Authenticity and Quality of the Translation
Peter Gwan


(Article published by PETER GAWN in META, 33,3. Les Presses de l' Universite de Montretal, Montreal, 1988, pp. 456-460.)

It is clear to be seen that the Federal Government of Canada works mainly in English. When communication with French-speakings Canadian citizens is necessary, very often the translation bridge has to be crossed-but is one very only. According to law of Official Languages, the Government must publish all its documents in both French and English. What in fact happens is that the documents are written up in English to be later translated into French.

It's a question of change of cultures rather than languages. From this point of view, the work adjudicated to the translator is incredible.

For example are two translated versions of the same law valid ? Here the authenticity of the translation is being put to test. So we can formulate a first law: The value of the translator is inverse to the proportion of the client's knowledge of the language translated into, or to his level of bilinguism.

On comparing two versions of the same law, we see that the first is done by experts in the subject, after consulting professionals and making many corrections. The second is done by a translator, often working alone, short of time and without the advantage of being able to consult. This version, at the most, will be like a mirror reflecting only the English text.

So then we make a second law: The more similar two cultures are, the more adequate the translation will he.

From among a lot of false criteria we must try to outline the adequate criteria: The clients's responsability is to create a document which is as authentic in French and English, and the work of translator is to help the former in his work. Within this context, we would describe the translator as an expert in intertextual translation, and not as the only authority on interlinguistic translation.

Now for the third law: The quality of the translation depends upon the extent of the client's compromise.

The translator, unlike other professionals, must bow to the demands of the client; what is more, he must become a veritable virtuoso in his work-playing other peoples' work, often unknown pieces and without time to look into them and rehearse them as a musician would do. So far as the organization of his work is concerned-he has been a soloist up until now-though more and more he works in a team. With reference to this, the help the translator has received from modern technology must be mentioned. The translator must take as much advantage of this as he can, an hereby unload himself of the purely mechanical work.

It is also very damaging for the translator the accept unquestionably the conditions of client: accepting erroneous texts etc is detrimental to the translation.

Now we come to the fourth lan final law: The more willing the client, the more authentic the translation.

The key of obtaining adequate translation is in the exchange of information and the team work between the client and the translator. Authenticity, however means more than this. The authentic text is one which adapts itself perfectly to the situation of its creator, receiver, and the message. Acording to this definition, literary translation could hardly be authentic.