A Textbook of Translation

I rounded off my DipTrans reading for the year with A Textbook of Translation. The edition I read had a copyright date of 1988, and it doesn’t seem to have been updated since. Out-of-date texts has been a recurring theme with the DipTrans list, leading me to believe that no one’s updated it in a good long while.

Image courtesy Prentice Hall Longman ELT

A Textbook of Translation is 30 years old and its age shows. Sometimes this is just charming (there’s still West Germany and the USSR), and sometimes it has serious implications for the material (an entire chapter is devoted to using reference tools that have by and large been rendered obsolete by the Internet). If I were reading it back when it was newly published, I would have given it 4 stars, but I’m reading it in the year of Our Lord 2018, so 3 stars it is. I took notes and I still found some value in reading it, but the wheat needed to be separated from the chaff.

In Newmark’s defense, Textbook is quite thorough and provides a solid overview of best translation practices, how to approach different kinds of texts, and how to think about different translation problems you might run into. However, unlike In Other Words and Becoming a Translator, there are no practical activities or questions at the end of each chapter. Instead, an entire second section at the end is filled with original texts and their translations—but even that is more analysis and reflection over an existing translation than an attempt to think  about your own work or language usage. (This is, in my view, an inherent problem with the text, and not a simple question of  updating.) Newmark also relies heavily and nearly exclusively on French and German examples as well as English. My high school German is so atrophied I simply skimmed over those examples, but my French is advanced enough I could usually understand the point he was making.

I read it, and I guess I’m glad I did, but it might be my least favorite off the list so far.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *