posted by: Ravi Kumar
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On Schleiermacher's strategy Word to word vs Sense to Sense

Sample Extract taken from the short story "रज़िया" from "माटी की मूरतें" by श्रीरामवृक्ष बेनीपुरी

" कानों में चाँदी की बालियाँ, गले में चाँदी का हैकल, हाथों में चाँदी के कंगन और पैरों में चाँदी की गोड़ाँई – भरबाँह की बूटेदार कमीज पहने, काली साङी के छोर को गले में लपेटे, गोरे चेहरे पर लटकते हुए कुछ बालों को संभालने में परेशान वह छोटी सी लड़की, जो उस दिन मेरे सामने आकर खङी हो गई थी – अपने बचपन की उस रज़िया की स्मृति ताज़ा हो उठी, जब मैं उस दिन अचानक उसके गाँव जा पहुँचा। 

हाँ, यह मेरे बचपन की बात है। मैं कसाईखाने से रस्सी तुड़ाकर भागे हुये बछङे की तरह उछलता हुया अभी-अभी स्कूल से आया था और बरामदे की चौकी पर अपना बस्ता –सिलेट पटककर मौसी से छठ में पके ठकुए लेकर उसे कुतर कुतरकर खाता हुआ ढेन्की पर झुला झूलने का प्रयास कर रहा था कि उधर से आवाज़ आई – “देखना बबुआ का खाना मत छू देना”। और, उसी आवाज़ के साथ मैंने देखा, यह अजीब रूप – रंग की लड्की मुझसे दो – तीन गज आगे खँड़ी हो गई।" 



The selected hindi text is part of a short story “Razia’, Maati ke Mooraten –A collection of short stories by written by Ram Briksh Benipuri, during 1941-45. Benipuri was born in the Benipur village of Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. He was freedom fighter and worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi.

He is known for using subject oriented approach. His stories excavate layers after layers of his deep wisdom about people; his close observation of human nature goes beyond superficial evaluation.

Word to word Translation

That small girl, putting silver rings in the ear, silver necklace in the neck, silver bracelets in the hands, silver loops in the legs, with embroidered full sleeve shirt, black border of saree wrapped around the neck, being troubled by her hanging hairs on the white face, suddenly stood in front of me, suddenly that day when I reached her village, memory of Razia become fresh in my mind.

Yes, this fact is related to my childhood. I had returned home from the school. This was as equal as calf being freed from the butcher’s house. And I threw my school bag and silate, and began trying to play on dheki by making it play like see-saw biting thekua of chhat that my maternal aunt had made. Suddenly I heard voice coming, “Be aware, don’t touch food of the child:” And, with that voice, I saw, the strange looking girl, stood in front of me maintaining a distance of two to three yards.

Sense to Sense 

Silver rings in the ears, a silver necklace, argentine bangles in the hands and loops in the legs; wearing a full-sleeve, long, embroidered blouse, coiling the border of the black Saree round her neck, frequently arranging her curly locks that played on the face of that lovely little blonde girl who stood that day before me, instantly reminded me of that Razia of my childhood days.

Oh, yes ... this is a sweet episode of my early years. Like a calf who unloosened herself from a butcher house, I just had arrived from school -- happy and playful! I thumped my school bag on the cot in the verandah and was enjoying a see-saw on the dheki while nibbling the thekua of the Chhath my Mausi gave me when suddenly I heard a voice: “Oh, take care, don’t touch Babua’s food”. And with this, I saw that a strange girl stood in front of me at a distance of few yards.


Dheki: A see-saw style wooden device for beating paddy to yield rice

Thekua: A sweet cake made of flour and rice, deep fried in ghee.

Chhat: A famous festival of Bihar (India) with worship of Sun god.

Mausi: Mother’s sister who is married to one’s uncle

Babua: an address showing respect for a young child of a high family. In olden villages of Bihar and other provinces, a Muslim was not allowed to ‘touch’ the food of the members of elite class.

Comments on Word to Word Translation

Considering that the translator’s mind is accustomed to make compromise and adjustments to bring balance between purpose, text and context limited by time and space; it becomes more than difficult to remain within the boundaries of pure literal translation.
In the given task above, it was not possible to achieve, pure literal translation, however, a sort of literal translation was tried.
For such a literal translation, the translator was always at the risk of missing the spirit of the text as well as spirit of the author, he was never convinced that he has done justice to the work.

Comments on Sense to Sense (Improved version of translation)

In the source text, there are certain typical hindi words, quite regional or vernacular in nature. It was not possible to find exact equivalence of these words in English, therefore, a near equivalence was used. For certain words, it was not possible to locate English equivalence at all, therefore, strategically, the translator did not translate them.

For example, it was not possible to find equivalence of words like dheki, thekua, Chhat, and babua, therefore they were not translated in English. Also, translator felt that as these words do not tend to disturb tone of the sentence, a strategy was used not to translate these words and use them to serve as catalyst and prompt the reader to quickly move to a totally different social and cultural set up that is vernacular or regional in nature. To help the reader further, a footnote-explanation was given for each of the words left in italics.

Although, it was possible to find equivalence of a word ‘mausi’, but using English equivalence, ‘maternal aunt’, meant decreasing flavor of the text, therefore, intentionally, the word ‘mausi’ was not translated.

There was an instance, when it was not possible to locate exact equivalence of a particular word ‘हैकल’ (HaiKal). Using wisdom of translator, a near possible equivalence “loops” was used. One may notice that, this near equivalence was used in both types of translation: literal as well as the improved version. 


Even for making literal translation, it becomes important for the translator to reach (as near as possible) the author and his time and space where he lived in. For literal translation, locating exact meaning is a major challenge, and many times, the translator is forced to reach a compromise with a word in target language. The chosen compromise results in creating a distance in achieving intended meaning and flavor. Following purely Schleiermacher’s concept of bringing reader to author (foreignization) through literal translation the translator ends up missing the spirit of the language as well as the intent of the author. In fact, translation becomes word to word and too heavy with foreign words. Thus for coming closer to the author, the reader may need to study the background of the author, language as well as culture in which the text was written. This sort of translation becomes easier to produce, and it may not be considered an act of art at all.

On the other hand, if translator tries to bring author to the reader (domestication) by bringing adaptive translation, it demands a deeper understanding of text as well as context. Thus the translator needs detailed understanding of purpose of translation along with social, political and cultural context followed by ideological background of the writer. All these elements help translator maintain purpose, beauty and sprit of the language as well as ease of the reader.

It may also be noted that it becomes rather impossible for the translator to follow a particular set of strategy and get intended results. One is compelled to go against the advice of Schleiermacher, who suggests not to mix two of his strategies, “1) either the translator leaves the writer alone as much as possible and moves the reader toward the writer, or2) he leaves the reader alone as much as possible and moves the writer towards the reader”. Translator is compelled to make use of combination of strategies to liberate power of Source Text (Benjamin) in the Target text. In the improved version of translation above, Blendlinge ( Venuti) of the two strategies suggested by Schleiermacher along with mediation of intercultural elements was used. Nida’s concept of formal as well as dynamic equivalence helped understand the problem in a much better way, as it gave clear choice to either maintain only form and content of the text or try and maintain dynamic relationship between receptor and the message by trying to complete naturalness of expression and relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant within in the context of his own culture.

posted by: Ravi Kumar
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By Priti Bhatia, PhD Scholar at University of Mumbai
What is interpretation? Isn’t it the same as translation? Isn’t basic linguistic knowledge enough to become an interpreter without acquiring any special skills? These questions are symptomatic of some the myths surrounding the profession of interpretation, particularly in India, a multilingual country, where everyone knows a minimum of three languages. Contrary to common belief, it is not easy to find someone who has the requisite skill to be able to “translate” what another person is saying, unless he acquires special skills required for translation.
This scenario is true not only of India, but also of all societies where people speak many languages and are used to switching from one language to another with great ease. In such societies, it is difficult to explain the intricacies of interpretation to someone who does not have specialized knowledge about such intricacies. Be it India, or the Republic of South Africa, for example, another multilingual country, there is the same misconception about interpretation: that anyone can do it providing they know the languages involved.
This paper will attempt to identify some of the myths with a view to removing common misconceptions surrounding the profession of interpretation.
Let us examine these myths one by one:
Myth no.1: “Basic knowledge of languages is enough to interpret.”
Reality: In order to interpret, one needs to have complete mastery over the working languages. Basic linguistic knowledge is insufficient.
In order to master a language, it is essential to know the history, geography, culture, traditions, and social conditions of the country where the language is spoken because language is influenced by all these factors.
 A speaker can refer to any event, historical, political or social and use any idiom. The interpreter’s role is to assume the identity of the speaker. This point is best illustrated by taking the example of a person interpreting from say French into English. The interpreter naturally requires thorough understanding of the French language, history, geography, culture, etc., to be able to fully comprehend what the speaker is saying. In addition, he also has to have an equally thorough knowledge of English so that he can adequately convey the speaker’s thoughts to the English–speaking audience.
Here is an example to illustrate the above-mentioned point: if a French President refers to “the Hexagon”, he is not referring to the geometrical figure, but to France which has six-sides and is therefore also known as “Hexagon”. An interpreter who is not aware of French geography may not understand the actual meaning of the word and may simply interpret it as “the hexagon”, which detracts from its real meaning.
Myth no. 2: “Interpretation is translation”
Reality: Interpretation is not translation.
Here are some major differences between translation and interpretation:
  • - The Technique:
“The translator reads and writes, the interpreter listens and speaks”:
The translator reads a document and writes the translated version, the interpreter listens to a speech and interprets on the spot, be it consecutive, simultaneous or whispering interpretation.
  • - The time factor:
The translator has time to read the document, study it, and fully understand the subject before undertaking the task of translation. On the other hand, the interpreter has to familiarise himself/herself with the subject before the assignment, little knowing what to expect as he/she normally does not get the documents before the speaker starts to speak.
  • - Consulting dictionaries, glossaries:
The translator gets time to consult dictionaries, glossaries, or even consult other colleagues in order to get the correct terminology. The interpreter has no such luxury and has to come fully prepared with all the terminology at his/her finger-tips, as no time is given to the interpreter to “translate” and to check vocabulary lists etc. In the case of interpretation, the terminology has to come naturally and instantaneously.
  • - The place:
Unlike the interpreter, the translator never gets to meet the client, while the interpreter is often in the very same room as the client. Very often, the interpreter sits in a sound-proof booth, big enough to hold only two people. In certain scenarios, the interpreter gets to interact with the clients directly and can judge from the expression on the faces of the listeners whether or not this interpretation is clear and would try to rectify any problem, so that the listeners understand what is being said, whereas the translator does not have such opportunity, and has to submit his translated version before finding out whether or not the translation is clear.
Myth no. 3: “Anyone can interpret.”
Reality: Many specific skills are required to be an interpreter. Some of these have been alluded to above. However, a comprehensive list is given hereunder:
  • - Mastery of the working languages
  • - Good general knowledge
  • - Oratorical skills
  • - Analytical skills
  • - Communication skills, both to understand what the speaker is saying as well as to convey those thoughts to the listeners
  • - Knowledge of various cultures
According to a survey carried out by this author, these are the skills that trainers of interpretation would like to see in their students, the highest ranking skills being linguistic skills, analytical skills and general knowledge. The results of this survey confirm not only the general lack of such skills, but also the need for specialized training for their acquisition.
According to the European Masters in Conference Interpreting website, a candidate seeking admission to a course in interpretation must have the above-mentioned skills, should be able to handle stress and have a high level of concentration.
Myth no. 4: “No training required.”
Reality: Specialized training in interpretation is essential in order to become an efficient interpreter. This was made abundantly clear when the Paris School of Interpretation and Translation was set up in order to train interpreters. In their book, Pédagogie raisonnée de l’interprétation (1989), Danica Seleskovitch and Marianne Lederer elaborated a particular methodology to teach interpretation. Danica Seleskovitch and Marianne Lederer are both considered leading world authorities on the teaching of interpretation. This book was translated into English in 1995 by Jacolyn Harmer entitled “A systematic approach to teaching interpretation”. The pedagogy suggested by Seleskovitch and Lederer is still followed by most of the interpretation schools found in different parts of the world.
In India, the same methodology is used, to some degree, by the Centre of French and Francophone Studies in the School of Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, but not necessarily by the other Centres teaching interpretation. Those teaching interpretation in JNU are, by and large, professional interpreters who can impart a certain type of training to their students since they are aware of what is required.
There are some other institutes and two other universities in India, namely the University of Pune and the University of Puduchery which provide courses in interpretation. In some of these institutes, the trainers may or may not be professional interpreters. Those who have undergone a course in interpretation can guide their students in the right direction. A study carried out by this author reveals that some people who are training aspiring interpreters are not interpreters themselves. There is thus considerable scope for improvement in the methodology followed in India.
Apart from Jawaharlal Nehru University which offers a two-year course in interpretation as part of the Master’s programme in various foreign languages, (but none whatsoever in Indian languages) there is no other university in India where interpretation is taught for more than one semester and that too only consecutive interpretation in French. The only other language apart from French in which training in interpretation is provided, outside of the foreign languages taught in Jawaharlal Nehru University, is Japanese at the Indo-Japanese Association in Pune.
From the above it is apparent that one semester in consecutive interpretation is not enough – a full-length two year course is required in all languages for which there is demand.
Myth no 5: “One or two interpreters are enough for any language combination.”
 Reality: In reality two interpreters cannot cope with the work load with any degree of efficiency. The reason for this is very simple: studies have shown that the concentration levels of any interpreter start declining after approximately twenty minutes. When concentration levels drop, it can affect the quality of interpretation. Therefore, there is need for a change of interpreters every twenty minutes or so.
However, in India, according to a survey carried out by this author, some Indian interpreters feel that they can carry on interpreting for approximately thirty minutes or longer without it affecting the quality of their interpretation. Which brings us to the following questions: Do Indians have a higher degree of concentration than the rest of the world, or have they absolutely no clue what they are talking about. It appears to be more of the latter for the simple reason that many Indian interpreters are untrained, and know very little about interpretation.
Myth no. 6: “The interpreter can work a minimum of eight hours on any number of consecutive days.”
Reality: Interpreters, in teams of two, are expected to work for a duration of at least eight hours, and sometimes even ten or eleven hours at a stretch during the entire duration of the assignment. However it is difficult to sustain such intensive work for more the three or four days, unless there is a break, for which there is no time if there are only two interpreters. This has been borne out by many studies carried out by different institutes/universities in Europe, China and Japan, where research in interpretation is still being undertaken, such as the University of Salamanca (Salamanca, Spain), Ecole Supérieure d’Interprètes et de Traducteurs (Paris, France), University of Trieste, Italy, Hong Kong Baptist University (Hong Kong) to cite a few.
Myth no.7: “The interpreter can work into either A or B language.”
Reality: Interpreters are only expected to interpret into their A language (normally considered the mother-tongue). In India, it is expected that interpreters work into their A, B or even C languages, which once again could affect the quality of their interpretation as the proficiency in the B or C languages may not be the same as that in the A language.
It is true that today, interpreters even at the European Parliament, have started working into their B language; something that was unheard of earlier. This trend started with the break-up of the USSR in 1991. As countries of the erstwhile Soviet Union started joining the European Union, they also became members of the European Parliament, where all parliamentarians have the right to speak in their own mother-tongue. Since the European Parliament did not, at the time, have interpreters with many of the languages as A language, interpreters having those languages as their B languages were hired to interpret therein.
The major difference between Indian interpreters and the ones at the European Parliament who interpret into their B or C languages (as might be the case with some Indian interpreters) is that the European Parliament, unlike the Indian Parliament, only recruits interpreters having undergone a course in interpretation and having some amount of experience in it. Naturally, there is considerable difference in the quality of interpretation.
Myth no. 8: “No preparation is required before an assignment.”
Reality: Getting the documents used in the event in advance, is essential to enable the interpreter to prepare the terminology. As mentioned earlier, unlike the translator, the interpreter has no time to hunt for the terminology. However, the speakers are not aware of how important it is to hand over a copy of their speech/presentation to the interpreter in advance, and the documents rarely reach the interpreter in time.
Myth no. 9: “Interpretation will become obsolete in another fifteen or twenty years thanks to machine translation.”
Reality: It is true that machine translation and interpretation is coming up in a big way. The question is: can machines ever replace human beings completely? Here is an example of what happened when machine translation took over the job of an interpreter:
A machine was being used as an interpreter between an English man and a Russian. All went well until the former cited the proverb: “Out of sight, out of mind”. This brought a puzzled look on the Russian’s face. When the machine was reversed, it transpired that the proverb was being translated as “blind idiot”!
Machine translation definitely makes it easier to find terminology, but will the interpreter have time to hunt for the terminology?
Matthew Perret, an AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters) interpreter, believes that machine translation will surely become more important, but will never be able to understand human emotion. Intonation, he explains, is a very important factor in communication. Since interpretation is all about helping people communicate, it has to do with communication. In English, intonation can change the very meaning of the sentence.
Let us look at the following example:
This shirt is nice.
Now read this sentence again putting the emphasis on the first word:
This shirt is nice.
Read it again, shifting the emphasis on the next word:
This shirt is nice.
This shirt is nice.
This shirt is nice.
In each case, there is a nuance in what exactly the speaker is trying to convey, and therefore cannot be interpreted in the same way.
Which is why machine translation or any other technical gadgets will not be able to replace the interpreter for a very long time.
Myth no. 10: “English spoken is everywhere.”
Reality: True, English has become a global language and everyone in the world speaks it. We hear of words like Chinglish, Spanglish, Hinglish, etc. Each of these is influenced by the local languages, and culture of the people who speak them. Each one has certain accents which may, or may not, be difficult to comprehend. English may have become a global language thanks to globalisation, but the English language is so different from place to place that it may not always be possible for people from different regions to understand each other.
Consider, for example, the sign “We fix flats”. In England it signifies a property dealer, and in U.S. someone who repairs burst tyres! In India, the word “backside” is used frequently. Let us look at the following example: “You’ll get it in the backside!” (Indian English). To Indians, it simply means “You will find it at the back”, which is definitely not what it would mean to other nationalities who speak English.
This simply shows how, although English is indeed spoken by people around the world, it may, in some cases, not be that simple to understand, and could be misunderstood.
Global English is very different the world over, and in some countries, is a different language all together. In India, interpreters are already needed to interpret from Hinglish into English! This only proves that interpreters are here to stay.
The persistence of the kind of myths described above leads to the conclusion that India has a long way to go in rectifying the deficiencies with regard to training, working conditions, even basic awareness of what interpretation really is all about. There is urgent need to make a beginning by creating awareness in the country with regard to interpretation, not only on the part of the general public, but also on the part of the government agencies that use interpretation almost on a daily basis, for example in the Indian Parliament, during the visits of foreign dignitaries or when Indian dignitaries go abroad. Proper training in interpretation will certainly improve the quality of interpretation in India.
Some may argue that this step may not be required as interpretation involving human interpreters is on its way out. This is however not true as explained above. There is a huge market not only for language combinations with English and other foreign languages, but also for Hindi. There is also a market for regional languages. This was brought out very clearly in a survey referred to eariler, as many agencies recruiting interpreters confirmed that they could never find qualified interpreters for interpreting regional languages into foreign languages.
Proper training with different language combinations including Hindi and other regional languages, as well as foreign languages would go a long way in, not only in producing world-class interpreters, but also in reviving Indian languages.
Currently, India has very few interpreters who can compete with other interpreters in the world. This is obvious from the fact that India has only one interpreter who is a member of the AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters). This points to a very sorry state of affairs which definitely needs to be corrected. The question that remains is: do Indian interpreters want to be among the best, and if so, are they ready to do what is necessary to achieve that status?
- Interpreting is not translating (, accessed on 8/7/2017)
- Pédagogie raisonnée de l’interprétation, Danica Seleskovitch and Marianne Lederer, 1989
- The Difference between Translation and Interpreting, , accessed on 8/7/2017)
 - What’s the Difference Between Interpretation and Translation?,, accessed on 8/7/2017)
 - Five Major Differences Between Interpretation and Translation,, accessed on 8/7/2017)
- Translation vs. Interpretation,, accessed on 8/7/2017)
- Interpretation and translation,, accessed on 8/7/2017)
- The Difference Between Interpreting and Translation,, accessed on 8/7/2017)
- The Difference between an Interpreter and a Translator,, accessed on 8/7/2017
- What Is The Difference Between Translation And Interpreting?,, accessed on 8/7/2017
-  What is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?,, accessed on 8/7/2017)
- Interpretation at the European Parliament,, accessed on 8/7/2017
-  What is translation? What is interpreting? Paul Appleyard, accessed on 8/7/2017
- Translation vs. Interpreting., accessed on 8/7/2017)
- Across cultures, English is the word, Seth Mydans, accessed on 11/7/17
- European Masters in Conference Interpreting,, accessed on 12/7/17
Author’s Profile
Priti Bhatia is a translator and interpreter with over thirty years’ experience. She has done her MA and M.Phil. in French from Jawaharlal Nehru University, having specialised in Scientific and Technical Translation and Conference Interpretation. Currently, she is teaching Translation at the Department of French, University of Mumbai. She is also pursuing her Ph.D in French from the University of Mumbai.
posted by: Ravi Kumar
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Ravi Kumar ModlinguaBy Ravi Kumar, Founder, Modlingua Learning

Heilbron and Sapiro (2007:93-107) in their paper, Outline for a Sociology of translation: Current issues and future prospects”, criticize the interpretive approach to translation that either deals with the “hermeneutic movement” (Steiner 1975), the understanding of texts and comparison of translation with the source text and the creative deviation from the original; or studies translation through the cultural perspective where focus is on “the various modes of appropriating texts, on the instability of their meaning and on the mutual permeability of cultures” (p.94). The writers are of the view that both the approaches ignore the ‘plurality’ of the agents involved in the translation process and that there is a need to study the relationship between the agents (translators, various mediators and the readership) and their historical and social spaces of reception. Similarly, they also present their concern over using the economic approach to translation that only focuses on the economic factors and ignores the cultural values, “the symbolic goods” (Bourdieu 1977, 1993). 

They recognize the works of Holmes, Lambert and Lefevere 1978; Even-Zohar 1990 and Toury 1995, who attempted to deal with the functioning of translations in their contexts of production and reception but did not explain the roles of translators and various other agencies involved in the translation process as social agents. Heilbron and Sapiro place the production and reception of translation within the realm of cultural transfers and call for an investigation of the roles of individuals as well as institutions involved in these exchanges between the countries and explain the transnational cultural transfers in the context of following three factors: international field, principles of differentiation and agents of intermediation.   

While discussing “international field”, based on the program proposed by Pierre Bourdieu (2002) on the social conditions of international circulation of cultural goods, both the writers place transnational transfer of translation within the space of nation states and language groups and analyze translation as embedded within the power relations of national sates and their languages (p.95). They further explain that within the power relations (political, economic and cultural), the means of political, economic and cultural are unequally distributed; therefore, cultural exchanges take place unequally and express relations of domination.  They explain that within the global system of translations, English, German and French enjoy a central position while, the others hold a semi-peripheral or peripheral position respectively. Accordingly, through a careful study of statistics related to production of translated books, they demonstrate that “translation flows are highly uneven, flowing from the center towards the periphery rather than the reverse” (p96).

On the “principles of differentiation”, Heilbron and Saprio identify political relations between the countries and political orientation of respective governments, economic relations and cultural exchanges as the key factors that influence the circulation of texts between the countries. They further explain that in relation to political and economic factors the degree of protection of market and degree to which culture fulfills an ideological purpose, one finds a series of possible configurations, especially with liberalization and GATT agreement of 1986 and its Uruguay Round of negotiations, TRIPS adopted in 1994 within the framework of WTO.

On “the agents of intermediation”, Heilbron and Saprio explain that international exchange of cultural goods takes place through intervention and mediation of individual agents coming from various fields representing political, economic and cultural areas that are interlinked through highly hierarchized relations. They further explain that with the development of the market of cultural goods and liberalization of cultural exchange, the official decision-making power of government run agencies like embassies, cultural institutes, translation institutes and journals has been greatly reduced as there is emergence of specialized agents like literary agents, book importers-exporters and independent bodies. Similarly, with the professionalization of specialized agents and emergence of professional associations, the global system of translation saw a new breed of translators (social agents) in the system characterized by strong individualism and division in terms of gender, ideology, political and social affiliations and that they also compete with each other.

It is also important to note that on one hand, Heilbron and Sapiro derive their theoretical framework of studying translation beyond national boundaries from the works of Pascale Casanova who imported the economic theories of globalization in the literary universe and “rediscovers a lost transnational dimension of literature that for two hundred years has been reduced to the political and linguistic boundaries of nations” (2004:i). On the other hand, they effectively aligned their thoughts with the concept of ‘social turn’ currently discussed in translation studies that derives its theoretical basis in the comprehensive theory of society proposed by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). Bourdieu describes power relations between various actors in the society using key concepts like an individual’s habitus, the fields in which various actors interact and the struggle for economic, social, cultural and symbolic power to gain supremacy over others (Jenkins 2002).

By looking at translators within the global framework and studying the power relations of the various agents involved, Heilbron and Sapiro give us the scope to study and analyze the position of the translator in the society. The possibility to study these relations opens new horizons in translation studies. This coincides with the massive growth in the production and circulation of content through the World Wide Web that has created huge opportunities for translators to play different roles in the supply chain of content management processes. Within this context, the study of a translator’s relations with various actors in the supply chain would help in understanding the position of the translator in the given work place as well as within the society where he/she interacts.

Also, by initiating a study of the consumption pattern of translated books and identifying the central and peripheral languages, Heilbron and Sapiro help us in developing an overall understanding of existing power relations between the languages. An in-depth study in this direction would help the respective governments of the countries in developing language policies for promoting their cultures beyond the national boundaries, thus foster the growth of multilingualism and multiculturalism across the globe, and increase profile of translation.

Similarly, it would also help in understating various roles of intermediation played by the translators in the society in translating all possible forms of communication at local, national as well as international level. Nyongwa (2010:54) describes, “by introducing foreign elements into national cultures (literature, terms, etc.), translators become agents of cultural transformation. By always working on the edge of several cultures, translators appear either as cultural facilitators or as agents of cultural expansionism”. Studying the translator’s roles in this direction would further help in addressing the problems of translators (in) visibility discussed by Venuti (1995) or in understating the voluntary servitude of translators as discussed by Simeoni (Munday 2012:235).

It should also be taken into consideration that while studying translators as agents in the literary exchange of any form, we also need to discuss the relationship of the translator with the text (form, content, style) and interpret the social conditions behind translation activities. Heilbron and Sapiro rather develop their theoretical framework in opposition to such interpretation and ignore various translation practices, the most fundamental aspects of study of translation; they explain the social structures of translation and the institutional arrangements but they fail to explain their effects on the translation practices.

Within this context, I find a possible solution in the cultural turn initiated by Bassnett and Lefevere (1990:12) that deals with “the text embedded within its network of both source and target cultural signs” and gives the possibility of studying the interaction of translation with the culture; by incorporating the study of translation and various agencies involved in the translation process as agents of social change within the theoretical framework of cultural turn, perhaps it would be possible to bridge the gap between the two approaches. In this context, Wolf (2007:6) explains that “society and culture are interwoven with each other, and emphasizes on the need to combine the cultural as well as social perspectives of studying translation in order to avoid dichotomization and transcend traditional deterministic views”. The study of points where culture and social meet would further help us know more about translation and translators.



Heilbron, J. &Sapiro, G. (2007) “Outline for a sociology of Translation” in Wolf &Fukari (eds) Constructing a Sociology of Translation. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Steiner, George (2002 [1975]198), “The Hermeneutic Motion”, in Lawrence Venuti (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, London: Routledge, pp. 193-198.

Casanova, Pascale (2004), The World Republic of Letters, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Jenkins, Richard (1992, 2002), Pierre Bourdieu, New York-London, Routledge.

Nyongwa, Moses (2012) “Translation and Nation Building: What a difficult couple” in Kumar (ed.) Role of Translation in Nation Building, New Delhi: Modlingua.

Venuti, L. (1995). The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, London/New York:Routledge.

Bassnett, S. and A. Lefevere (eds) (1990) Translation, History and Culture, London and New York: Pinter.

Wolf, Michaela (2007) “Introduction” in Wolf &Fukari (eds) Constructing a Sociology of Translation. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.


posted by: Ravi Kumar
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Ravi kumarBy Ravi Kumar, Founder Modlingu Group and President, Indian Translators Association

Nation Building” has always been linked to national integration and the creation of national identity. For a country like India, it is a very delicate and challenging matter to deal with the national identity that derives its strength from multiple layers of social, political, religious, economic, cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity. However, the communication gap which inevitably arises out of such a diversity of boundaries is constantly being bridged by the people themselves, whose day to day reality is, for the majority, living in a multi-cultural society and interacting in a multilingual manner.

We should not forget that the concept of the nation-state is not an ancient or indigenous one but a notion imported relatively recently from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. The United Kingdom only became “united” through the Act of Union in 1702 when England (and Wales) and Scotland merged politically. We should acknowledge that when America famously declared independence from Britain in 1776, this fledgling state initially contained only a tiny fraction of the area it has today. Similarly, Italy and Germany were not unified until the middle of the 19th century.

In India, the impact of this colonial myth has been that many educated people accept that the idea of India as a nation is a British creation. However, a detailed study of linguistic history reveals that Bhartiyata (Indianness) is not by any means a recent phenomenon; it is deeply rooted in its citizens across the country since ancient times. 

It was, we might argue, the existence and subsequent translation of the great Indian classics that acted as a catalyst in creating a pan-Indian ethos. Epics – especially the Ramayana and the Mahabharata - have been translated into almost all regional languages. Cutting across religious beliefs, the legends of Rama and Krishna have stirred the minds of Indians living in almost all corners of India. These myths, whose nature is patently nationalistic, were made available to the Indian population through translation, without which it is inconceivable that the deeply entrenched cultural and linguistic boundaries within India could have been bridged.   

It is very difficult to ascertain the dates of Ramayana and Mahabharata. However, most of the historians seem to have concluded that Ramayana existed before Mahabharata.  Historians and experts believe that verses of Ramayana existed in India in various layers and spans which passed from one generation to another for thousands of years through oral traditions, and that it was Maharishi Valmiki who compiled seven volumes of it consisting of 24,000 verses in Sanskrit that tell the story of Rama (an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu), whose wife Sita was abducted by the demon King of Lanka, Ravana.

Thematically, the epic explores the tenets of human existence and the concept of dharma. It contains the teachings of ancient Hindu sages and presents them in narrative allegories with philosophical and devotional elements interspersed. The characters like Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, i.e. the epic became so popular and universal that it crossed over the boundaries of Brahminical temples and got embedded in the psyche of Indian population cutting across all strata and layers of caste system that even today remain deeply rooted in India.

It is very important to note that in the ancient period the purpose of translation was totally different than what we perceive today. In most of the times Sanskrit text used to be changed in the form (rupantar) into several languages (bhashantar) or they were called anuvad (coming after or following after). This meant less emphasis on maintaining originality of source text, therefore, a translator may not be faithful to the original text at all.

As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the Ramayana survive. Ramayana has also inspired much secondary literature in various languages, notably the Kambaramayanam by the Tamil poet Kambar of the 13th century, the Telugu-language Molla Ramayana, 14th century Kannada poet Narahari's Torave Ramayan, Kotha Ramayana in Assamese by the 14th century poet Madhava Kandali and 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha's Krittivasi Ramayan, as well as the 16th century Awadhi version (near Hindi), Ramacharitamanas, written by Tulsidas. Similarly, Gujarati poet Premanand wrote a version of Ramayana in the 17th century. Other versions include Oriya version by Balarama Das in the 16th century, in Marathi by Sridhara in the 18th century, etc.

It is very interesting to note that Ramayana narrated in North India differs in important aspects from the one preserved in South India and the rest of South-East Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on the Ramayana in Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, and Maldives. Father Kamil Bulke, the author of Ramakatha, has identified over 300 variants of Ramayana.

There is a sub-plot to Ramayana, prevalent in some parts of India, relating the adventures of Ahi Ravana / Mahi Ravana, the evil brother of Ravana, which enhances the role of Hanuman in the story. Hanuman rescues Rama and Lakshmana after they are kidnapped by the Ahi/Mahi Ravana at the behest of Ravana and held prisoner in a subterranean cave to be sacrificed to Goddess Kali.

Mappillapattu—a genre of song popular among the Muslims belonging to Kerala and Lakshadweep—has incorporated some episodes from the Ramayana into its songs. These songs, known as Mappila Ramayana, have been handed down from one generation to the next orally.  In Mappila Ramayana, the story of the Ramayana has been changed into that of a Sultan and there are no major changes in the names of characters except for that of Rama which is `Laman' in many places. The language and the imagery projected in the Mappilapattu are in accordance with the social fabric of the earlier Muslim community.

The Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia during the 8th century and was represented in literature, temple architecture, dance and theatre. Today, dramatic enactments of the story of Ramayana, known as Ramlila, take place all across India and in many places across the globe within the Indian Diaspora.

Parallel with Ramayana, Mahabharata is another equally important great epic first written in Sanskrit by Ved Vyas that has reached almost all corners and veins of India.  Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or purusharthas. The latter are enumerated as dharma (right action), artha (purpose), kama (pleasure) and moksha (liberation). Mahabharata has enjoyed references on a continuous basis both in literary and popular culture of India, since ancient times. Several stories within the Mahabharata have been debated so intensely that they have taken separate identities of their own. For instance, Abhijñānashākuntala by the renowned Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa (ca. 400 CE), believed to have lived in the era of the Gupta dynasty, is based on a story that is the precursor to the Mahabharata.

Bhagavad Gita, the integral part of Mahabharta needs a special mention for its message to the mankind. The message of Bhagavad Gita is that either you can perform your actions with attachment thinking that you are the doer or you can perform the same without attachment by thinking that God/Nature is performing the actions. This unattached performance of actions has been called Yagya or Karma Yog in the Gita. Those who perform their actions for the sake of Yagya or by way of Karma Yog will be freed from the bonds of actions. They will be freed from the attributes of Sattav, Rajas and Tamas (purity, passion and delusion) and attain the supreme Bhava of God, which will make them imperishable beings. They will be freed from sorrow, old age and death and will attain immortality. This unattached performance of actions is the true Karma  which will not only fulfill all desires but will also transform us and make us one with God. This thought that perhaps originated 5000 years before has relevance even in today’s modern world, and that is the reason why its universality has been maintained through various ages and in various languages.

At a much later stage when Jainism and Buddhism started flourishing in India, say around 600 B.C. onwards, the religious texts and teachings first reached in different corners of India in Pali-Sanskrit which was simultaneously translated and appropriated in various Indian languages (bhasha).

In 230 B.C. during Maurya rule, Buddhism received a great impetus when King Ashoka after having won various wars underwent untold sufferings, especially after his victory over Kalinga, and then embraced Buddhism after renouncing war forever. Ashoka’s patronage of Buddhism played a great role in having a profound influence on the Indian subcontinent and beyond. It began with his practical approach towards the humane ideals. In his zeal to propagate peace, he dispatched Buddhist emissaries to Burma, Ceylon, Afghanistan, Nepal, Mesopotamia, Syria, China, Tibet, Egypt, Persia and Macedonia. Moreover, he is said to have sent his son Mahindra’s daughter Sanghamitra to Ceylon to spread Buddhism. During this period, the Buddhist scriptures were widely translated into Indian Bhashas and languages of neighbouring countries as well. The popularity of Buddhism under the Mauryas led to the establishment of many Buddhist centres at places like the present day Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Varanasi, Orissa, Mysore and Karnataka.

Ashoka’s policy of Dhamma, which encapsulated all the moral and social virtues for the common good and his direct patronage were responsible for the widespread popularity of Buddhism. Assuming the title “Devanampriya” (Beloved of the Gods), several rock and pillar edicts of his Dhamma or the law of piety issued by Ashoka were erected. These included the co-existence and toleration of all walks of life and also very clear indication of nationhood and national identity. Also, the spread of Buddhism under this Mauryan Emperor is believed to have greatly influenced the religious history of South-east Asia. The spread of Buddhism beyond the borders of Indian subcontinent during the Mauryan period ensured its survival even after Buddhism lost hold after the Muslim conquest and the revival of Hinduism.

Whatever may be the purpose or practice of translation, call it rupantar, bhashantar or anuvad, it is important to note that this activity has been going on in India since ages and that it has always helped the Indian population to maintain unity in diversity. Indianness may not only be looked through unity of geographical locations which already exists in the Indian subcontinent by default, it may also be looked through the spiritual space that has been binding it as a nation where geographical locations work as body and the spiritual space as soul.

To understand this unity that may be equated with nationhood or supra-nationhood in the Indian case, if we take into account the details given by foreign travellers of that time, who were translators and the real ambassadors who helped in translation and dissemination of information from one language to another, one culture to another, one nation to another; it becomes easier to understand that today’s Indian sub-continent was already united as one nation consisting of several mini nations.  

Megasthenese (c. 350 BC-290 BC) was a Greek traveler and geographer, a friend and companion of  Seleucus Nicator, the Greek Monarch who sent him as an ambassador to Sandracottus (Chandragupta), King of Prasii, whose capital was Palibothra (Patataliptra), a town near the confluence of Ganges and Sone in the neighbourhood of the modern Patna. Megasthenese was the first westerner to provide an eyewitness description of the Gangetic plains and the people of India, the time when Chandragupta’s power was at its zenith, and much later whose grandson Ashoka expanded the Mauryan empire to a much larger area than before.

Fa-Hien (c.399–414 AD), a Chinese Buddhist monk who initiated relations with India in 399 AD, eager to learn about his religion at its source, spent a decade visiting the major Buddhist shrines and seats of learning, especially sites in eastern India, including Kapilavastu, Bodh Gaya, and Pataliputra. He deepened his knowledge by conversing with monks and gathered sacred texts that had not yet been translated into Chinese. He returned to China by sea in 412, after spending two years in Sri Lanka. His Record of Buddhist Kingdoms contains valuable information about Indian Buddhism as well as Indian political and cultural scenario of this era.

Huen–Tsang (c.602–664), was a famous Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator who described the interaction between China and India in the early Tang period. Like Fa-Hien, he too was concerned about the incomplete and misinterpreted nature of the Buddhist scriptures that reached China. He decided to go west to India, the cradle and thriving center of Buddhism itself where he spent 17 years traveling, visiting places associated with the Buddha's life, learning Sanskrit and studying with Buddhist masters, most notably at the famous Nalanda University. He gathered hundreds of Sanskrit texts (sutras) in order to bring them back with him. Many of them got destroyed en route but he still managed to bring back 657 books. Upon his return and for the remaining 19 years of his life, Huen–Tsang worked with a team of linguist monks to translate many of the 657 books and wrote a commentary on them. He also published an account of his travels which is now a precious historical record and which provided the inspiration for the epic novel Journey to the West.

The map in the next paragraph explains the extent of 03 great empires of Indian span into three different time zones. The Mauryan empire at around 250 B.C, the Gupta Empire at around 400 AD, and the Mughal empire from 1600 to 1700 AD.

MAP IndiaIn medieval period specially during the Mughal Period which was established in north India in the 16th century brought about tremendous literary activity. Languages like Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu saw tremendous creative activity as did many vernacular languages. The contributions of the Mughals can be divided into three categories: historical works, translations, poetry and novels. The important historical works written in this time were Ain-i-Akbari, and Akbarnama by Abul Fazl, the Ta'rikh-i-'Alfi by Mulla Daud. Akbar, though  not educated in any formal educational institution, could contribute much to literature. Jehangir possessed a keen interest in literature, and his autobiography is one of the finest amongst the Mughal emperors. During his reign, important historical works like Ma'asir-i-Jahangir, Iqbalnamah-i-Jahangiri and Zubud-ut-Tawaikh were written. Many important works in translation were also written during this period, with the translation of the epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana taking place. Many of the Vedas were also translated and several previous historical books were also translated. All this translation added to the wealth of Indian literature and spread ancient knowledge to a greater audience. This renewed interest in Indian literature would be an important tool used by the social reformers of the eighteenth century to educate the people about what the ancient texts really said as opposed to the distorted interpretations that were being followed. One of the fine Hindu works composed during this time was Ramcharitmanasa (the life of Rama) by Tulsidasa, which was a simplified version of the Ramayana.

Travellers who generally used to travel in the quest of knowledge from one corner to another corner of country have contributed a lot to translation activities. Many times they used to cross boundaries of their country (or linguistic regions) to learn new language(s) and used to contribute towards democratization of information through translation. Out of many such travellers, Ibn Battuta is one of the world's greatest travelers, traveled an enormous distance of 75,000 miles after having left Tangier, Morocco with the intention of performing Hajj (the pilgrimage) to Mecca only to return thirty years later at the court of Sultan Abu 'Inan and dictated accounts of his journeys, known as the famous Travels (Rihla) of Ibn Battuta covering several adventures in African deserts, Indian countries (states) and islands in far east and China. He spent seven years at the court of Mohammed Bin Tughluk as a judge and finally as ambassador to China. He has given a wonderful record of socio-religious life of the places he visited which includes coastal Karnataka and southern part of India.

Ibn Battuta was the only medieval traveler who is known to have visited the lands of every Muslim ruler of his time. He also traveled to Ceylon (present Sri Lanka), China and Byzantium and South Russia. The mere extent of his travels is estimated at no less than 75,000 miles, a figure which is not likely to have been surpassed before the age of steam.

Some of the non religious books have also played major role in creating common psyche of the masses. The book Panchtantra is one of them which is known for its universal message.   It was originally written in Sanskrit, probably in Kashmir, sometime in the 4th century A.D. Two hundred years later, a Persian Shah got it translated into Pehlavi, a form of Old Persian and liked it so much that he enshrined the translation in a special room of his palace. Three hundred years later, after the Muslim conquest of Persia and the Near East, a Persian convert to Islam named Ibn al-Mukaffa’ chanced upon the Pehlavi version and translated it into Arabic as Kalila wa Dimna in a style so lucid that it is still considered a model of Arabic prose. It was so entertaining, however, that it proved popular with all classes, entered the folklore of the Muslim world and was carried by the Arabs to Spain. There it was translated into Old Spanish in the 13th century. In Italy, it was one of the first books to appear after the invention of printing. Later, it was also translated into Greek and then into Latin, Old Church Slavic, German and other languages. The Arabic version was translated into Ethiopic, Syriac, Persian, Turkish, Malay, Javanese, Laotian and Siamese. In the 19th century it was translated into Hindustani, thus completing the circle that began 1,700 years before in Kashmir. Not all versions were simple translations. The book was expanded, abridged, versified, disfigured and enhanced by a seemingly endless series of translators.

Bhakti movement in India also played important role in creating oneness. The Bhakti movement in India took place as an effort to inculcate loving devotion and belief in God. It aimed at the principle of monotheism, i.e. existence of one God. It started in the south of India and slowly spread to north India during the later half of the medieval period in the history of India (800-1700 A.D). The real essence of Bhakti is found in great epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Vedic scriptures also talk about the concept of pure devotion of God. Many saints and devotional preachers led the Bhakti movement in different parts of the country. They believed in the fact that true knowledge can be achieved only through selfless devotion and worship of the Supreme Power. The Bhakti movement of the Vaishnavaites and that of the Shaiva were simultaneous and started almost together.

The Bhakti movements started then, have left an indelible mark in human beliefs and faiths. This movement started the trend of elaborate rituals in worship places. Devotional hymns in Temples, Qawalli in Mosques, Gurbani in Gurudwaras, etc. all came from the Bhakti movement. Chanting or taking the name of God was considered essential by many saints including the great Adi Shankaracharya. The significance of Bhakti movement was that it could be accessed by anyone, since all it needed was to remember God with full devotion and love. The esteemed philosophical schools only changed the thoughts, but the Bhakti movement changed the entire perspective of a human being. It went beyond artificial beliefs and rituals and encouraged people to have complete faith in the Almighty. The Bhakti movement in India produced a rich collection of literature based on devotion, spirituality, faith and incorporated numerous devotional hymns and chants.

As per the thoughts of R.S Pathak “the poets of the Bhakti period in India were translators in a different and loose sense, as they strove to translate Indian knowledge and wisdom manifested in different treatises through Sanskrit by appropriating it in various Indian Bhashas". In words of G.N. Devy medieval translation aimed at liberating the society. (Devy, 1993) 

The post Bhakti Movement of Indian literature took a sharp turn in the latter Mughal era in India classified as ‘Reeti Kaal” or a style-oriented period in which poets and laurels put much emphasis on style of expression than on the purity of content. Naturally, this also impacted the trend of translation. Krishna and Radha became the centre of romantic and, sometimes even sensual, poesy and expressions. Such literature even reached South India and further countries like Iran and Afghanistan through Persian translations.

The dying Mughal empire could not add much to maintain oneness of national geographical boundaries, however, the translators and intellectuals continued to play crucial role in maintaining religious beliefs, and universal legends and ethos whose nature was always nationalistic. 

Upon arrival of British in India, the role of literature and translation took a U turn. The British period took away even the ‘stylish’ approach of translation and made it a tool for administration and imperialism. English language was introduced to bring ideas and thoughts from west, and it was imposed as language of the administrative class. The concept of ruptantar or bhastantar slowly faded into administrative translation that served the British interests. New legal terms and administrative glossaries evolved which became part and parcel of the British law and order. The British period was also the period of the great Industrial Revolution that started from England and soon enveloped the entire globe. New machines were made and it was the beginning of an age that we term today as ‘globalization’.  The markets spread, consumer-oriented services bloomed and the language had to assume a new role – to cater to the socio-economic needs of multitudes of people.

1. Kumar, Ravi, Language and Translation Industry of India: A Historical and Cultural Perspective, Shanghai, XVIII FIT world Congress, 2008
2. Kumar, Ravi, The life of a Translator in India, London, ITI Bulletin, the Journal of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting, 2010
3. Kumar, Ravi, The Translator as an Entrepreneur: An Indian Perspective, Salt Lake City, USA, American Journal of Translation Studies, 2010
4. Das, Binay Kumar, A handbook of Translation Studies. New Delhi, Atlantic Publishers, 2005
5. Oustinoff, Michaël, Translation Matters: India as a model for Europe, during International Conference on Role of Translation in nation building and supra nationalism, Indian Translators Association, New Delhi 2010
6. Devy, G.N. Devy, “Translation Theory: An Indian Perspective,” Into Another Tongue. Madras: Mac Millian, 1993
7. Vasandani, Nirupama Rastogi, The translation initiative: Teaching and Training, Hyderabad, Central Institute of English and Foreign Language, 2000
8. Mahapragya, Acharya and Abdul Kalam, A.P.J, The Family and the Nation, New Delhi, Harper Collins Publishers, 2008
9. Nijhawan, Shobna, Nationalism in the Vernacular, Ranikhet, 2010
posted by: Ravi Kumar
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By Ravi Kumar, Founder, Modlingua Learning 
First presented at International Symposium on Technical Translation and Terminology for Cross-Cultural Dialogue: 12-13 November 2009, Hacettepe University, Beytepe/Ankara; Later published at ITI Journal, UK in March- April 2010
This paper deals with Translators as entrepreneurs who are slowly getting aware of their profession and have begun coming to a common platform to share knowledge, experience and resources – a most desired step necessary for the better future of the profession. Further, this paper will propose “networking” as a possible solution to entrepreneurs who can economize their process and speed up their growth by using available resources and infrastructure without having to invest huge.
Bilingualism, multilingualism, challenges, economizing efforts, Babelfish, Google, limited resources for translators, entrepreneurship, common platform, networking, Co-creating values.


Before we enter into discussion on the Translator as an entrepreneur it is important for us to define entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship means different things to different people. For J.A Timmons, The Entrepreneurial Mind, 1989, it is the ability to create and build something from practically nothing. For Wennekers and Thurik, Linking Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth, 1999 it is the creation of new economic opportunities. For Wickham, Strategic Entrepreneurship: A decision making approach to new venture creation and management, 1998, it means creating and managing vision and demonstrating leadership. For Peter Druker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, it is a practice with a knowledge base.

Conceptually and in practice, the term hints of no stereotypical model. Yet it has its root in the French word ‘entreprendre’ which literally means to undertake – indicating the minimum characteristics of an entrepreneur.

From the perspective of economic functions, three crucial characteristics of entrepreneurial activity are: risk taking, innovation and venturing into new business activities for profit. (David Kirby, Entrepreneurship, 2003 McCraw Hill).

National Knowledge Commission (NKC), the core advisory body to the Prime Minister of India, which focuses on creating knowledge capital, has recognized entrepreneurship as one of the key factors of wealth creation and employment generation. As per NKC, ‘Entrepreneurship is the professional application of knowledge, skills and competencies and / or of monetizing a new idea by an individual or a set of people by launching an enterprise de novo or diversifying from an existing one (distinct from seeking self employment as in a profession or trade), thus to pursue growth while generating wealth, employment and social good’.

Entrepreneurship in India

Entrepreneurship has been ‘embedded in the Indian genius and is a part of its tradition’[1]. To quote the renowned economist, T.N. Srinivasan, ‘India has been an entrepreneurial society…we had the entrepreneurial skill but suppressed it for too long a time…and now it is thriving. The entrepreneurial spirit is an ongoing characteristic of India’s history, particularly visible in a number of communities engaged primarily in trading.[2] Traditionally, the Entrepreneurship of such communities is facilitated principally by the successful use of informal ‘entrepreneurial ecosystems’ and interdependent business networks. Further, there is also a rich tradition within the Indian Diaspora, spanning the past several hundred years, whose spirit of enterprise is legion.

Entrepreneurship in India occurs in ‘far more encompassing and far reaching ways than in developed countries’, and could, therefore, be far more complex,’ for there is so much more that needs to be done.[3] Commentators today celebrate the ubiquitous Indian attitude of ‘jugaad’ (a Hindi word roughly translated as ‘creative improvisation…a tool to some how find a solution based on a refusal to accept defeat, and calling on initiative, quick thinking, cunning and resolve…to quickly fulfill market demands at the lowest possible prices[4]’) as an entrepreneurial trait that has been as much a part of everyday Indian living as its rich tradition of philosophy and speculation.

The salience of Entrepreneurship in India has intensified in recent times, particularly with the rise in knowledge-intensive Services. New entrepreneurs who do not belong to traditional business communities have begun to emerge in large numbers; Entrepreneurship has grown rapidly, visibly so, creating wealth and generating employment especially in the past twenty years. Crucial efforts initiated after economic liberalization – including systematic attempts to reduce the ‘licence raj’, greater efforts to make finance more easily accessible to entrepreneurs and other institutional support to ‘techno-preneurs’- have helped improve the climate for Entrepreneurship.

The Translator as an entrepreneur

After several years of struggle, in many countries Translation has evolved as a professional activity and its practitioners have been able to get a professional status. However, it is important to note that India, in spite of having recognized and documented the presence of 1635 rationalized mother tongues, classified into 234 mother tongues and grouped under 122 languages, has failed to achieve professional status for its translators. Translation is an activity that not only helps bridge communication gap, rather it facilitates the whole set of business activity in terms of localization and globalization thus generating employment. An individual translator not only generates employment for himself/herself but also facilitates multiple activities and thus multiple employment activities ranging from DTP, advertising, education etc. to development and facilitation of high-end software and products. A translator applies his knowledge, skills and competencies and consistently evolves and applies new ideas at the individual level or collectively and in most of the cases, he/she is one person enterprise that generates employment and wealth and contributes to the economic development of the country.

It is also notable that most of the translators in India are forced to orient their profession and tune it as per the language demand of the industry by being restricted to the roles of language teacher, BPO employee, tele caller, etc. Those who remain loyal to their professional orientation as translator become freelance translators and often slowly grow into translation agencies. Unlike big business houses, translation businesses are usually run from home or from sparsely-furnished small offices, have limited resources and often the owners don’t know where the next penny is coming from to keep the operation going. Most of the time, such translators or agencies work in isolation and lead lonely existences as few can empathize with their troubles.

Socio- Cultural situation of translators in India

Bilinguals have always been respected in India as persons with superior qualifications, and they have played a pivotal role in social and cultural change. Slowly, bilingualism has become so widespread that it is complementary in nature. For example, an individual may use a particular language at home, another in the neighborhood and the bazaar, and still another in certain formal domains such as education, administration, and the like. In addition, the languages of national and international communication, Hindi and English, are also part of the linguistic repertoire of a sizeable number of Indians. In India, linguistic diversity is not by accident, but is inherited in the process of acquiring the composite culture of India.

Economic Situation of a translator in India

On the one hand, bilingualism/ multilingualism have played a pivotal role in shaping the diverse society of India, and even UNESCO has appreciated India’s situation on maintaining its linguistic diversity. On the other hand, Indian translators face challenges that are byproducts of the bilingualism / multilingualism inherent in Indian society. For example, it is very common to equate a translator with a bilingual neighbor, friend, relative or office colleague who are readily available for help or extend their services either at a very low price or, many times, even for free. I define these actions as part of the entrepreneurship attitude inherent in almost every Indian who tries to make best use of available resources and economizes his/ her efforts by making use of available resources. In this case, the resources are readily available bilinguals or multilinguals. These challenges become tougher when a Project Manager, knowingly or unknowingly equates the service cost of a professional translator with that of his in-house bilingual colleague whose services he / she has been availing of, free of charge. The challenge becomes stiffer when a translator has to explain to the Project Manager or the Indian Businessman (who still insists on using online freeware like Babelfish, Google or Systran) the difference between a machine translation and a professional translation, while trying to bid for an international project. This further confirms the resolve of an Indian businessman to prove his entrepreneurship skill which finally leads to a fiasco.

Making of a translator in India

As explained above, in spite of India’s very rich and continuing diversity of languages, there are only a few universities that offer translation courses in their curriculum, and these find it difficult to sustain themselves because of lack of infrastructure, lack of trained faculty, lack of well formulated course curriculum and, above and all, public lack of awareness and government apathy.

In this situation, it becomes very challenging for a translator to evolve as a professional, and those who evolve as professionals can be easily put into the category of entrepreneurs as they develop the ability to create and build something from practically nothing, and they practice this process of building wealth daily and continue to face all odds with a hope that one day they would be established translators. 

External challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

Once a professional translator starts interacting with the Industry, external challenges multiply. The translator goes on to face many other issues, including payment issues with clients followed by lack of continuity of work, government apathy towards professional recognition, lack of established standards, lack of certification, lack of funds for up gradation of skills,  etc.

Global challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

Many of the leading portals have developed a strong foothold in India. It is true that they have given good opportunities to many of the translators to get in touch with domestic as well as International agencies and that this has resulted in an increase in income. However, it is important to note that most of these portals are operated from outside India and they follow their own rules. Many times, Indian translators are cheated and then, to add insult to injury, blamed for bad quality. This kind of situation arises because of a mismatch of expectations, lack of documented guidelines and supports that agencies or clients must offer translators. Outsourcing is a good phenomenon, but service takers as well as service providers need to develop trust and culture sensitive relationships that is so often lacking in these web portals.

Competition from International agencies

It is true that the majority of Indian translators still follow the translation approach of translation – many times translations are handwritten, followed by typing, re-checking – and final delivery; this translation approach has its own importance, but it results in delivery delay and lack of quality control, making the whole affair vulnerable to stiff competition.

On the other hand, International agencies who maintain in-house teams of translators are sophisticated. They make use of trained translators who are well versed with computer applications and CAT tools (Computer Aided Translation Tools). Unless Indian translators also upgrade themselves with this modern translation approach, they will continue to suffer the snobbery of a select privileged few. Also, there are a few MNCs who have already made their presence in the Indian market, and, as a matter of practice, with their organizational strength and economic power, it would be easy for them to develop an economically competitive process that would be a big challenge to Indian translators entrepreneurs who are still struggling for their identity. By the time they realize their weaknesses, it would be too late to start competing with these translation houses. 

Internal challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

An individual, after having gone through the hurdles involved in evolving as a translator, faces the next stage of problems and  challenges that many times originate from his / her own self:   

1) Translation activities have been treated as a very personal and private affair by individual language professionals. Many times, even best friends do not share information between themselves about their translation projects.

2) Translators suffer from an identity crisis - Let us say, an Indian language professional refers to himself as a translator in a gathering of friends or acquaintances who otherwise have no other association with the translation industry. The response the professional's statement would commonly receive would simply be, "Okay, this is what you do. But what is your profession?" This underlines the very simple fact that the translation industry generally has very little professional recognition in the perception of the masses. This does affect the credibility and the position of a professional translator in the eyes of his social peers. This is what we translators refer to as an Identity Crisis.

3) Ego clashes - identity crisis makes an individual more sensitive to issues that have been making him suffer, any new initiative is regarded with suspicion - once suspicion comes - questions are asked, many times resulting in absurd questions offending egos and ultimately, failure of any collective initiatives for professional development.

 4) If at all logic prevails - the established translators start fearing loosing their business which they have established since years, making personal efforts - but very privately. Under no circumstances do they want to come to a common platform and discuss relations or issues related to their clients. But this thought is not expressed directly (part of identity crisis), rather it is expressed in terms of pin-pointing personal or professional or organizational weaknesses of the individual who has taken the initiative. 

 Successful translators and diversification

In spite of all the odds mentioned above, there are quite a good number of translators in India who face these challenges and overcome all hurdles to finally make a living and contribute to the economic and cultural growth of the country. In addition, there are a few who grow enough to launch small and medium sized translation enterprises which further add value to translation as a profession.

Need for collaborative efforts

With the collaborative efforts of a few like minded professional translators, the Indian Translators Association was established in December 2007. It seeks to unite the widespread translator and interpreter community of India on a common platform to address issues for the betterment of the industry and take steps to ensure that its members provide services meeting the professional standards of the industry. Its integration with the International Federation of Translators (FIT) in July 2008 and its subsequent collaboration with Termnet Austria prove its commitment towards achieving its objectives and goal of developing a vibrant platform for the translator’s community of India. 

Networking as a Possible Solution

To counter external as well as internal challenges a translator needs to take into consideration the phenomenon of globalization that has brought tremendous dynamism into market forces. The world is evolving towards finding innovative ways of achieving customer satisfaction that is based on N =1 (one consumer experience at a time) and R = G (resource from multiple vendors and often from around the globe). [5] To achieve competitiveness and provide unique, personalized experiences to consumers the firm needs to create a system that involves individual customers in co-creating a product / service that provides a unique experience. No firm is big enough in scope and size to satisfy the experiences of one consumer at a time. Therefore, all firms will access resources from a wide variety of other big and small firms – a global ecosystem. The focus is on access to resources, not ownership of resources. Not to go too deeply into the logistics of this innovative thought, it is very important to understand that even the biggest companies do not own all the necessary resources to cater to the needs of their customer, nor do they have complete production in-house as the new dynamics of market demands inter-dependency on internal and external sources.

The above thoughts are very encouraging for an entrepreneur and especially for the translator who depends heavily on external sources and who does not have enough funds to own resources. As explained above, nor do the big business houses have the complete ownership of resources. The idea is to have fast access to these resources. A translator entrepreneur needs to be connected to fellow translators within his own country as well as outside the country to have access to information and knowledge and develop teams for the execution of a project through available resources and provide services and achieve customer satisfaction. For developing connectivity and networking, there are already various online systems in place that allow free access to their platform and offer options to develop connectivity and develop social or professional networks that further helps individual members to build on relationships, share knowledge and help in the overall growth of a complete social or cultural system thus allowing the creator of the system to benefit from the presence of a large number of human networks connected to its server. Amongst many other networks, I find Google, LinkedIn, Face Book, Hotmail, Groupsite and Twitter to be examples of the N=1 and R=G phenomenon.   

Even for translators, there are well known networks that work wonders, and a translator must tune himself / herself to changing dynamics and bring competitiveness through using these networks (for example, Termium Canada, Terment Austria or even Termtruk and various other initiatives). In the Indian context, although there has not been a very visible network of translators, empowered by big business houses, however many personal initiatives are in place (for example, and it is expected that in times to come when better understating of the market comes, translators would start networking in an organized way and such private initiatives would become part of a collective initiative covering a considerable number of translators.

All that remains to be said in conclusion is that, while Indian translators as entrepreneurs are slowly evolving, in spite of many obstacles, they are yet to explore their fullest potential by adopting a common platform. On the one hand, this, and the other hurdles and set backs can be attributed, to a large extent, to vestigial colonial mind sets on all sides  (the colonizer and the colonized) which have so far endured past their expiry dates yet continue to exert influence. Perhaps the time has come for change and, given the shared impacts of events, East or West, North or South, salvation for all lies in sharing knowledge, experience and resources. The future of translation as a profession lies in the “networking” of entrepreneurs to economize processes and sustain growth by using all available resources and infrastructure. All that this requires is the investment of goodwill across the globe.

[1] R. Gopalakrishnan, Prosperity Beyond Our Cities by Spreading Enterprise, AD Shroff Memorial Lecture, October 17-18, 2007
[2] Dwijendra Tripathy (ed.), Business Communities of India: A Historical Perspective. 1984
[3] Tarun Khanna, Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India are reshaping their future and yours, 2007
[4] See Pawan K Verma, Being Indian
[5] This phenomenon can be more understood by going through the writings of management guru C.K Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan in “ The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value through Global Networks, Tata Mc Graw Hill, 2008 
This Article is written by Ravi Kumar, Founder of Modlingua Learning, India's No.1 Certified Translation Service Providers
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Itamar Even-Zohar, born 1939, is an Israeli culture researcher and professor at Tel Aviv University. Even-Zohar is a pioneer of polysystem theory and the theory of cultural repertoires.
After broadening of approaches towards translation from static ones to skopos theory, and then register and discourse analysis, relating language to its socio-cultural function in 1960’s, a new model called “poly-system theory was developed in 1970’s. The theorists saw translated literature as a system operating in the larger social, literary and historical systems of the target culture. This was an important move, as till that point, translated literature was always considered as a derivative and second rate form.

Structuralist Approach

Since the early 1970s Even-Zohar has been working on developing theoretical tools and research methodology for dealing with the complexity and interdependency of socio-cultural ‘systems,’ which he views as heterogeneous, versatile and dynamic networks. In 1972, he proposed a multi-layered structural theory of text, but soon became one of the first critics of “Static Structuralism”.

Note: Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure is known to have worked on Structural Linguistics. His book “Course in General Linguistics”, published posthumously in 1916, stressed examining language as a static system of interconnected units. He is thus known as a father of modern linguistics for bringing about the shift from diachronic (historical) to synchronic (non-historical) analysis, as well as for introducing several basic dimensions of semiotic analysis that are still important today, such as syntagmatic and paradigmatic analysis (or 'associations' as Saussure was still calling them).
Even-Zohar (1978) noticed structuralist agenda as a rigid and ‘sterile’ interpretation of Saussure’s notions of structure and ‘linguistic system’.

Poly-system theory
In 1978, Itmar Even Zohar constructed a research program that dealt with literary systems rather than text. It allowed researchers to break away from the normative notion of “literature” and “culture” as limited sets of highbrow products and explore a multi-layered interplay between “center” and “periphery”, and “canonized” and “non-canonized.”

Zohar emphasized that translated literature operates as a system:

1. In the way the TL selects work for translation.
2. In the way translation norms, behavior and policies are influenced by other co-systems

Shuttleworth and Cowie (1997:176) follows: The polysystem is conceived as a heterogeneous, hierarchized conglomerate (or system) of systems which interact to bring about an ongoing dynamic process of evaluation within the poly-system as a whole.
Dynamic process of evaluation is vital to the polysystem. Broadly there are two types of systems: 1) Innovatory System 2) Conservative system. Both the systems are in constant state of flux and competition. Because of this flux the position of translated literature is not fixed either. It may occupy a primary or a secondary position in the polysystem.

Primary (Innovatory)
It participates actively in shaping the center of the polysystem. It is likely to be innovatory and linked to major events of literary history as they are taking place. Often, leading writers produce the most important translations and translations are a leading factor in the formation of the new models of for the target culture, introducing new poetics, techniques and so on. Zohar gives three major cases where translated literature occupies the primary position.

1. When a young literature is being established and looks initially to older ones for ready –made models.
2. When a literature is peripheral or weak, and imports those literary types which it is lacking. This can happen when a smaller nation is dominated by the culture of a larger one, or this can happen within a nation where various levels of literary canons exist. Eg. Within Spain, Galicia imports many translations from the dominant Spanish form Castillian, on the other hand, Spain itself imports canonized and non-canonized literature from English speaking world.
3. When there is a critical turning point in the literary history at which the established models are no longer considered sufficient, or when there is a vacuum in the literature of the country. Where no type holds sway, it is easier for foreign models to assume primacy.

Secondary (Conservative)
It represents a peripheral system within the polysystem. It has no major influence over the central system and even becomes a conservative element, preserving conventional forms and conforming to the literary norms of the target system. Secondary position is normal one for translated literature, however, translated literature itself is stratified.

Translation Strategy
Position occupied by translated literature in the polysystem conditions the translation strategy.
If it is primary, translators do not tend to follow target literature models and are more prepared to break conventions, they thus produce a TT that is close match in terms of adequacy, reproducing the textual relations of the ST. This itself may, then lead to new SL models.
If it is secondary, translators tend to use existing target –culture models for the TT and produce more non–adequate translations.
Genztler sums up, polysystem theory as per the following

1. Literature itself is studied alongside the social, historical, and cultural forces.
2. Even-Zohar moves away from the isolated study of individual texts towards the study of translation within the cultural and literary systems in which it functions.
3. The non-prescriptive definition of equivalence and adequacy allows for variation according to cultural and historical situation of the text.The last point helped theorist to escape from the constant use of concept of equivalence in 1960’s and 1970’s.

Critique by Gentzler
1. Overgeneralization to universal laws of translation based on relatively little evidence
2. Over reliance on formalist model of 1920’s, Zohar later evolved it, thus contradictory to its own theory, and might be inappropriate for translated texts in the 1970s.
3. the tendency to focus on the abstract model rather than the real-life constraints placed on texts and translators.
4. How far the supposed scientific model is objective ?
This Article is written by Ravi Kumar, Founder of Modlingua Learning, India's No.1 Certified Translation Service Providers
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