Risk management in crosscultural communication
Anthony Pym
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Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Plaça Imperial Tàrraco 1
43005 Tarragona
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When languages meet…
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Lingua franca
Pidgins, creoles
Language learning
Code-switching
Translation
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But translation is expensive…
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The state of translation theory
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Equivalence died.
Description, Skopos, deconstruction
and localization lived.
No debate.
Just data.
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For a new theory…
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Equivalence as a useful fiction.
Explain what happens.
Explain what should happen.
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Example 1
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In a birth certificate, where can you
make a mistake?
 Name of person born?
 Date of birth?
 Name of midwife?
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This means
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Only work hard where there is high risk.
Don’t work hard where there is low risk.
(Don’t work too hard!)
(These guidelines do not require
equivalence.)
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What is risk?
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The probability of not meeting success
conditions.
Success means mutual benefits.
(ethically)
Minimally: The benefits must be greater
than the efforts (transaction costs).
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Example 2
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Foreign students will need to convalidar
or homologar their first degree.
Convalidación = accreditation
Homologación = accreditation
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This means:
“seek accreditation”
= low risk?
Use Spanish terms
= low risk?
Omit phrase
= high risk!
... More information is needed.
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Linguistics is not enough:
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Success conditions are not in the text.
High-risk texts are not “rich points”
(Agar).
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Risk aversion?
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Risk-averse strategies:
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generalization
explicitation
literalism (interference)
Non-translation.
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Why risk aversion?
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Translators do not see success
conditions.
Translators are not responsible for risk
management (Patton’s interpreter).
Translators reduce transaction costs in
order to increase the probability of
(minimal) benefits.
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Risk-taking?
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Translation of humour.
Translation in subtitles.
Highly localized texts.
Advertising.
Texts of salvation (Nida, Gutt).
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Why more risk aversion?
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Cross-cultural communication:
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relatively high transaction costs
relatively low trust between participants
relatively tight success conditions .
Translation is an expensive strategy,
only justifiable in high-risk situations.
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Objection 1: trust
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Trust reduces communicative
complexity.
But translators are by definition open to
mistrust.
Mistrust feeds on minor mistakes.
So,without trust, effort cannot be
distributed away from low-risk
messages.
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Objection 2 (Hatim)
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The calculation of success conditions
itself increases transaction costs.
So the default norm for translation is to
reproduce what is in the text.
(back to square one?)
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What is translation?