The following review was kindly provided to the Gotham by Donald Duffy. Mr. Duffy began his career in T&I a decade ago in Washington D.C’s diplomatic and legal space and currently translates for companies in New York’s broadcasting and digital media industry.
If there is one immediate impression to be had of journalistic translation in Claire Scammell’s “Translation Strategies in Global News: What Sarkozy said in the suburbs” (Palgrave Pivot, 2018), it is that the translator’s role within the world of news lacks clarity in certain areas. As style guides of major news organizations are found to vary markedly on the matter, we can partially attribute this unfocused objective to the secondary importance granted it in the editing process. There are solutions to this problem which can be found in literature dedicated to Translation Studies and Journalism Studies. The challenge lies in reconciling the discrepancies between the two academic fields and then penetrating the media industry at the policy level with this body of theoretical knowledge. Now, through a case study of the English-language reporting on incendiary comments made in 2005 by France’s then-Minister of the Interior, we have a book that endeavors to meet that challenge.
The very real-world case of translation given to the readers is specific and focused enough not only to explain the author’s policy recommendations, but also to double as an easy introduction to the theoretical elements that comprise her critique. And for those recommendations to have a chance at implementation, media professionals will indeed need to be given some idea of the theory that underpins those guidelines.
Anyone who reads this book will be able to appreciate immediately, for instance, the relevance and hands-on applications of the theoretical debate between “domestication” and “foreignization”, the competing missions of “bringing the author back home” versus “sending the reader abroad” in a translation, as first popularized by theorist Lawrence Venuti in his seminal work, The Translator’s Invisibility (Routledge, 1995). His theoretical framework is not only introduced, explained and applied, but also scrutinized from the perspectives of figures in the Translation Studies community who challenge important elements of it, such as Mona Baker and Anthony Pym. This is far from being a complete overview of the debates and concepts in contemporary Translation Studies that the book touches upon. Nor is the book intent on providing a survey course on the matter; the ideas asserted are original and offered with clear purpose in mind. Generally speaking, the gist of the conclusions drawn is that a relative shift towards “foreignization” would help to achieve greater accuracy and clarity in news translation.
It bears repeating that the book’s most significant virtue is its accessibility to outsiders, which is key if it is to reach news organizations where often the translation tasks are undertaken not by trained translators but by bilingual journalists and editors with other priorities and concerns at the front of their mind. Even so, the book’s readability does not come at the cost of oversimplification. There is, after all, a considerable gap between the ways in which Journalism Studies and Translation Studies perceive translation, and to bridge it requires a nuanced and functional interdisciplinary approach.
Translators working for major Western media outlets in this era’s iteration of post-truth politics have not been immune to the pressures inherent to their industry’s credibility being called into question. In such times, it becomes increasingly important to reexamine the translator’s place within news creation. This is not just to refresh one’s awareness of method so as to minimize the risk of blunder, but also to arm oneself rhetorically with the grounding of theory in order to defend the work effectively in a media landscape that is being met with increasing suspicion.