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CULTURE VS.

ACCESSIBILITY:
Douglas Cassells

S5015938

Where Domestication Has Failed the Young


Reader

Douglas Cassells s5015938 (3043LAL Translation as a Bridge Between Cultures)

When literature is translated, whether it be inter or intralingual, often the aim is


to change the source text (ST) into a target text (TT) that makes it easily
comprehendible and appropriate for the target audience (Asman&Pederson,
2011). This method of translation is referred to as domestication. Traditionally,
translations of childrens literature have heavily relied on this strategy, as it is
thought to be more supportive of a younger target audience with their lack of
general cultural understanding. While this process can be beneficial to
supporting the understanding for the target audience, it can also result in the
loss of the cultural authenticity of the ST. The Scholastic translation of Harry
Potter and The Philosophers Stone (HPTPS) is an unfortunate example where
over use of domestication has dramatically removed much of the cultural value
and authenticity of the text. As a result of the over use of domestication,
Scholastic has hindered readers development of language and cultural
understanding, lost some of the quality of the literature itself, unnecessarily
substituted mutually intelligible words, and created an ethnocentric translation of
a British novel.
Reading, combined with the element of enjoyment, is a learning exercise. When
audiences encounter new words, phrases and cultures in literature, it expands
their vocabulary, comprehension skills and their understanding of different
cultures. In the translation of HPTPS, the Scholastic have made the TT so familiar
to American readers, (through substitutions of American vernacular), that
readers were left with little to no opportunity to experience new cultural words,
phrases or concepts. A key example of this is the change from the modal verb
shant in the ST (pp. 10) to wont in the TT (pp. 6). Shant is defined in the
Cambridge Online Dictionary as short form of shall not. While this may not be a
popular form of speech in America, it is a relatively simple connection to
understand.
Another example is the change from the noun pitch in the ST (pp. 122) to
field in the TT (pp. 164) (in relation to Quidditch). This unnecessary change
prevents the reader from building cultural connections. Nel (2011) states that the
word pitch has connection to Englands national sport: cricket. It is clear that
there are distinct cultural meanings associated with the word pitch, as
Quidditch is described as the sport of the wizarding world and there are many
jokes about the length of Quidditch games, referencing to the length that cricket
matches can last for.
This oversimplification of the TT does not allow the reader to explore and be
immersed in another cultures language. In doing this, not only are cultural
learning opportunities lost for readers, but the literary flow and elegance of the
novel are also lost in translation.
Whether it be the phrasing, the literary techniques (rhyming, alliteration etc.) or
simply the connotations associated with certain words, there is a certain magic
to J.K. Rowlings writing style. Nel states that The cultural weight borne by
Rowling's novels amplifies the importance of their details, especially those
details that have been "translated" into American English. (2011). Through
translating HPTPS, Scholastic essentially loses some of the magic created in the
original ST. For example, lumpy jumper (pp. 23) is translated into lumpy

Douglas Cassells s5015938 (3043LAL Translation as a Bridge Between Cultures)


sweater (pp. 24). The translated version does not have the same rhyme and
phrasing that Rowlings writing is so well known for. Another important example
is the title change from Philosophers Stone to Sorcerers Stone. While the change
doesnt have a large effect on the story itself, the change to Sorcerer from
Philosopher omits the original reference that can be made to alchemy (alchemy
is a philosophical pursuit.) Its small word changes like these that alter the flow
and artistry of the writing. This form of domestication as a trend in literature is
destroying the artistry of writing. The very British play of words seen in the ST is
lost with these substitutions.
Often in translating, it can be difficult to translate accurately and retain the full
meaning of each word. Translators have the choice to stay true to the ST and risk
confusing readers with foreign words and phrasing (foreignization). They can also
choose to alter the text and lose some of the original meaning in order to
familiarise with the target audience (domestication). The strategy of
domestication, applied to the Scholastic translation of HPTPS has seen many
unnecessary changes to British terminology. Words targeted in this translation
were those that had similar meanings, or could be clearly understood through
contextual clues in the story. As a result, the novel takes the reader on the
journey of a British boy living in an American world.
In the domain of food, many items were changed to an American vernacular. The
table below provides some examples of these:

pp.
93
24
53

HPTPS (U.K.)
Jelly
Beetroot
Hamburger bars

13
140

Sherbet lemon
Crumpets

HPTSS (U.S.)
Jell-O
Beet
Hamburger
restaurants
Lemon Drop
English Muffins

pp.
125
25
68
10
199

While word changes like Jelly to Jell-O and Beetroot to Beet do not change the
original meaning of the ST, they do exemplify Scholastics use of domestication
throughout the novel. In other instances, the changes actually alter the original
ST. For example, the change from crumpets to English muffins. These two food
items are completely different, but Scholastic decided to alter the meaning to
familiarise it to American audiences. Klingberg states that foods are facets of
the foreign environment which ought to be retained, if the translation is meant
to give better understanding of this environment (1986, p. 36). These alterations
to the story hinder the understanding of the British culture and environment.
With no obvious advantages to be gained by the reader, it appears that
Scholastic is using domestication for domestication sake. (i.e. common practice
rather than useful strategy which advantages the target reader).
According to Venuti, the former [domestication] refers to an ethnocentric
reduction of the foreign text to target-language cultural values, bring the author
back home. (Yang, 2010) In accordance with Venutis outlook, Scholastics

Douglas Cassells s5015938 (3043LAL Translation as a Bridge Between Cultures)


translation of HPTPS represents an ethnocentric culture that chooses to
domesticate mutually intelligible texts from other cultures to their own. As the
translation is from one variety of English to another, the text is already
understandable through the context, making these alterations unnecessary. This
demonstrates a clear attempt to americanise the novel. For example, a previous
change mentioned was from jelly (pp. 93) to Jell-O (pp. 125). While jelly is a
product, Jell-O is a specific brand of jelly that is popular in America. The only
reason for Scholastic to alter the text is to try and associate items with American
culture.
Its notable to mention, that after the third book in the series, Scholastics
translation became very minimalistic, choosing, with the increased popularity of
the series, to keep many of the British cultural terms. This indicates that
Scholastic recognised that there was no value in domestication of the text.

The Scholastic translation of Harry Potter in the Philosophers Stone into American
English is a domestication that ultimately takes away from the cultural
authenticity of the original text. While the aim of domesticating is to make the
text easier to understand for the target audiences, this translation is a clear
example of an ethnocentric Americanisation of the text. Scholastic have created
a text that hinders readers opportunities to develop vocabulary, comprehension
skills and cultural understanding, uses unnecessary substitution of words that
can alter the original intended meanings and loses the original magic of the
language employed by J.K. Rowling.
The challenge of translating a text well is to achieve a balance between keeping
the cultural integrity of the source text (foreignization of the text) and meeting
the needs of the targets social values and making the text accessible. With so
much of the cultural value and authenticity lost in Scholastics translation, this is
an example of where the balance has not been achieved.

Douglas Cassells s5015938 (3043LAL Translation as a Bridge Between Cultures)

References:

Bandia, P. F. (1995). Is Ethnocentrism an Obstacle to Finding a


Comprehensive Translation Theory? Meta Meta: Journal Des Traducteurs,
40(3), 488-496. doi:10.7202/001966ar
Cambridge University Press. (n.d.). Shan't Meaning in the Cambridge
English Dictionary. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/shan-t
Garcs, Carmen Valero. (2003). Translating the imaginary world in the
Harry Potter series or how Muggles, Quaffles, Snitches, and Nickles travel
to other cultures. Quaderns. Revista de traducci, 9, 121-134.
Rowling, J. (2001). Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. London:
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
Rowling, J.K. (1999). Harry Potter and the Sorceres Stone. New York:
Scholastic Books
Rowling, J. K. (1998). Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone. Retrieved
March 28, 2016, from
http://www2.sdfi.edu.cn/netclass/jiaoan/englit/download/Harry Potter and
the Sorcerer's Stone.pdf
The Harry Potter Lexicon. (2004, June 22). HPL: Differences. Retrieved April
01, 2016, from http://www.hp-lexicon.org/about/books/differences.html
Venuti, L. (1995). The translator's invisibility: A history of translation.
Retrieved March 30, 2016, from
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?
doi=10.1.1.475.4973&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Douglas Cassells s5015938 (3043LAL Translation as a Bridge Between Cultures)


Yang, W. (2010). Brief Study on Domestication and Foreignization in
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doi:10.4304/jltr.1.1.77-80
sman, T. P., & Pedersen, J. (2013). How Bert got into Ned's head:
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