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WHY STUDENTS’ TRANSLATIONS TEND TO BE LONGER. THAN PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATIONS? Amelia Mareva New Bulgarian University, Sofia BETA 2009. Rationale and objectives. Main aims and objectives:

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why students translations tend to be longer



Amelia Mareva

New Bulgarian University, Sofia BETA 2009

rationale and objectives
Rationale and objectives

Main aims and objectives:

  • to explore the relationship between translation length and students’ use of explicitation/implicitation strategies
  • to report the design and results of a small-scale empirical study
  • to discuss the interdependence between translation competence/expertise and the employment of explicitation/implicitation strategies as well as to highlight some implications for translation pedagogy
the context
The context
  • The growing importance of both translation and English as a lingua franca in today’s knowledge society calls for establishing new links between the fields of Translation Studies and English Language Learning

The diversity paradox: the apparent contradiction between the rise of English as an international lingua franca, which should lead to lesser linguistic diversity, and increased use of translation, which should produce greater linguistic diversity (Pym 2001:28)

  • The nature of professional competence, expertise and excellence: the explicitation/implicitation ratio as the touchstone of the translator’s craftsmanship
  • Some practical/financial implications of the question of translation length: ever more frequently translators are paid per word in the source language
research hypotheses
Research hypotheses:
  • There is a regular (systematic) relationship between students’ use of explicitation/implicitation in translation and their level of linguistic proficiency and management of achievement strategies.
  • The explicitation/implicitation ratio can be a function of the translator’s amount of translation experience.
  • Students’ model of translation, and specifically of translation quality, is an “explicitation” model.
Translation length

Measure unit:

The graphic word:

unproblematic – a large number of words

problematic – the/a, isn’t, waist-high

The lexeme:

unproblematic – the great majority of lexemes

problematic – take hold of, Tootsie Roll


obligatory: mostly grammatical

optional: predominantly lexical

hard-working men – работеха здраво; мъже които работят усърдно

…in their Sundaybest – най-хубавите си дрехи; в най-хубавите си неделни дрехи; пременени за неделна служба; облечени в най-хубавите си дрехи


obligatory: mostly grammatical

optional: predominantly lexical

my mother said she suspected… –майка ми подозираше; майка ми каза, че подозира

I happened to be riding with him – аз се возех с него; ако се случеше така, че и аз да съм с него

There is a tendency for all good translations to be somewhat longer than the originals. This does not mean, of course, that that all good translations are necessarily long.Eugene Nida (1974:163)Le traducteur allonge par prudence et aussi par ignorance. Vinay and Darbelnet (1958)

theoretical framework 1
Theoretical framework (1)

Explicitation can be defined as

  • a process (strategy, technique) by which the translator makes explicit in the target text information, which is only implicit in the source language
  • a translation universal

Blum-Kulka’s explicitation hypothesis (1986:20-21): Translations are usually more explicit than source texts, especially those by non-professional translators.

Inexperienced translators produce more explanatory/redundant texts: the less experienced the translator, the more the process of translation is made obvious.

Qualitative exploratory studies (manual corpus): Alexieva (1982), Séguinot (1988), Kamenicka (2008), Klaudy (1993), Mareva (1993), Pym (2001),

Quantitavite explanatory studies (computer corpus): Øveras (1998), Olohan and Baker (2000), Frankenberg-Garcia (2004), Englund-Dimitrova (2005)

theoretical framework 2
Theoretical framework (2)

The present study is an attempt to analyse optional/voluntary explicitation and implicitation from the perspective of text length; hence, it is concerned with the processes of addition and omission of lexemes.

  • Explicitation – addition of lexemes, a one-to-many relationship
  • Implicitation – omission of lexemes, a many-to one relationship
  • Data collection – controlled word count (Mareva 1993, Frankenberg-Garcia 2004)
  • Identification procedure and classification: types of explicitation and implicitation (Mareva 1993)
  • Quantitative and qualitative findings: interpretation and evaluation (the ‘plication quotient’ Kamenicka 2008)
participants 47 undergraduate students
Group 1.

22 fourth-year students (7th semester) at New Bulgarian University

C1.2 or C2.1 EL proficiency

720 hours of language instruction and 210 hours translation training,

advanced computer skills

good knowledge of Bulgarian literary norms

Group 2.

25 third-year students (6th semester) at Sofia University

C2 EL proficiency

750 hours of language instruction and 240 hours translation education

good computer skills

very good knowledge of Bulgarian literary norms

Participants: 47 undergraduate students
material and activities
Material and activities

Genre: Literary prose

Authors: John Grisham’s A Painted House

Mark Crick’s Kafka’s Soup: Lamb with Dill Sauce à la Raymond Chandler

Professional translators: Zornitsa Dimova

Pavlina Chohadzhieva

Sample size/Length: A manageable amount of 1,000 words running SL text

Tasks and activities:

Stage 1. In-class activities: close/deep reading, problem spotting, discussion of literacy/publication norms

Stage 2. Out-of-class activities: researching information, draft translation

Stage 3. Proof-reading, (peer-)editing, revising; critical analysis of professional translations, discussion of translator’s style

Сръбнах глътка “уиски сауър”, загасих си фаса в кухненската дъска за рязане и загледах някаква буболечка как се опитва да изпълзи от мивката. Това, което ми трябваше, беше маса в ресторант „Максим”, стотачка и удивително красива блондинка; а вместо това разполагах с агнешки джолан и пълна липса на улики…

49 words

Сръбнах от уискито с лимон, загасих си цигарата в кухненската дъска и погледах как една хлебарка се мъчи да издрапа от мивката. Исках маса в „Максим”, сто кинта и разкошна блондинка, а имах само един агнешки бути никакви улики...

40 words

I sipped on my whisky sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim’s, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues. I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner’s handshake.

some examples
Some examples

whisky sour: “уиски сауър”; уиски с лимон; коктейл с уиски

(I) needed: исках; нуждаех се от; имах нужда от; това, което ми трябваше

no clues: никаква улика; пълна липса на улики; не знаех как да приготвя; нямах никаква идея какво да го правя

sliced: накълцах; накълцах на търкалца; накълцах на филии; нарязах на шайби

onion: лук; глава лук; една глава лук

data and results
Data and results

Text 1.ST: 1002 graphic words; 881 lexemes

TT (P): 852 graphic words; 828 lexemes

TT (S1): 909 graphic words; 871 lexemes

TT (S2): 883 graphic words; 859 lexemes

Explicitation shifts: TT(P): 22; TT (S1): 8 + 23 = 31; TT (S2): 14 + 13 =27

Implicitation shifts: TT(P): 31; TT (S1): 7 + 2 = 9 TT (S2): 11

Explication/implication quotient: TT(P):0.71 ; TT (S1): 3.44 TT (S2): 2.45

Text 2.ST: 385 graphic words; 348 lexemes

TT (P): 331 graphic words; 319 lexemes

TT (S1): 349 graphic words; 334 lexemes

TT (S2): 354 graphic words; 337 lexemes

Explicitation shifts: TT(P): 17; TT (S1): 13 + 11 =24; TT (S2): 14 + 9 =23

Implicitation shifts: TT(P): 10; TT (S1): 4 + 1 = 5; TT (S2): 5 + 1 = 6

Explication/implication quotient: TT(P):1.7 ; TT (S1): 4.8 TT (S2): 3.83

* ST – source text

TT – target text

explicitation and implicitation shifts
Explicitation and implicitation shifts

Professional translation – TT (P)

Students’ translation (group 1) – TT (S1)

Students’ translation (group 2) – TT (S2)

why are students translations longer than professional translations
Why are students’ translations longer than professional translations?
  • Students’ understanding of the nature of translation: a good translation should reproduce “everything” (i.e. should faithfully render all relevant dictionary and contextual meanings). This study has shown that while the student subjects have resorted to explicitation strategies more frequently than the two professional translators, they have been quite reluctant to employ implicitation strategies: in fact, implicitation shifts are 3 to 4 times fewer in students’ translations.
  • Students’ insecurity of what is permissible in the process of translation: how much freedom they are allowed. In their view, explicitation is saying the same (not more), whereas implicitation is saying less.
  • Students’ reluctance to move from a ST orientation (understanding the original) to a TT orientation (achieving a similar effect). Perhaps, years of testing have induced students to attach greater importance to the ST system (to show convincingly that they can interpret the ST) than to the TT system.
  • In the classic three-stage process of translation: analysis – synthesis – transfer (cf. Nida 1964), the second stage is frequently omitted, which often results in a simplified message. Thus, explicitation can also be viewed as a strategy of simplification.
  • Explicitation and implicitation are phenomena with a very high frequency of occurrence: in the translations of approximately 1,400 graphic words there are 36 shifts (24 explicitation and 12 implicitation shifts, calculated as arithmetic means). The processes of explicitation and implicitation should be further researched as they offer important insights into the nature and mechanisms of translation.
  • Although explicitation and implicitation depend on a set of variables: language types, structural and pragmatic characteristics of source texts and target texts, author’s style and translator’s style, etc., one of the most important variables has proven to be the amount of translation experience. Novice translators resort more frequently to explicitation strategies than expert translators, and even more importantly, they are strongly disinclined to use implicitation techniques. Thus, the study has highlighted significant differences in novices’ and experts’ strategic competence.
  • Some important differences between the expert and non-expert model of translation have been observed. Students’ model sets explanatory goals and presumes a passive readership. Students attempt to reveal every single meaning (and shade of meaning) in surface structures – the more explicit, the better; implicitation is seen to show ‘weakness’ or lack of understanding; no active referencing is expected from the readers
  • Pedagogical implications: a sustained effort is needed to study and develop both explicitation and implicitation strategies, with a strong focus on the latter

Alexieva, B. Implicitation and Explicitation in English and Bulgarian. A Case Study of the Ways of Rendering Auditory Perception. Sofia. 1982. 384

Blum-Kulka, S. Shifts of Cohesion and Coherence in Translation,in Interlingual and Intercultural Communication: Discourse and Cognition in Translation and Second Language Acquisition Studies, (eds) House, J. and S.Blum-Kulka, Tübingen, Narr, 1986, p. 17-35

Englund-Dimitrova, B. Expertise and Explicitation in the Translation Process. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2005

Frankenberg-Garcia, A.Are translations longer than source texts? A corpus-based study of explicitation, in Third International CULT Conference Proceedings, Barcelona, 2004; http://www.linguateca.pt/documentos/Frankenberg-Garcia2004.doc

Nida, E and C. Tabor. The Theory and Practice of Translation. Brill, 1974

Vinay, J. P. and J. Darbelnet. Stylistique comparée du français et l'anglais: Méthode de traduction. Didier, Paris, 1958

Kamenicka, R. Explicitation Profile and Translation Style, in Translation research projects, (eds) Pym, A. and A. Perekrestenko. ISG, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 2008, 117-130


Klaudy, K. On explicitation hypothesis, in Transferre necesse est… Current Issues of Translation Theory, (eds) Kohn, J. and K. Klaudy, Szombathely: Dániel Berzsenyi College, 1993

Mareva, A. Kam tipologia na lexikalnija analitizam I sintetizam pri prevod [Towards a Typology of Lexical Analiticity and Syntheticity in Translation, in Sapostavitelno Ezikoznanie [Contrastive linguistics], Sofia, 1993/5, 31-41

Olohan, M. and M.Baker. Reporting that in translated English: Evidence for subconscious processes of explicitation? in Across Languages and Cultures, 2000, 1(2): 141-158

Øveras, L. In search of the third code: An investigation of normsin literary translation. Meta 43 (4), 1998, 571–588

Pym, A. Explaining Explicitation,in New Trends in Translation Studies. In Honour of Kinga Klaudy. (eds) Karoly, K. and Á. Fóris, Budapest: Akadémia Kiadó. 2005, 29-34. http://www.tinet.org/~apym/on-line/translation/explicitation_web.pdf

Séguinot, C. Pragmatics and the Explicitation Hypothesis, in Traduction, Terminologie, Rédaction 1988,1 (2):106-114.