Monday, 26 January 2015

Translation and Indigenization

The Problem of Negotiation

Any such negotiation is problematic because it must strike a delicate three-way balance between making something culturally competent and comprehensible, accurately representing the original meaning, and behaving ethically towards local perspectives. Misrepresentation of the original can be a “sin of commission” as well as omission, through mistranslation, oversimplification, censoring, or if one’s “artistic license” drifts into editorializing. This is why it is often said that to translate is to betray – that it is impossible to translate something without betraying the truth of the original. Inadvertent betrayal is easy because it is often hard to divine the intention of the person who originally produced the words in question. If they are one’s own words, it is one thing, but if they are those of another can be very hard to be confident that one’s translation does in fact capture what was “really meant.”

Ian Lilley
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

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