At the end of September, Aušra Lukošaitytė, an instructor in the English Department at LCC, participated in the 5th annual conference Languages, and People: Communication in a Multilingual World. The conference took place in Vilnius, Lithuania at Vilnius University and was hosted by the Lithuanian Association of Applied Linguistics LITAKA. Participants from 16 countries presented their research during the conference. Aušra presented her work “Translating Back: Challenges Translators Face In Translating Texts About The Target Language Culture.”
Aušra, at the end of September you presented your research at the LITAKA conference. Could you share more about the conference?
This is an annual international conference. It is organized by the Lithuanian Association of Applied Linguistics LITAKA, and is a part of the International Association of Applied Linguistics. People come to the conference from different countries to present their research, meet with colleagues and discuss the presentations. For the duration of the conference, there were different sections on various topics presented to the audience. Some included discussion of various problems and aspects of bilingualism and multilingualism, but also covered other areas such as language acquisition, teaching language, or translation.
The title of your research was “Translating Back: Challenges Translators Face In Translating Texts About The Target Language Culture.” What inspired you to choose this specific topic?
My research was built on the challenges translators face in terms of what content they translate from the original. For example, people choose to write English texts about Lithuania. These writings are usually about historical novels and of course, we Lithuanians are interested in what they write. Most often the writings are by Americans or Canadians, about Lithuania, written in English. Someone then has to translate what they wrote into Lithuanian. The translator inevitably begins looking at the original text as its own type of translation, in order to choose the correct translation strategies to make the text readable for the target audience. Often this makes translation more difficult. Sometimes what seems an exotic detail for an American or Canadian writer or reader is more commonplace to the Lithuanian reader. The translator has to reverse the whole situation, maybe alter some explanations for things more obvious or normal to the Lithuanian reader. The translator would replace with expressive choices and phrases that would make the text easy and interesting to read, but not necessarily precisely the same as used in the original text. There could be inaccuracies in the original also. For instance, the original text reads that there are "strawberries in the spring season." Such a small detail does not matter for an unfamiliar reader, but for a Lithuanian reader who loves picking strawberries in the right season, a minor detail can prompt the mistrust in the author and it distances the reader from the writing. So the question arises, does the translator have the right to correct it? What about ethics? What about faithfulness to the original text and author? It was interesting for me to research as this field is growing and more people choose to write English texts about Lithuania. Lithuanians want to know what is written about us, so this is where the translator's work comes in.
You teach linguistics and translation at LCC. How do you manage to combine research and teaching?
It is difficult to combine the two since my full workload is mainly teaching. Summer is the only time when I can find the time to dedicate to the research. For this conference, I was given time at LCC to specifically do some research. It was a good opportunity for me to have a few months in the summer to read all the novels, look for mistranslations, study other related work, and be ready to present my findings. This particular research I presented at LITAKA began many years ago and is a build-up from various papers. I am planning to continue to develop it further and have it published later.
Photo credits: Edgaras Kurauskas and LITAKA