Faithful Translations versus Adapted Translations

April 7th, 2010
Since time immemorial, professional translation companies and individual translation service freelancers have been struggling to achieve the balance between adapted translations and faithful translations. Human translation has come a long way, and ever since globalization became a concern for businesses everywhere because of the advent of the worldwide web, localization and adaptation of source texts have become the norm for many a professional translation agency. Nevertheless, that doesn't necessarily mean that translation service providers should abandon the faithfulness of their work to the original text for the sake of localization purposes; a balance must be struck between the two in order to bring about the best output possible. Theoretically speaking, functionalist approaches in human translation help quite a lot in liberating translators from the bonds of the source text and its author by transferring the attention from moral norms to social norms. However, translators much practice caution in avoiding the abuse of this functionalist ideology so that they won't be enslaved by and forced to abide blindly to the dominant social norms (otherwise known as cultural context and socio-political understanding). Blind compliance with dominant social norms is just as bad as too much concentration on moral norms because the shift was intended mostly to balance the two principles. Domesticating strategies—otherwise known as localization techniques—aren't bad in and of themselves as long as context is maintained. However, a translator is definitely crossing the line when he becomes too compliant to the culture of the intended audience, to the point where he could be abandoning the context of his translation altogether (which can be considered as a major breach in moral norms, because any deviation in translating a source text is considered "immoral" by those advocating faithful translations). Although useful, the functionalist approach and domesticating strategies are admittedly limited when it comes to achieving the perfect balance between faithfulness and adaptation. Sure, the typical output that the functionalist approach produces is more often than not acceptable, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a particularly successful attempt. To be more specific, that method concentrates mostly on safeguarding the interests and meeting the expectations of the target audience, so of course the context, meaning, and intentions of the source text will be discarded or ignored more often than not. As such, in order to satisfy the makers of the text and their potential new audiences from all across the globe, violating the norms (which may be either social or moral) is actually required. Therefore, a consequential ideology when it comes to translation is a must because it discards translation morality and sociology and focuses more on the consequences of a translator's output. This way, the translator will be able to avoid all the usual faux pas, blunders, and errors translations commit by keeping in mind the result instead of the processes. The objective message of the translator himself is of the utmost importance in this methodology.

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