‘Übersetzungsauftrag’. Nord (1997trainee) favours the term ‘brief’ as it compares the translator to a lawyer who receives the general information and instructions but is still free to perform those instructions when it is appropriate. Thus, a translation brief provides basic guidelines for the translator with respect to the intended functions of the target text in order to help them decide which strategies to take during the translation process. As experts in this field, translators should be responsible for the functions of the final products based on the skopos of the translation as well as the translation brief (Vermeer 1989, in Venuti 2004: 228).
Translation briefs are important as they help translators produce translations with better quality by explaining...

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