REVIEW: Christopher Taylor. Language to Language, A Practical and Theoretical Guide for Italian/English Translators (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 341 pp. Forum Italicum, A Journal of Italian Studies, Mario B. Mignone, Editor, State University of New York at Stony Brook,  v. 35, no. 1, Spring 2001, pp. 287-288. 

Also reprinted in Tradurre, v. 2: no. 3, November 2001.

Reviewed by Anne Milano Appel, Ph.D.

Christopher Taylor's Language to Language, A Practical and Theoretical Guide for Italian/English Translators is just what its subtitle indicates and more: theoretical and practical, to be sure, with examples drawn from Italian/English translation, the approach it presents can be of use to translators of other language combinations as well. Though solidly grounded in scholarship, the book is accessible to the reader (teacher, student or experienced translator) because of the clarity of its exposition, its well-organized structure, its user aids (e.g. a glossary of key terms is provided in the back, and each of these terms appears in boldface as it is encountered in the text), and the fact that it firmly links theory to practice. Indeed the book is divided into two parts: Part One is devoted to theory and serves as background to the task of Part Two, which is concerned with methodology and an analysis of the process of translation through practice texts. Having said this, it should be noted that even the theoretical chapters that make up Part One contain many practical examples to ensure that theory remains tied to practice; and each of these chapters is also followed by suggestions for further reading.

The theoretical issues presented in Part One (linguistics, context, and genre) are intended to sensitize the translator to the varied nature of text, and prepare her/him for the "layers of meaning" approach adopted in Part Two. The underlying premise is that each text contains a number of layers or components (linguistic, semantic, pragmatic, cultural, and stylistic), and that the task of the translator during the translation process is to mentally manipulate the competing claims of these component parts in order to arrive at a "holistic" picture of the text. The separate layers of meaning are thus blended together, either simultaneously or in successive stages, to form the target text or translation. The process is selective in that only relevant elements are blended together, that is, the translator may apply some considerations while discarding others, depending on the text to be translated.

The device of the "rolling translation" is at the heart of the methodology presented in Taylor's book, and is descriptive of the way in which a translation "unfolds" in interim versions. Making up one part of the translation process, rolling is said to come into play after the first reading and pre-translation examination of the text, namely, after the translator has created an internal picture ("traduzione interna") of the text. At this point there is a stage by stage transposing (or rolling) of the text from a first, largely literal version to subsequent versions incorporating modifications resulting from contrastive linguistic, lexical and terminological considerations. All of this occurs before subjecting the text to a deeper analysis of its semantic, pragmatic, stylistic and cultural features as appropriate. 

The rolling process, which is presented in detail in Part Two, is appropriately illustrated through a series of sample texts: Italian texts for translation into English are alternated with English texts for translation into Italian. (Although the methodology is said to deal with translation both into and out of the translator's native language, in fact the rolling concept is not rendered explicit in the latter case. Some elaboration concerning the difference between the two processes might have been helpful, especially in view of the reigning practice among translation agencies which requires that a translator be a native speaker of the language into which s/he is translating.) The author, who has taught for a number of years at the University of Trieste's Advanced School of Modern Languages for Translators and Interpreters, aptly demonstrates the rolling concept by voicing "aloud" the questions that run through the translator's mind, thereby exposing the thinking that lies behind the choices made during the translation process. Rolling is thus a device or technique which simulates the process by which a translator turns over different solutions in his mind, sometimes writing them down and then crossing them out again, or perhaps only mentally "writing" them down. The technique is a useful teaching tool for the translation instructor, an effective work method (which, once acquired and "interiorized", becomes "automatic") for the beginning translator, and a practical reminder to both the student and experienced translator not to settle too soon for the easy solution. In addition, students and teachers will appreciate the fact that continuations of the texts analyzed are provided for further practice in easily-identifiable gray boxes.

The broad range of text types which are provided as examples for analysis and further practice makes the book a valuable resource which can equip the translator to subsequently approach other texts. In the reviewer's opinion the technique illustrated may be of value regardless of the translator's language combinations. Equally valuable is the reminder that the translation process does not occur in a vacuum, but that rather there are many linguistic and extra linguistic aspects for the translator to consider. Finally, the approach presented in the book reflects an insight which is fundamental to translation, namely, that there is no one "perfect" solution, that there can be as many versions of a text as there are translators wiling to translate it, and that translation is, in the end, the result of a series of very personal choices on the part of the translator. The book's user-friendly style, easy-to-follow format, glossary and bibliography make it a recommended choice for instructors and translators.


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