The aim of this study was to identify the role of the gender of the translator on the accuracy of the translation, and to determine whether there is any difference between the translations done by female and male translators in terms of translation accuracy. Two English novels and two translations for each, one done by a female and the other by a male translator, were selected. Each translation was compared with its source text, sentence by sentence, and based on some certain categories, their inappropriate renderings affecting the understanding of the ST, and in fact affecting the translation accuracy, were extracted.
The total numbers of the observed inappropriate renderings of each group of the female and male translators were counted. Having analyzed the data and having applied some statistical analyses, the researcher discovered that the answer to the research question was negative and the null hypothesis of the research was supported.
Key Words: gender, accuracy, mutedness, politeness, dominance
Every process of translation involves at least two languages and one message, which can be called form and meaning.
In fact, the meaning is the message which is transferred by various features and it is the task of the translator to transfer the meaning of the ST into the TT. So, depending on different factors affecting the translator’s performance and the way the message is conveyed, different translations will be produced. Gender of the translator is one of the factors that may affect the product of the translator, and the accuracy of translation is an important feature in evaluating any translated text.
This research aimed to work on the differences which might exist in terms of the accuracy between the translations done by male and female translators.
Thus, the research question was as follows: “Is there any difference between the translations done by female and male translators in terms of translation accuracy? ” In order to investigate the above mentioned research question, the following hypothesis was developed: “There is no difference between the translations done by female and male translators in terms of translation accuracy. “
Language and gender are linked and developed through man’s participation in every day social practice. It is proved through various investigations that the languages of men and women are really different (Holmes 1995: 1). In the past, women were invisible, yet today they believe that they possess a different voice, different psychology, different experience of love, etc. and also different culture from that of men (Coates 1997: 13). Many studies have been conducted so far, regarding the role of the gender “as a determinant of linguistic usage” (Stockwell 2002: 16).
According to Stockwell (2002: 16), today the term ‘genderlect’ is used to refer to the different lexical and grammatical choices which are characteristically made by males and females; e. g. women in their talks use frequent certain color term, frequent certain evaluative adjectives, not sure intonation, tag phrases and super-polite expressions, such as euphemism, less swearing and more indirect words. Some of their language differences proved through various investigations are as follows: women are believed to be the talkative and gossiping sex (Graddol & Swann 1992: 70).
Women speak softly, whereas men speak loud and such differences in the voices relate to their physical sexual differences; moreover, men are thought to be stronger and bigger than women (Graddol & Swann 1992: 13). Men use ‘I’, swear words and taboo ones more than women, and in order to continue the conversation and show the certainty, women use more hedges, expressions such as ‘I’m sure’, ‘you know’, ‘perhaps’… (Coates 1997: 116, 126). According to Jepersen (cited in Coates 1997: 20), since women start talking without having thought, they are much more often break off than men without finishing their sentences.
It is believed that women talk, compliment others and also apologize more than men do; moreover, in conversations women usually do not interrupt men’s words and they wait until they finish their talk (Holmes 1995: 2). Also, as Graddol and Swann (1992: 92) believe women talk more politely than men. But what is the linguistic definition of the concept of ‘politeness’? Politeness should be considered as “an expression of concern for the feelings of others” (Holmes 1995: 4).
Holmes (1995: 6) believes that women are more concerned about the feelings of those to whom they are talking and they speak more explicitly than men; also, he says that women are considered as the members of the subordinate group, so they have to be polite. In mixed conversations, women use the minimal responses more than men and at appropriate moment, while men use such words less and often with delay to show their dominance and the powerlessness of the gender to which they talk (Coates 1997: 116). As mentioned before, men interrupt more than women and it is because they think they are more dominated and powerful (Coates 1997: 110).
There is an idea that powerlessness is a feminine characteristic (cited in Graddol & Swann 1992: 91, 92). DeVault (2002: 90) believes that “the concept of “mutedness” does not imply that women are silent”. According to Coates (1997: 35), for centuries women were considered in a ‘muted group’ and this was the desired state of them; so this belief that women talk too much is because of this fact that they are required to express themselves to the dominant group of men and talk to them, so that they can be heard by them and this talking is against their mutedness.
Consequently, women are considered as the subordinate group and men as the dominant one, and for this reason, females are doing their best in order to be heard by the society and express their abilities to males. But regarding their translations, it must be said since translation is the product of man’s language, it must have the same characteristics as that of language. So, every translation must reflect the characteristics of the language of its translator.
In the process of translating a text, the message of the original should be preserved in the translation and this shows the fidelity or faithfulness of the translator to the original text. Beekman and Callow (1989: 33) believe that a faithful translation is the one “which transfers the meaning and the dynamics of the original text”; and by ‘transferring the meaning’, they mean that the translation conveys the ST information to the TT reader. According to Beekman and Callow (1989: 34), “only as the translator correctly understands the message, can he begin to be faithful”, and it is only then that “he can translate clearly & accurately”.
In fact, faithfulness and fidelity are two terms which show how much the TT reconstructs the ST. Some translation theorists believe that the translation should be evaluated by considering its ST as “the yardstick” (Manafi Anari 2004: 34, vol. 2, no. 5). Manafi Anari (2004: 41, vol. 1, no. 4) defines accuracy as “the exactitude or precision of the meaning conveyed” and in fact it “implies conformity of translation with the original text in terms of fact or truth”.
Also, he defines ‘accurate translation’ as a translation “which is the reproduction of the message of the ST” (Manafi Anari 2004: 34, vol. 2, no. 5). Newmark (1996: 111) believes that in translating a text, “the accuracy relates to the SL text, either to the author’s meaning, or to the objective truth that is encompassed by the text”, etc. According to the discussion above, accuracy can be considered as one of the representations of the faithfulness in translation, i. e. showing how accurately the translator has managed to reproduce the message of the ST into the TL.
Larson (1984: 485) believes that in every translation, accuracy, clearness and naturalness are of the great importance. Regarding the translation accuracy, she believes that in some cases, when the translator tries to get the meaning of the ST and convey it to the TT, s/he may make some mistakes, either in the analysis of the ST, or in the process of conveying the meaning, and a different meaning may result; then, there is a need for a careful check regarding the accuracy of the translation.
According to Khomeijani Farahani (2005: 77-78) based on what Larson proposed in 1984, the process of evaluating the accuracy of translation can be done in 2 possible ways: one way is recognizing the key words of the ST and their equivalences in the TT and comparing how close they are; i. e. determining whether the translator could convey the same and exact meaning of the ST by selecting the best target equivalents and whether s/he could achieve an acceptable accuracy or not.
Another way is using back translation; i. e. translating the TLT into the SL, then, carrying out a contrastive analysis and if the retranslated text is reasonably close to the SLT, the translation has got the acceptable accuracy. Also, Waddington (2001: 313) has proposed a translation quality assessment method based on Hurtado’s (1995) model: Waddington’s “Method A” introduces three groups of mistakes which may exist in a translation.
The first group of the mistakes, which consider the understanding of the ST message, is related to the accuracy of the translation; it contains inappropriate renderings affecting the understanding of the source text and divides them into eight categories: contresens, faux sens, nonsens, addition, omission, unresolved extralinguistic references, loss of meaning, and inappropriate linguistic variation (register, style, dialect, etc. ).
Consequently, the term ‘translation accuracy’ refers to the translator’s understanding of the message of the ST and that how accurately the translator has managed to translate a text from one language into another.
Through reviewing the languages applied by women and men, and also by studying various aspects of their lives, it is revealed that women are considered as the subordinate group and men as the dominant one. Hence, it is for this reason that in recent decades, females are doing their best in order to be heard by the society and express their abilities to males.
Over the past several decades and after the women’s movement, gender issues got involved in the language issues; meanwhile the translation studies developed more and more (von Flotow 1997: 1). Regarding the translation, it can be assumed that since translation is the product of the language of the human being, it might have the same characteristics as those of language. So, every translation might reflect the characteristics of the language of its translator. According to von Flotow (1997: 5), “gender refers to the sociocultural construction of both sexes”.
During 1960s-1970s, feminist thinkers discussed socialized difference between women and men and the cultural and political powerlessness of these two genders (von Flotow 1997: 5). About the concept of gender, Sherry Simon (1996: 5) believes that “gender is an element of identity and experience which, like other cultural identities, takes form through social consciousness”.
By reviewing the history of translation, we can discover that always there have been “well-known debates over how best to be faithful”; then, it is not astonishing “that fidelity in translation has been consistently defined in terms of gender and sexuality” (Chamberlain, cited in Baker 1998: 93). For a long time, translation has been employed to explain women’s actions in public, and as von Flotow (1997: 12) has referred to Marguerito Duras, women lived in darkness for centuries, they did not even know themselves very well; then, while entering the public atmosphere, they had to translate what they mean.
As claimed by Arteaga (1994: 2, cited in Simon 1996: 134), cultural and linguistic histories of every nation demonstrate the relationship between self and other; at present, in cultural studies, translation is considered as a metaphor expressing “the increasing internationalization of cultural production” as well as “the fate of those who struggle between two worlds and two languages”.
According to Simon (1996: 134-135), marginalized group view translation as a means through which they can establish themselves in the culture and language of the dominant groups: women attempt to “translate themselves” into the men’s language and migrants try to translate their past experiences into the present. It is because of “the sense of not being at home within idioms of power” that has made many women and also migrants, such as Salman Rushdie, to believe themselves as being “translated beings” (Rushdie 1991: 13, cited in Simon 1996: 135).
Translator and translation have been considered as marginalized, since some have believed that the original text has got superiority over the translation and that the translation is just an equivalent of the original and it is not an original in itself (Hatim & Munday 2004: 200). Historically, translation has been considered as a secondary and degraded version of authorship (Simon 1996: 39).
As Simon (1996: 39) states, it has been appeared as a great instrument for women providing them to step into the world of literature and writing; translation helps women to express themselves through their writings and translations; for long, women have been limited to just translate and they have been only permitted to enter this specific secondary zone of writing; they have been forced to stand outside the borders of the dominant zone of writing and not been allowed to enjoy the position of authorship.
Feminism and translation are both considered in the category of “secondariness” and both are served as instruments for the critical understanding of differences as it is described in language (Simon 1996: 8). The aim of feminist translation theory is to determine and to criticize the concepts of inferiority of women and translation, in both society and literature; for this purpose, the process through which translation has come to be feminized should be explored and the structures of authority maintaining such association should be troubled (Simon 1996: 1).
By the passage of time, and through the achievements formed by feminists and their movements, women could express themselves and their abilities in society, and in fact, they could establish their identities in the world; just as Simon says, “feminism has also reordered lines of cultural transmission” (Simon 1996: 84). By means of translation, translators – often females – have created new ways of exchange; besides, they have opened new translation markets, and according to Simon (1996: 84), “in addition to the conceptual challenging of translation tropes, feminism has worked to establish new intellectual connections”.
The researcher compared some Persian translations with their English originals to discover whether there is any significant difference between the translations of the male and female translators in terms of translation accuracy. So, a comparative descriptive approach was adopted. In fact, this research was conducted through a descriptive corpus-based method. As the corpus of the study, two English novels and two translations for each, i. e. one by a male and another by a female translator, were compared regarding their accuracy.
The researcher considered about 10000 words of each English novel and compared the original sentences with their Persian translations. The titles of the novels and their translations were as follows: ( Austen, J. (1813), reprinted 2003. Pride and Prejudice. Bantam Classic: New York.
In order to discover whether male translators translate more accurately than female translators and to find out whether there is any significant difference between the accuracy of the translations of these two genders, the researcher chose two English novels and she compared the first 10000 words of each novel with their two translations, one done by a male and the other by a female translator.
Here, the unit of the analysis was ‘sentence’; i. e. the researcher compared each sentence of the source text with its certain translation according to the first part of Waddington’s “Method A” (2001: 313) which is related to translation accuracy and contains the eight categories of the inappropriate renderings which affect the understanding of the source text: contresens, faux sens, nonsens, addition, omission, unresolved extralinguistic references, loss of meaning, and inappropriate linguistic variation (register, style, dialect, etc.).
Examples below show the way the researcher analyzed the translations. Here, there are: * MT1: male translator of the Text 1 *FT1: female translator of the Text 1 * MT2: male translator of the Text 2 *FT2: female translator of the Text 2 Examples are as follows: ( But to be candid without ostentation or design – to take the good of everybody’s character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad – belongs to you alone. (Text 2/ Sentence 220).
The researcher computed and then presented the number of the frequencies of each category of the translations in the following tables: MT1 |Contresens |Fauxsens |Nonsens |Addition |Omission |Unresolved Extralinguistic References |Loss of Meaning |Inappropriate Linguistic Variation |Total | |Frequency |3 |169 |0 |217 |193 |3 |32 |11 |628 | |Percentage |1 |47 |0 |60 |53 |1 |9 |3 |- | |Table 1: MT1’s Inappropriate Renderings.
FT1 |Contresens |Fauxsens |Nonsens |Addition |Omission |Unresolved Extralinguistic References |Loss of Meaning |Inappropriate Linguistic Variation |Total | |Frequency |3 |136 |0 |163 |151 |12 |25 |2 |492 | |Percentage |1 |38 |0 |45 |42 |3 |7 |1 |- | | Table 2: FT1’s Inappropriate Renderings MT2 |Contresens |Fauxsens |Nonsens |Addition |Omission |Unresolved Extralinguistic References |Loss of Meaning |Inappropriate Linguistic Variation |Total | |Frequency |1 |136 |0 |139 |171 |16 |44 |62 |569 | |Percentage |0 |36 |0 |37 |45 |4 |12 |16 |- | |Table 3: MT2’s Inappropriate Renderings.
FT2 |Contresens |Fauxsens |Nonsens |Addition |Omission |Unresolved Extralinguistic References |Loss of Meaning |Inappropriate Linguistic Variation |Total | |Frequency |3 |169 |2 |204 |201 |4 |67 |11 |661 | |Percentage |1 |45 |1 |54 |53 |1 |18 |3 |- | |Table 4: FT2’s Inappropriate Renderings
Regarding the translations of the Text 1, the researcher found that the female translator translated more accurately than the male translator, since the number of the observed inappropriate renderings of MT1 was more than that of FT1.
But regarding the Text 2, the researcher got an opposite result; i. e. she discovered that the male translator translated more accurately than the female translator, for the number of the inappropriate renderings of FT2 was more than that of MT2. So, based on the different findings obtained from the analysis of the Text 1 and Text 2, the researcher discovered there is no significant difference between the translations done by the female and male translators in terms of translation accuracy.
According to the data analysis and findings obtained through studying inappropriate rendering cases affecting the understanding of the ST, and in fact, affecting the accuracy of their translations, which occurred in the translations of the male and the female translators, it was proved that there is no significant difference between the translations done by male and female translators in terms of translation accuracy. Thus, the null hypothesis of this research was supported.
Here, it is concluded that the gender of the translator plays no significant role in the accuracy of the translation, and that it cannot be said whether female translators translate more accurately than male translators or vice versa. So, this study proved that the gender of the translator cannot be considered as a determinant factor in examining the translation accuracy.
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