Kansi ja kuvitus Riitta Oittinen
Translating for Children
Garland, Inc., New York, 2000
Situation and purpose are an intrinsic part of all translation.
Translators never translate words in isolation but whole situations.
They bring to the translation their cultural heritage, their reading
experience, and in the case of children's books, their image of childhood
and their own child image. In so doing, they enter into a dialogic
relationship that ultimately involves readers, the author, the illustrator,
the translator, and the publisher.
The translator-centered approach to the study of translation differs sharply
from older, more traditional approaches that are focused on abstract structures
of equivalence, "matches" or "fidelities" between texts (in words). Thus I do
not agree with views where translation is seen as a mechanistic act – pertaining
to texts as such, to the author's intentions and issues of language. In this way,
the translator's action is relegated to obscurity, if not invisibility.
In my book, I am concentrating on human action in translation, and I hope to shed
some light on the translator, the translation process, and translating for children,
in particular. My intention is to demonstrate how the whole situation of translation
takes precedence over any efforts to discover and reproduce the original author's
intentions as a given. Rather than the authority of the author, I focus special
attention on the intentions of the readers of a book in translation, both the
translator and the target-language readers. What are the intentions of the
publishers and buyers of books? What is the overall purpose of translations for
different audiences, children for example?
Purpose and Propositions
Translating for children shares one major problem with translating for adults:
like other translations, it is anonymous, even invisible. Several scholars have
pointed out that while we acknowledge "original" literature written for child
readers, we do not acknowledge translating for children. We do not hegemonically
think of translators as human beings with their own child images. Yet translators
cannot escape their own ideologies, which here means: their child images.
Child image is a very complex issue: on the one hand, it is something unique, based
on each individual's personal history; on the other hand, it is something collectivized
in all society. When publishers publish for children, when authors write for children,
when translators translate for children, they have a child image that they are aiming
their work at – it is this act of aiming work at children that I am interested in
studying, whether the resulting work is actually read by children of a certain age or not.
Moreover, when speaking of child and children's literature, we should be able to define
them somehow. Yet there is little consensus on the definition of childhood, child, and
children's literature. For this reason, I have avoided explicit definitions for these
topics but prefer to "define" them implicitly, whatever publishers or authors or
translators think of as children: I see children's literature as literature read silently
by children and aloud to children. Since I deal mainly with the translation of illustrated
stories for children (e.g., picture books), I am referring to children below school age
(seven in Finland). However, childhood is a fluid concept so many of my observations
about translating for children below school-age apply to translating for older children as well.
Children's literature has its own special features: children's books are often illustrated and often meant to be read aloud. Illustrations are of major importance in children's literature, especially in books written for illiterate children. The illustrations in picture books may often be even more important than the words, and sometimes there are no words at all. Illustrations have also been of little interest for scholars in translation, and there is hardly any research on this issue within translation studies.
Reading aloud, too, is characteristic of books for children; the only time we ever seem to read aloud to adults is in special situations like when we read love poems to lovers or when friends or family members are in the hospital, incapacitated, to help them pass the time. I will concentrate on these two central issues in translating for children: reading (silent and oral reading) and the relationship of words and illustration. How does a translator take all these different issues into consideration in the situation of translating an illustrated story for children?
One question clearly takes precedence when we translate for children: For whom? We translate for the benefit of the future readers of the text, children who will read or listen to the stories, children who will interpret the stories in their own ways. This question also brings up the issue of authority. If we simply aim at conveying "all" of the original message, at finding some positivistic "truth" in the "original," we forget the purpose and the function of the whole translation process: the translation needs to function alongside with the illustrations and on the aloud-reader's tongue. However, if we stress the importance of, for instance, the "readability" of the target-language text (or rather the readability of the whole situation), we give priority to the child as a reader, as someone who understands, as someone who actively participates in the reading event.
I consider reading the key issue in translating for children: first, the real reading experience of the translator, who writes her/his translation on the basis of how s/he has experienced the original; second, the future readers' reading experience imagined by the translator, the dialogue with readers who do not yet exist for her/him, that is: imaginary projections of her/his own readerly self. The translator reaches toward the future child readers, who are the beneficiaries of the whole translation process – the child and the adult reading aloud. Translators are readers who are always translating for their readers, the future readers of the translation.
In many instances I will be dealing with adaptation for children, which is often considered a key issue in children's literature. Despite the generality of the concept as traditionally defined, adaptation is typically only defined in terms of how it deviates from the original. It is thus taken to be different from a translation, which is supposed to be the same as or in some way equivalent to the original. In related ways, adaptation and equivalence are both vague concepts. There is every reason to re-evaluate these long-held ideas: an original, the first text, and its translation, the second text, are invariably different, as the translation has been manipulated (in the positive sense) by its translator. I believe that, along with the new developments within translation studies, the problems with respect to adaptation and equivalence deserve more in-depth consideration. As a whole, I do not consider them separate or parallel issues: all translation involves adaptation, and the very act of translation always involves change and domestication. The change of language always brings the story closer to the target-language audience. Much of the disagreement, e.g., adaptation vs. censorship, reflects changes in culture and society, our child images, and our views about translating.
In this book my main propositions are that, despite similarities like translating in a situation and translating for some readers, the dialogic situation of translating for children differs in significant ways from that of translating for adults; that the situation of translating for children includes several other elements besides the text in words (e.g., the translation of picture books); that the translator for children, too, should be clearly visible; and that the translator, by being loyal to the reader of the translation, may be loyal to the author of the original.
Mary Snell-Hornby has remarked that hermeneutic theory has long been bound up with translation theory, and it certainly has been with mine. It is not my aim to set norms for translating for children but to try to understand what processes are at work in translating for children, i.e., how we communicate with children through translation. Thus I will be dealing with translation as cross-cultural communication – including child and adult culture – especially from the point of view of different readers.
In addition to being cross-cultural, translation studies are interdisciplinary studies. They draw on several other branches of learning, among them literary studies, philosophy, and psychology. This expands the scale of this discipline: the process of translation takes precedence over the study of texts as such. Thus the structure of the book is "progressive": In this section, I shall introduce the subject and map the general situation of translating for children; in the second section concentrating mainly on situation and equivalence, I shall briefly review how I see translation studies as the basis for translating for children.
In the second main chapter, "Readers Reading," I deal with reading as one of the central issues in translating: translators are reading for not just themselves but also for the future readers of translations. In the last section of this chapter, I shall consider the issue of performance, so important in all translation and of vital importance in translating for children. The third main chapter, "For Whom?", concentrates on my inner child – my "own" child concept – through the eyes of child psychologists and linguists. As adults and translators, we bring a concept of the child and childhood to our work. Where does the child fit into the story, into society? Can child and childhood be defined? I also deal with the differences between children and adults in an effort to understand why we see children as we do today. As translators for children, we should have access to the most useful information about how children experience the world and literature, how they read, how they hear, and how they see pictures. Yet it is not my intention to universalize my own child image but, on the contrary, to tell my readers openly where I stand and how I look at child and childhood.
In the third chapter I also discuss the issue of authority – to demonstrate the position of the child on the decision-making continuum. It is usually an adult who decides what literature is and what it is not. This is another reason I prefer to speak about translating for children instead of the translation of children's fiction: to a large extent, every reader defines for her/himself what she/he considers "literary" or fictional. While influenced by our cultural and literary traditions, we always make these decisions individually. The fourth main chapter, "Children's Literature and Literature for Children," concentrates on children's literature, its status and definitions, all of which have strongly influenced what we have translated for children and how we have done it. What do we mean by children's literature? What do adult and children's literature have in common?
The fifth main chapter, "Translating Children's Literature and Translating for Children," presents some examples of the translation of children's literature and translating for children, including the translation of a picture book. I also look at the various readerships present in the process of translating for children, at authors as translators of their own works, and at different versions of Tove Jansson's Moomin stories and Lewis Carroll's "Alices" in translation. In the sixth and concluding chapter, "A Never-ending Story," I summarize the issues raised throughout my book, with the goal of including publishers, too, in the dialogics of translating for children.