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Why Translators Should Want
to Internationalize Translation
Studies
Maria Tymoczko
a
a
University of Massachusetts, USA
Published online: 21 Feb 2014.
To cite this article: Maria Tymoczko (2009) Why Translators Should Want
to Internationalize Translation Studies, The Translator, 15:2, 401-421, DOI:
10.1080/13556509.2009.10799287
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ISSN 1355-6509 St Jerome Publishing, Manchester
The Translator. Volume 15, Number 2 (2009), 401-21 ISBN 978-1-905763-14-6
Why Translators Should Want to
Internationalize Translation Studies
MARIA TYMOCZKO
University of Massachusetts, USA
Abstract. The role of the translator and the conceptualization of
translation are both in a period of notable change. Some of this
change is happening because the profession of translation is inter-
nationalizing rapidly and thus old Eurocentric and other localized
ideas no longer fully respond to the demands of the feld. Global-
ization is also exercising transformative pressures on the practices
of translation, in part driven by new technologies. Frameworks to
interrogate the discourses of translation studies and to develop
broader conceptualizations of translation so as to meet the chal-
lenges coming from both inside and outside the feld are needed by
scholars, by teachers of translation, and most of all, by translators
themselves. Linking theory and pragmatics, this article explores how
consideration of a broad feld of ideas about translation from many
parts of the world offers new models of practice, greater potential
for creativity, enhancement of the translators agency, new ethical
positioning, the ability to assess translational phenomena with
greater acuity, and a reservoir of conceptualizations for meeting
challenges of the present and the future.
Keywords. Agency, Ethics, Globalization, Internationalization, Paradigm
shifts, Translation practice, Translation theory.
It is increasingly obvious that the profession of translator and the practice
of translation are in a period of rapid change. Anthony Pym (2000:191-92)
has observed that the very fact that the names for translation and translator
are changing indicates a rethinking of the profession of translator and the
nature of translation itself. For example, there are calls for translators to be
reconceptualized as cultural mediators, a trend which Pym (ibid.:191) notes
is already happening at the upper end of the translation profession (cf. Katan
1999/2004, Cronin 2003). Similarly, terms like localization indicate a move-
ment away from the old transfer hypothesis that has dominated Eurocentric
thinking about translation since the late Middle Ages. Some of this change is
occurring because the feld of translation studies is expanding to include an
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 402
ever larger international domain and thus old Eurocentric ideas about transla-
tion are no longer relevant to the entire feld.
1
After canvassing practices of
translation in several parts of the area historically dominated by Chinese culture
specifcally Japan, Korea and Vietnam Judy Wakabayashi concludes that
there must be a reconsideration of the nature and defnition of translation,
which cannot in its narrow and conventional sense encompass all the ways in
which texts have been reprocessed and reconfgured in East Asia (2005:61).
By contrast, writing about translation in the present and future contexts of
globalization and thus coming from an almost diametrically opposite direc-
tion, Michael Cronin argues that conceptions of translation and the translator
must be reshaped because of the impact of the technologies of globalization;
he concludes that translators can no longer be conceived of independently
of the technologies with which they interact (2003:112). These comments by
Pym, Wakabayashi and Cronin epitomize the necessity of re-conceptualizing
translation and translators and point to an emerging consensus. They illustrate
different but convergent effects of the increased networking and interdepend-
ence of the world. It is clear that translation studies must use new frameworks
to interrogate its own discourses and to develop broader views of translation in
order to respond to pressures coming from inside and outside the feld alike.
Signs of the necessity to rethink fundamentals include the following symp-
tomatic changes. First, it has become more and more diffcult in many types
of translation to keep the source text and target text distinct. For example,
in many forms of localization it is impossible to indicate clearly source text
and target text, and in the translation of Web sites and advertisements this
distinction is also not always relevant. Similarly, many multilingual national
and supranational bodies including Switzerland and the European Union
have effaced this distinction by designating offcial documents in all major
languages as having equal legal standing and as originals. This is true in
the EU, notwithstanding the fact that EU institutions together probably con-
stitute the largest employer of translators in the world, and these translators
are responsible for producing EU documents. If these offcial documents are
in fact originals, we must ask why translators are being hired to write and
produce them.
2
Second, in many cases the target text bears little similarity to the source
text except in function as conceived in the most general way: say, to promote
or sell a product. The target text can look different, convey different verbal
messages and be completely self-standing. This disparity is especially notable
in multimodal translation.
1
Indeed one can argue that many of the truisms of Eurocentric thinking about translation
have never been fully applicable even within Europe itself. See Tymoczko (2007:60-68)
for examples.
2
This paradox, in which translations become originals as a result of authentication by
authorities, is explored at length in Hermans (2007:3-17, esp. 12 ff; 22, 26-27, 121-23).
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Maria Tymoczko 403
Third, the locus of translation is changing. The need for shorter turnaround
times associated with the electronic networking of the world means that fewer
and fewer translation projects are executed by a single translator at a single
site. Increasingly, translation is undertaken by teams whose only connection is
a virtual electronic network. Moreover, much translation is being outsourced
beyond Europe and the Americas to countries, often India and China, where
there are large cadres of translators willing to work for low wages. The locus
of translation is also changing because of the need to translate into or out of
Asian languages that few translators in Europe and the Americas master.
In these symptomatic changes the role of technology is paramount. Technol-
ogy makes it possible to coordinate efforts of translators from many different
locations around the globe. Moreover, computer-assisted translation is shifting
the translators task from generating text to editing electronically generated
text. Technology is even driving the production of source texts, which are
being designed precisely for computer-assisted translation.
Before continuing, let us pause to consider some questions of termin-
ology. Here I am using the term Eurocentric to refer to ideas, perspectives
and practices that initially originated in and became dominant in Europe,
spreading from there to various other locations in the world, where in some
places, such as the United States and the rest of the Americas, they have also
become dominant. Such ideas are commonly referred to as Western. At
this point in time, however, when Western ideas have permeated the world
and there is widespread interpenetration of cultures everywhere, the term
Western is problematic.
3
Hence, when I talk about internationalizing
or de-Westernizing translation studies, what I am actually proposing is to
de-centre inherited Eurocentric conceptualizations that continue to be com-
monplace and even dominant in the feld despite their decreasing relevance.
Though I give preference to the term Eurocentric in this article, at times it is
also used interchangeably with the term Western.
Ironically the terms international and internationalizing are also worth
considering. Too often international has had a very local and Eurocentric set
of associations: for example, in order to achieve an international perspective
on a topic, it has suffced to consider the range of difference embodied within
Europe itself, as the range of examples in many translation studies textbooks
indicates. Alternatively, international has been used to refer to bilateral rela-
tions between part or all of Europe and one nation or one area outside Europe:
say, for example, China and England. By contrast when I call for a turn to
the international, I mean turning to the fully international. I am referring to a
conception of the international that includes all languages and all cultures: east
and west, north and south, large and small, powerful and weak, rich and poor,
traditional and modern, oral and literate, and more. Moreover, when I refer to
3
Additional considerations about these issues are found in Tymoczko (2007:15-16, 324-
25) and sources cited.
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 404
internationalizing translation studies, I do not envision merely increased as-
sociations of individuals or groups, good as that is, but a process in which we
as scholars, teachers and translators move beyond our enclosed mental worlds
to look beyond the boundaries of our own cultures, to see what we can learn
conceptually and practically about translation from the world at large.
Let us return to the question of the changes facing translation studies.
One way of distilling and conceptualizing the changes underway in the feld
of translation has been proposed by Ernst-August Gutt. Gutt (2000a:166; cf.
2000b:209-11) notes that (in Eurocentric contexts) translation has tradition-
ally been conceived as an interpretive activity: the relevance of translation
lies in informing addressees of what someone else has said, written or
thought. He observes (2000a:166; cf. 2000b:47-68, 215-20), however, that
at present the term translation is increasingly used for communication that
constitutes a descriptive use of language. That is, at present translation does
not necessarily constitute reported speech but can be a new utterance whose
primary purpose is an independent statement about or reference to the subject
matter itself. Thus translation is often performative, productive and discursive.
Localizations, advertisements and other types of contemporary commercial
translations exemplify this shift, as do many news reports, political statements
and offcial translations of nations or governmental bodies such as the EU,
where documents issued simultaneously in the major languages all have the
status of originals. It is in this sense that translation practice is shifting from
the interpretive to the performative in many circumstances.
4
These changes affect many aspects of the theory and practice of transla-
tion. Not surprisingly, many translators and translation scholars also perceive
these shifts as threats and sources of anxiety because they seem to undermine
all that people have learned about translation as transfer, as well as about the
importance of fdelity, the concept of equivalence, the sacredness of the word,
and so on.
The question that must be asked therefore is the following: how can or
should translators and the feld of translation studies go forward to meet the
challenges of the day? My answer to this question is that translation studies
should be internationalized and de-Westernized, in part because other para-
digms for translation that stress performance and change illuminate many
contemporary developments in the practice of translation and the tasks of
translators. There is a paradox here. It is fair to say that Western-style trans-
lation has become dominant in much of the world, especially in the realm of
commercial translation where Western and Westernized corporations drive the
translation market. Western ideas about translation are also dominant because
the technologies changing translation are themselves principally Western.
Teaching is yet another vehicle for the spread of Western ideas about translation
across the world, because instructional materials for professional translators
4
See also the discussion in Hermans (2007:7, 24).
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Maria Tymoczko 405
are often based on resources developed in Western contexts. Here the role of
Eugene Nidas work in translator training in China, or the Arabic textbooks
in Iraq based on the work of Peter Newmark, stand as examples.
In making this argument about the normative extension of Eurocentric ideas
about translation, I am thinking especially about the transfer hypothesis, coded
in the principal words for translation used in Western Europe notably English
translation, French traduction, Spanish traduccin, German bersetzung, and
similar words in many other European languages. These words suggest the idea
that translation involves close transfer of the message (particularly the semantic
meaning) of the source text. Transfer takes the form of a carrying across, a
leading across, or a setting across in which semantic meaning is privileged.
The idea of transfer has been the dominant conceptual model for translation in
Western Europe since the late Middle Ages, and it is important not to lose sight
of the fact that it has been a productive and successful model.
5
This Western
model of translation has been particularly useful for bureaucracies of various
sorts, including commercial organizations, governments, colonial regimes
and even religious institutions. The model of translation as transfer has also
been enormously important since the Renaissance in disseminating scientifc
and technical knowledge over a large multilingual culture area. Thus it has
much to do with the technical, economic, military and political supremacy
of Westernized countries, driving expansionism and various other forms of
dominance. The utility of this conceptualization of translation is one reason
that the model has been attractive outside Eurocentric domains.
At the same time and this is the other half of the paradox many Western
translators currently have a sense that they are losing ground in the global
market. Online bidding, for example, is seen as favouring cost-competitive
translators in Asia. Moreover, as we have seen, in many translation contexts
the traditional transfer model simply no longer obtains. New translation types
and processes are required.
As I have indicated, de-Westernizing the discipline and the profession in
favour of a broad internationalization is one way to meet these challenges.
Why do I make this suggestion? What conceptualizations and practices of
translation are to be found internationally that will be useful to translators and
translation scholars? Here I explore a small selection of ideas and practices
in languages and cultures beyond European ones that offer conceptualiza-
tions of translation and models of practice so as to expand the repertory of
contemporary translation studies. Moving beyond Eurocentric discourses
will also enhance the creativity and agency of translators and suggest a new
ethical positioning for translators. Finally, it will improve the ability to assess
translational phenomena with greater acuity and secure cognitive reserves to
meet challenges of the future.
5
Obviously there have been counter movements to this dominant discourse, such as les
belles infdles in seventeenth-century France. Such translation movements, however, are
the exceptions that prove the rule.
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 406
1. Alternative conceptualizations of translation
If, as Pym observes, the shift in the very terms for translation is signifcant, it
makes sense to explore terms for translation in world languages other than Eu-
ropean ones. Models and conceptualizations embedded in words for translation
used around the world can help translators and scholars understand and respond
to current shifts in the feld of translation. Here, of course, I can only give a
few examples from among the many thousands of words for translation that
exist in the worlds languages,
6
but nonetheless they illustrate how the cognitive
metaphors inherent in many words for translation can shift translation studies
away from conceptualizing translation primarily as (semantic) transfer.
7
A prime example is the most common Chinese locution for translation,
fanyi, which includes the sense turning over. The term is represented by the
character for fan, which means turning (a page) but also somersault, fip,
and the character for yi, which means interpretation, but is also a homonym
of the word meaning exchange.
8
The two terms, fan and yi, were both used
independently for the activity of translation, but by the 12th century they were
completely interchangeable (Cheung 2006:202). The concept fanyi is linked
to the image-schema of embroidery: if the source text is the front side of an
embroidered work, the target text can be thought of as the back side of the
same piece. Like the reverse of an embroidery which typically in modern
Chinese handwork has hanging threads, loose ends and even variations in pat-
terning from the front a translation in this conceptualization can be viewed
as different from but complementary to the original.
A translation is not expected to be equivalent in all respects to the original
and transfer per se is not the primary goal. At the same time, of course, the
working side of an embroidery teaches much about its construction. Both
images embroidery and turning (a page) suggest that in Chinese discourses
text and translation are related as front and back of the same object. They can
also be thought of as positive and negative of the same pattern if the embroidery
or weaving technique imaged is brocade which is smooth on both sides but the
pattern appears in opposite colours and directions. This is the image proposed
in the 10th century by the Buddhist monk Zan Ning in commenting on the
6
A more extensive discussion is found in Tymoczko (2007:68-77) and sources cited. See
also Chesterman (2006) for a longer list of terms and a discussion of some implications
of their image-schemas.
7
For more than a quarter century, linguists have documented the importance of cognitive
metaphors and image-schemas for conceptual orientations. The seminal work was published
in Lakoff and Johnson (1980), which has remained a classic; Halverson (1999a, 1999b)
has adopted this approach productively within translation studies.
8
Additional Chinese terms for translation, their image-schemas and implicit metaphors,
and their theoretical implications are discussed in Cheung (2005/2009, 2006). Yi can also
be translated as exegesis (Cheung 2006:121).
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Maria Tymoczko 407
meaning of fan: the meaning can be conveyed by likening it to turning over
a piece of brocade on both sides the patterns are the same, only they face in
opposite directions (Cheung 2006:177).
9
If one considers the implications of
the homonym of yi, meaning exchange, it is clear that translation in China
is also linked to trade, commerce and mutual interactions, a meaning that is
refected in etymological stories about the origin of the practice of translation
as ancillary to the invention of intercultural exchange and trade. Together the
images behind fanyi suggest the sort of exchange in which fgures turn to face
each other, facilitating cultural communication and interchange.
10
Other words also exemplify conceptualizations, image-schemas and
discourses related to translation that go far beyond Westernized views. For
example, tarjama, the Arabic word for translation, has quite different associa-
tions from translation as transfer (Tymoczko 2007:70-71 and sources cited).
With its frst meaning as biography, tarjama suggests that a translation has a
narrative quality and that the translator is a sort of narrator with the power that
role entails.
11
There are additional interesting meanings for tarjama, includ-
ing defnition and in-depth analysis, that indicate frameworks for thinking
about translation as something other than a transfer process; indeed, in the
Arabic tradition of translating scientifc and mathematical texts, the translator
held as much authority as the author of the source text and was expected to
be equal as a scholar.
The narrative associations of tarjama are found in other terms for transla-
tion as well. For example, the Igbo words tapia and kowa both have the sense
break it up and tell it (in a different form) (Tymoczko 2007:71 and sources
cited). These terms stress the translators role as narrator and they imply change
and translational creativity. The emphasis of the processes behind tapia and
kowa is on accommodation to the reception standards of the target audience.
Conceptualizations of translation pertinent to shifts in translation practices
at present are also indicated by words used in the various languages of India:
anuvad (literally following after), rupantar (change in form), and chaya
(shadow, used of very literal translations) (Tymoczko 2007:68-70 and sources
cited). The frst two of these Indian words suggest that alteration in form and
variation are to be expected in a translation, and they too suggest oral standards
of evaluation. Anuvad, for example, derives from a root meaning speaks;
9
See also the commentary on the passage in Cheung (2006:186-87), where a comparison
is made between the Chinese image-schema and a similar one occurring in Spanish in
Don Quixote.
10
I am indebted for some of this material to personal communications with Martha Cheung
and Liu Xiaoqing. For a discussion and critique of translation as exchange, see Cheung
(2005/2009) and sources cited; cf. Cheung (2006:174-75, 178, 193, 199, 201).
11
In a private communication, Gideon Toury has pointed out that tarjama comes from a
root connected with speaks, underscoring the oral nature of translation. In turn the oral
quality can be related to the narrative aspect of translation as a form of (story)telling.
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 408
the term emphasizes the performance of a text, rather than literal rendition.
The temporal metaphor behind anuvad also contrasts with the spatial ones of
Western European words for translation. Insofar as translation is derivative in
Indian paradigms, it has this status because it comes after the source text in
time, but the temporal relationship does not impute the creativity of the transla-
tion. These qualities are underscored by the term chaya (literally shadow).
As a Sanskrit gloss of a Prakrit text, chaya suggests that a translation should
follow at the heels of the source text, not deviating or departing from it in form
or content; at the same time the metaphor suggests that like a shadow, such
a translation will appear quite different, depending on the angle from which
the translator illuminates and interprets the source text. The shadowy nature
of chaya also suggests to me that such a close translation is seen as having a
sort of lifeless quality in Indian culture.
Equally enlightening are words for translation in the Austronesian lan-
guages, notably Malay tersalin and Tagalog pagsasalin, which are associated
respectively with birth and with pouring liquids or granular solids (such as
rice) from one container to another (Tymoczko 2007:74-75). Tersalin suggests
the innovative and life-giving quality of translation while the image-schema
behind pagsasalin indicates that translation is a form of transfer, but a different
sort of transfer from Eurocentric conceptualizations: it is transfer involving
change, a process like pouring in which a fuid substance alters shape in order
to adapt to the receiving vessel.
These image-schemas and conceptual metaphors open up the domain
of translation far beyond semantic transfer. They validate possibilities for
the translators agency and for a range of translation types that Eurocentric
conceptions of translation as carrying across do not. A full exploration of this
question is obviously beyond the scope of this essay, requiring consideration
of cognates and lexical felds of many words for translation found worldwide,
local practices and products of translation, and local histories of translation,
with careful attention to diachronic shifts in all these factors. In turn, the his-
tories and practices of translation could be interrogated in light of the early
meanings of the words for translation in each culture. Etymologies, word
meanings, image-schemas and cognitive metaphors are only a stimulus or
starting point for inquiry, suggestive of conceptual orientations toward trans-
lation, the growth of local concepts of translation, and, hence, the growth of
local forms of knowledge about translation.
12
Its brevity notwithstanding, this summary of some conceptualizations of
12
In many ways Chinese scholars are ahead in this type of interrogation of local concepts
and discourses about translation, investigating Chinese terminologies, practices, histories
and discourses about the subject. An excellent example is the deep and sustained inves-
tigation in Martha Cheungs An Anthology of Chinese Discourse on Translation (2006),
which gives not only the primary texts documenting historical practices of and discourses
about translation but also scholarly analyses of the primary materials, tracking minutely the
changing meanings of Chinese terminology about translation, including the term fanyi.
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Maria Tymoczko 409
translation outside Eurocentric domains confrms the fndings of descriptive
translation studies undertaken during the last several decades, which indicate
the need to think more broadly about the nature of translation. These studies
have documented that even in European contexts translation is seldom simply
a transfer process involving the carrying across of semantic meaning. The
terms for translation discussed above also offer new tools for understanding
the changes currently shaping the profession of translation. Although some
of the ideas about translation suggested by the words considered above are
traceable in Western European traditions, these conceptualizations have been
masked by the image of translation as transfer that became dominant at the
end of the Middle Ages.
13
The hegemonic rise in Europe and the wider world
of the image-schema of translation as (semantic) transfer has narrowed ways
of conceiving translation to the point that it currently compromises translators
fexibility and adaptability.
In an effort to meet the needs of contemporary translation praxis and to de-
fne translation more adequately as an activity beyond semantic reproduction,
the functionalist schools of translation studies have attempted to expand the
conceptualization of translation in ways that have affnities to the image-schemas
and cognitive metaphors of the words for translation we have considered. To
see such ideas formalized in words, conceptualizations and practices dominant
outside Europe, however, gives weight, structure, validation and memorabil-
ity to many current formulations in translation studies, including those of
the functionalists. Alternative models of translation break the compulsion
that many Western and Westernized translators still feel to remain focused
at the level of the word or the sentence in both their conceptualizations and
processes of translation.
2. New models of practice
Many contemporary translation practices, including group protocols, virtual
networks and aspects of computer-assisted translation, are also illuminated
by international evidence that goes beyond Eurocentric models. The proto-
cols of contemporary media translation illustrate some of the issues. CNN
has approximately seven minutes to translate a news item that breaks in one
country into more than forty languages; any slower and local channels can
scoop the network by picking up the original CNN broadcast and retransmit-
ting the news in local languages.
14
Clearly such translation practices require a
13
Consider the connections between fanyi, turning over, for example, and Latin convertere,
Spanish convertir, Italian versione, and Old English wendan and awendan, all having
meanings related to turning. See Tymoczko (2007:72n41) and sources cited.
14
I am indebted here to information discussed in the panel Semiotranslation: A Research
Model for Intersemiotic Translation, consisting of presentations by Gregor Goethals, Robert
Hodgson, Ubaldo Stecconi, Siri Nergaard, and Nicola Dusi, at the conference Research
Models in Translation Studies, Manchester, England, April 2000.
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 410
decentralized cooperative network. It would be too expensive and impractical
to have assembled at any one place a full-time staff of translators competent
in more than forty languages.
Here the history of group translation methods in China offers a way to
think about practices where central reporting stations act as (pragmatic and
ideological) controllers of fexibly assembled teams. China has practised group
translation for more than two thousand years, spanning the period from the
early translations of the Buddhist scriptures to the group translation protocols
of the Peoples Republic of China. At the height of Buddhist sutra translation
in China, the translation teams involved hundreds, even thousands of people
(Cheung 2006:8), and coordinated the efforts of people from different geo-
graphical areas. It is interesting to note that the title of translator was given
consistently to the acknowledged sutra expert, even if he knew little or no
Chinese (Hung 2006:151), rather than the actual individuals who had linguistic
expertise in both the source and target languages. This translation history offers
a very different lens for understanding translation practices than do Eurocentric
traditions focused on the individual, suggesting different standards for assess-
ing the translators visibility, for example, and allowing translation studies to
move away from canons modelled by Western individualism.
Equally signifcant are the narrative models associated with translation
practices in Africa, India and elsewhere, for they revalorize oral translation
and the performative aspects increasingly demanded of translators at present in
multimodal translation, localization and other contemporary practices. These
paradigms underscore and legitimate the initiative, authority and agency of
the individual translator. The cognitive metaphors of words for translation
in these cultures acknowledge the necessity of breaking up the source text
and reformulating it to adapt to the receiving audience, thus indicating an
expectation that the target text can differ signifcantly from the source text.
In these traditions the emphasis has been on reception standards, adaptation
to accepted text types, and a manageable information load, moving the focus
away from the specifc words of the source text to larger textual segments or
even the whole text. The question of evaluating similarity and equivalence in
translation in such contexts is obviously quite different from that dominant in
Eurocentric contexts, and such conceptualizations are highly relevant to many
translation practices at present.
The scholarly tradition of translation into Arabic offers yet another model
of practice that contemporary translators can apply to contemporary tasks.
Because in Arabic tradition the knowledge of the translator was expected to
be equal to or greater than that of the author of the source text, again change
and updating were expected in the translated product. This is certainly a model
that valorizes many contemporary translation practices, ranging from those
expected in technical and scientifc translation to in-house translation in large
organizations.
Applying these terms for translation to contemporary practices, one might
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Maria Tymoczko 411
think of localization as a form of pagsasalin that is, translation as reshaping
a fuid message, just as pouring a liquid into a new vessel entails changing the
shape of the substance. Similarly, a legal translation might be seen in terms of
the root sense of fanyi, as a form of turning over that entails parts of the texts
taking on different colours and orientations to suit the new legal and cultural
context. The power of Chinese characters to induce a form of autotranslation
(Tymoczko 2007:73-74) also illuminates issues pertaining to the translation of
logos and branding markers, the introduction of new products and associated
innovative concepts, and the operations of certain forms of computer-assisted
translation protocols.
In understanding and articulating contemporary shifts in translation prac-
tices, it is helpful to see that in many cultures around the world throughout
history fairly radical changes in translation products have been compatible
with the standing of a target text as a good translation. Indeed the performative
practices of change, updating, revision for accuracy and accommodation to
the receiving audience have been routinely demanded from good translators
in many cultures, even if these criteria meant departing signifcantly from the
semantic meaning of the source text. Thus in diverse ways evidence from
beyond Eurocentric domains illuminates the trajectory of current translation
practices demanded in the globalizing world.
3. Potential for creativity
I have argued in Enlarging Translation, Empowering Translators (2007:54-
106) that translation is a cluster concept, rather than a concept bounded by
logical conditions or even by a prototype structure. Similar to game or lan-
guage, no necessary and suffcient conditions suffce to pick out all translations
and only translations across language, culture and time. Moreover, in cross-
cultural contexts there is no bounded group of properties that can be used to
determine the centrality, gradience, and weight of category exemplars and
hence membership in the category, as prototype approaches require. From an
international perspective, translation must be seen as a cluster concept in order
to accommodate the diversity suggested by the many cognitive metaphors and
practices documented throughout the world across time, even though locally
at a particular place and time translation types and practices might be
governed by prototype structures.
De-Westernizing translation studies and adopting a cluster concept ap-
proach encourage creativity in translation practices because they allow many
possibilities to open up potentially all the practices that have been performed
in the world throughout history and all those that can be invented, including
future options as yet unforeseen. If this idea is taken seriously, translators are
encouraged to borrow, blend and invent new translation strategies to meet
their current immediate and long-range needs. Consciously working within
an open concept of translation that includes practices developed throughout
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 412
the world removes some of the constraints translators feel to perform what
has already been approved in their own specifc cultural contexts, allowing
them to transcend the limits imposed by dominant models, to perform new
translation strategies and to invent new translation types that meet the many
goals now demanded of translators. There is a keen demand for innovation,
initiative and creativity in the current climate of globalization rather than mas-
tery of a predetermined set of translation skills. More fully internationalizing
translation studies can aid in responding to these demands both on the level
of the profession and on the level of the individual translator.
These are all reasons for translation studies to avoid retreating into separate
branches divided along national lines or the lines of distinct cultural traditions
of translation. Clearly translators trained in more than one conceptual frame-
work for translation have an advantage over those who operate more rigidly
within a single framework. In addition to having more fexibility and creativity,
such translators are able to problem-solve more easily when faced with new
translation tasks, empowered as they are with more than one perspective on
translation and more than one way of viewing a translational task. This may
be one reason the locus of translation is shifting beyond Eurocentric areas.
4. Enhancement of the agency of translators
We have looked at how de-Westernizing translation studies can enhance the
creativity of translators, but the agency conferred by familiarity with models
of translation from around the world goes beyond creativity. The common
words for translation in modern European languages became current at the
end of the Middle Ages when there was a widespread demand in Western
Europe to translate the Latin Bible into the vernacular languages, an impetus
that began in earnest in the 12th century and culminated in the Reformation.
The view of translation as transfer can be understood in part as an attempt
to impose normative limits on medieval oral methods of translation, which
are evident in many translated medieval texts. In oral cultures considerable
textual alteration is often practised, tolerated and even desired in translation,
as we have seen. The words for translation that became dominant in Western
European languages at the end of the Middle Ages implicitly set new norms
associated with literacy and sacralized the written word. These shifts were
partly motivated by the desire to control meaning associated with preserving
orthodoxy in religious translation, but no doubt the new norms were also at-
tractive to emerging secular bureaucracies of commercial and state interests,
which were also concerned with fdelity and control of meaning.
This control of meaning has important implications for translators. The
role of translators in making meaning has frequently been effaced in Eurocen-
tric tradition, in some respects systematically so. In general there are strong
cultural determinants in how meaning is constituted in translation, and it is
in the interest of those in power to deny translators an active role in making
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Maria Tymoczko 413
meaning and to disavow the constructivist nature of meaning in translation.
This institutionalized disavowal impinges on how translation is viewed and
how translators are trained and supervised. Social structures are established
to limit, defne and regulate meaning in translation and elsewhere, in large
part because power rests on the way meaning is controlled and constructed
as much as it does on physical coercion. The interest in controlling meaning
is not characteristic of Eurocentric cultures alone but is found in all cultures.
Control of meaning occurs at every level of human society, from the global
to the level of nations and cultures, from the local to the level of intimate
groupings such as families. At all levels those in power attempt to defne and
stipulate meaning, to establish and regulate discourses and to circumscribe
expression. In Eurocentric cultures, however, the conceptualization of transla-
tion as transfer has been a signifcant part of the system of control of meaning
since the late Middle Ages.
15
Societies are deeply invested in the allegiance and loyalty of their transla-
tors and develop methods to prevent translators from becoming traitors. The
most effective way to ensure the allegiance of translators is to regulate mean-
ing, to keep translators inscribed within dominant politicized meanings and to
efface this inscription at the very inception of translators careers. That is, the
most effective way to ensure translator loyalty is to efface choice, to deny the
constructivist nature of meaning, to make discourse look natural, to disperse
ideology and to undercut ethical initiatives associated with reinterpretations
of meaning. Many of these modes of control in Eurocentric contexts are as-
sociated with imaging translation as a specifc type of transfer. It is perhaps
no surprise that these ideas about translation should have been disseminated
and adapted internationally during the last century.
Being aware of cognitive metaphors for translation from around the world
helps translators and scholars in all cultures to challenge Eurocentric traditions
of control in translation, particularly the control of meaning. Many image-
schemas for translation worldwide release translators from the constraints of
semantic transfer and a problematic quest for equivalence, offering them a
great deal more freedom to create texts, to make meaning, to be active cul-
tural agents. This freedom is particularly important at present in adapting to
the challenges of globalization and the new demands currently being made
on translators.
5. New ethical positioning
Dominant Western views of translation as transfer transfer of meaning in
particular undercut the ethical agency of the translator. The idea of transfer
of the sacred Word derived from Bible translation keeps the focus on the
15
See also Hermans (2007:76, cf. 83), who argues that Western views of translation attempt
to silence the translators voice and to make translation monologic.
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 414
microlevels of textual fdelity. It is no accident that professional codes of ethics
also stress these microlevels, as well as the translators immediate obligations
to the employer, effacing larger spheres of responsibility to communities and
the world.
Eurocentric conceptualizations of translation are associated with the meta-
phor of the translator as standing between in the transfer process, a metaphor
that has been taken up and even lionized widely in translation studies. As I
have argued elsewhere (Tymoczko 2003/2009), however, the metaphor of
between suggests that the translator is neutral, above history and ideology;
the translator is merely a faithful transfer station between two cultural points.
The consequence is the evisceration of the agency of translators as responsible,
committed and engaged agents.
Knowledge of conceptualizations and practices of translation from
around the world offers standards of comparison that help translators see the
limitations of Eurocentric views. It facilitates awareness of the association of
Western models of translation with cultural and ideological dominance and
helps to reveal the ideological frameworks within which translators operate
in general. Such a comparative process of assessing translation is in fact use-
ful to translators working in every culture of the world as they struggle with
traditional constraints on translation during the current period of innovation,
whether those traditions are Western or not: a broad knowledge of views
about translation from many parts of the world benefts all translators what-
ever their culture. Exposure to other models of translation helps translators
develop self-refexivity, which is essential for empowerment and the exercise
of ethical agency.
Translators everywhere and at all times have been vulnerable to becoming
mouthpieces for the dominant regimes of their cultures. At present new forms
of this type of jeopardy are emerging along with the widespread networking
of the world. A chief peril posed by globalization for translators whether
they are from Eurocentric contexts or not is that they can become vehicles
for the assertion of dominant Western values around the world, ideas that
serve specifc corporate and military interests and that are vehicles of neoco-
lonialism. For translators and scholars from Europe, the Americas and other
Western countries, this means colluding in Western exploitation; for scholars
and translators elsewhere, it means becoming classic subalterns who buy into
hegemonic thinking in the service of dominant global powers. Having the
broadest possible conceptualization of translation helps translators keep ethi-
cal issues in focus; it reminds translators that translation methods themselves
can serve ideology. The alternative to such awareness is that the profession
of translation and the discipline of translation studies both of which are
purportedly dedicated to cultural exchange will instead become vehicles of
cultural homogenization and even oppression.
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Maria Tymoczko 415
6. Assessing translational phenomena with greater acuity
Broad knowledge of paradigms and practices of translation found worldwide
gives translators, scholars and teachers the ability to assess translational
phenomena with greater acuity and to conceptualize translation tasks more
clearly, in part by offering additional vocabulary and models for understanding
current changes affecting translation processes and products. Such knowledge
moves people away from assessing translation tasks in narrowly restricted
ways developed in and often limited to particularized contexts.
In translation studies current theoretical frameworks suffer from being
based on an implicit and unexamined foundation of Western understandings.
16

Eurocentric conceptions of translation are deeply rooted in literacy practices
as opposed to oral practices still dominant in much if not most of the world.
Eurocentric ideas about translation are also imbricated in practices of bibli-
cal translation and shaped by the history of translating Christian sacred texts.
Moreover, Western conceptions of translation are heavily infuenced by the
tight connection of language and nation in Europe, which has often defned
normal nations as monolingual and monocultural.
17
Eurocentric conceptu-
alizations of translation are connected with the practices of empire as well.
Clearly these are not acceptable bases for founding an international discipline
of translation studies, for developing translation theory, for modelling interna-
tional standards of translation practice, and for understanding the full breadth
of translational phenomena.
In a strong sense translation studies has thus far taken a local European form
of knowledge about translation based on Western European assumptions and
universalized it as a general theory. Insofar as translation studies is intended
to serve the internal needs of Europe, that basis for the discipline may be suf-
fcient, but plainly it cannot suffce to respond to the current rapid changes
in the profession of translation associated with globalization, when both the
role of translators and the practice of translation are shifting.
18
The disjunction
between what we theorize in translation studies and what our students practice
as translators has important consequences.
Cognitive scientists have established that background knowledge affects
not only initial acquisition of a concept but also later categorization judgments
16
The narrow foundations of translation theory and translation studies as a discipline are
refected in many central pretheoretical assumptions (Tymoczko 2006). See Stecconi (2004,
2007) for an approach to establishing a new foundation.
17
One thinks, for example, of the attempts to suppress Celtic languages in the British Isles
and France or Francos suppression of languages such as Catalan in Spain.
18
This rethinking of translation studies within larger international frameworks can be seen
as an appeal for what Chakrabarty (2000:20) has called plural normative horizons based
on normative and theoretical thought enshrined in other existing life practices and their
archives.
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 416
(Murphy 2002:173). Thus, in attempting to understand the complex cross-
cultural concept translation and to make responsible and effective choices,
translators are aided by early and explicit knowledge of a broad range of trans-
lation types and a broad range of diverse local conceptualizations. Looking at
a large range of views and practices of translation, including divergent concep-
tualizations originating outside Eurocentric contexts, will help practitioners
and scholars to perceive, astutely assess and creatively meet contemporary
changes in the profession. For example, the various cognitive metaphors
that associate translation with change such as translation as turning over or
translation as breaking apart and narrating in a different form offer ways to
think about, evaluate and approach the new types of translation tasks being
required of contemporary practitioners.
Cognitive scientists have also stressed that it is not possible to see the
full range of a phenomenon from within a single framework in which vari-
ous aspects of the phenomenon remain constant (Murphy 2002:42, Lakoff
1987:82). De-Westernizing translation studies so as to introduce a broad array
of cognitive frameworks permits greater understanding of the entire feld of
translational phenomena and more precise analysis of translation challenges
and choices. Such a cognitive grounding offers a great advantage to practising
translators in their ability to assess the tasks they undertake.
7. Cognitive reserves for meeting the challenges of the future
Ironically many of the conceptual riches that we have been considering are at
risk of vanishing. The global dominance of Western ideas about translation is
obliterating traditional conceptualizations of translation in many cultures. If
this continues, the result will be the loss of tremendous conceptual and practical
resources: the loss of particular cultural conceptualizations of translation is
an example of the sort of tremendous loss that occurs when entire languages
die out.
In translation theory and practice, one way this happens is that scholars and
translators get educated away from their own cultures ideas about translation.
ebnem Susam-Sarajeva, for example, has argued that even when researchers
initially have as their goal the desire to understand and explain translational
and maybe, therefore, social and cultural phenomena in their own systems
of origin, the more they work with central models and tools, the more they
are meant to work for them (2002:199). Early in their careers, scholars and
translators outside Eurocentric contexts often begin to internalize Western
theory; they then come to (dis)regard their own cultures concepts of and
thinking about translation as old-fashioned, irrelevant and simplistic, setting
them aside in favour of dominant Western views, even though tools originat-
ing in Eurocentric contexts do not necessarily prove useful when extended to
other cultural situations (Susam-Sarajeva 2002:195-96, 199). Susam-Sarajeva
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Maria Tymoczko 417
observes that self-colonization is the state a large part of the world fnds itself
in today (ibid.:198). In a similar vein, Martha Cheung warns that for scholars
outside Eurocentric domains to be content with modern translation theories
inspired by Western scholarship is tantamount to cultural self-disinheritance
(2005/2009:38/72).
The de-Westernization and enlargement of translation and of translation
studies that I am arguing for here can be thought of in terms of biodiversity.
The biodiversity in question, however, is cultural biodiversity and biodiversity
of the mind, those special types of diversity most characteristic of human
life and most associated with human well-being. The survival value for hu-
man beings of retaining diverse ideas and practices of translation that have
evolved over thousands of years in different human cultures should be obvious.
Among human activities and ideations, preserving varied conceptualizations
about translation is particularly adaptive because such ideas encode diverse
ways of mediating between cultures and across languages. This reservoir
of knowledge about how translation can and should work promotes human
cooperation, which is as much a matter of human survival and global welfare
as is the health of the physical environment.
The plasticity, pliability, diversity, and adaptability (Legrand 2005:34)
of local knowledge about translation thus constitute a cognitive and cultural
heritage from the past, a legacy that comes to us from the depths of time and
that will contribute to human well-being in the future as well as the present.
Preservation and dissemination of knowledge about the worlds different his-
tories, concepts and practices of translation guard a supply of understandings
that will facilitate the growth of ideas about translation and the development
of new translation practices in the future. The worlds diverse ideas about
translation are the reserves for dispositions and practices that human beings
need now and that they will need in times to come in order to meet the demands
of communication in a rapidly changing and often contentious world. We
must cherish this diversity of ideas this biodiversity of the mind because
it will sustain translators as they cope with challenging tasks, adapt to new
technology, solve ethical dilemmas and negotiate sensitive cultural interface.
The worlds ideational reserves about translation can help translators to act
creatively and powerfully and to become effective intellectual and ethical
agents. Only by fully internationalizing conceptualizations of translation can
translators retain this potential for the future.
8. A paradigm shift in translation studies
Times of rapid change such as our own are stimulating, as well as anxiety
provoking. In translation studies the current period is exciting because many
new domains are opening for translation. Translators around the world are
breaking out of cultural straitjackets, including those that have constrained
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 418
translation in many cultures for centuries. Supplied with new technological
tools, translators also need internal resources to face change openly, fexibly
and innovatively.
In order to achieve the benefts discussed above most effectively, the
discipline of translation studies itself will have to commit to a programme
of internationalization. Without the support of an academic discipline, it is
diffcult for translation professionals to fnd the resources to adapt, to inno-
vate and to have their individual creativity result in durable and transferable
knowledge. Many cutting-edge responses to contemporary challenges now
occur behind closed doors. Corporations and governments develop innova-
tive translation protocols, software and team structures to respond to the new
demands on translators, but anti-disclosure contracts make it diffcult or even
impossible for translators in these closed spheres to share their innovations
with the profession as a whole.
At a time requiring rapid response, only an organized international dis-
cipline can hope to survey the scope of change, to gather data broadly, to
acknowledge in a comprehensive way challenges that individual translators
perceive piecemeal, to respond in a systematic way to what is needed and to
disseminate that information broadly. Although individuals can and do respond
and innovate in their specifc contexts, a discipline makes it possible to move
forward effectively and cohesively on a large scale. Paradoxically it also takes
a discipline to conserve and transmit innovations, to avoid reinventing the
wheel, as happens when innovations are dispersed and enclosed in corporate
and governmental structures. Additionally, as an academic discipline, transla-
tion studies can assume ethical positions that are not indebted to or controlled
by special interests.
A prime job of an academic discipline during a period of change is to
articulate the nature of the changes being faced: to delineate continuities as
well as ruptures. A discipline retains the long view of its subject matter and
resists passing fads. It maintains large intellectual frameworks within which
the conditions of the present can be situated. As a discipline translation stud-
ies can look back to more than two thousand years of documented translation
discourses and practices, as well as translation in oral conditions that antedates
literacy altogether and that continues to be relevant to the present.
How translation studies responds to current changes and to the intensi-
fed networking of the world is critical. Decisive responses in times of rapid
change are particularly important in disciplines that involve practice as well
as theory.
19
What is needed at present is a paradigm shift a shift toward the
truly international and away from all cultural enclosures, including Eurocen-
tric ones.
19
Here translation studies stands with the natural sciences and many of the social sciences
more than with the humanities, notwithstanding the fact that most translation programmes
are located within the humanities and most translation teachers are trained as humanists.
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Maria Tymoczko 419
In facing change, translation studies must welcome and incorporate
relevant input from all parts of the globe. If the discipline does not meet
these contemporary challenges adequately, then ironically students trained in
translation programmes will be less able to innovate than intelligent, broadly
educated people who know about the world, culture, politics, technology and
language, even if they have no training in translation per se.
We have looked at a number of reasons to shift the feld away from lim-
ited Eurocentric perspectives and to become fully international, but the same
argument can be made about any other single cultural orientation. There are
many other motivations for fully internationalizing than those considered
here justice, respect for other cultures, equity in intellectual disciplines,
curiosity about new ideas, and so forth. Indeed there can be no retreat from
an international discipline of translation studies where all languages, cultures
and nations contribute to the dialogue. As translators stand on the edge of the
unknown in a time of change, no single tradition whether it is European,
Chinese or any other can alone point the way forward. Rather, strength lies in
the coming together of many traditions in which all are enriched and enlarged
as they face the contemporary world.
20
The benefts for translation theory and practice of internationalizing its
conceptualizations are obvious even from the few examples I have discussed
in this essay. The project of using ideas about translation from the world as a
whole to face contemporary challenges is a clear instance of why an academic
discipline related to translation is essential. Individual translators, teachers
and scholars can have many of the insights I have discussed here, but only an
international scholarly discipline can collectively undertake the explorations
I am outlining in order to internationalize its own domain in a systematic
fashion. It is not possible for a single individual to accomplish in a compre-
hensive way the work necessary to understand current changes in the role
of translators and emerging practices of translation and to investigate these
shifts in terms of a broad range of conceptualizations about translation from
around the world. Moreover, an academic discipline can ensure the intellectual
integrity of scholarship, set rigorous standards for testing and interrogating
intellectual propositions, provide opportunities for sharing knowledge and
allow for broad and inclusive dialogue leading to improved investigations.
The case of de-Westernizing translation studies is an ideal example of why
an international academic discipline is essential for supporting the profession
of translation: it is the pooling of knowledge of colleagues from around the
world that is currently moving translation beyond its traditional narrow limits
in specifc cultures, including Eurocentric ones.
Scholarly discourses that range across many languages and cultures can
20
Cf. Hermans (2007:152), following Zhang Longxi and Gadamer. See also Hermanss
comments (ibid.:152-56) on the difference between appropriation and a communal enter-
prise entailing self-refexivity on the part of all.
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Why Translators Should Want to Internationalize Translation Studies 420
articulate the relationship of current conditions in the profession of transla-
tion to the varied conceptualizations, practices and histories of translation
in the world, preserving this collective knowledge for the future. Only an
international discipline can recognize, validate and fnd means of preserving
the cognitive reserves inherent in the conceptualizations about translation of
the diverse cultures of the globe, particularly those that stand at the margins
of current dominant practices. Commitments to establishing and preserving
knowledge about translation from the whole world and to training translators
in the broadest possible frameworks are key to a vital discipline of translation
studies. Through all these activities translation studies contributes to building
the internal resources of translators. If translation studies can de-centre Western
dominance and move beyond the many forms of cultural self-enclosure in its
pedagogies, the feld will immeasurably strengthen its scholars, teachers and,
most of all, its practising translators. It is heartening to see that the paradigm
shift toward the full internationalization of translation studies binding to-
gether the past, the present and the future of translation around the world is
not just a pious hope for the future but has already begun.
MARIA TYMOCZKO
Comparative Literature, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003,
USA. tymoczko@complit.umass.edu
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Maria Tymoczko 421
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