Translating Chinese Culture and Audience Design

2017 Chinese Studies Department Seminar Series – University of Sydney

Dr Jing HAN, Western Sydney University & SBS TV

4:00pm – 5:30pm, Monday 22 May 2017
SLC Common Room 536, Brennan MacCallum Building A18, University of Sydney

That the translator plays an active role in the translation process from the source text to the target text or a new text has been widely acknowledged in translation studies. Such a role has been defined in different ways. Gutt (1991) calls the translator “a communicator addressing the target language audience”. Eco (2003) defines the translator as “the negotiator between original text, cultural framework of source text and target language”. The translator as a cultural mediator has been addressed by several theorists, particularly by David Katan (1999/2009). Whether the translator is regarded as a negotiator, a mediator, a communicator or a manipulator, it is important to recognise that translation is first and foremost a form of communication, and furthermore a form of intercultural communication, which embodies two key elements: audience and intended message.

The concept of audience design was first introduced by the sociolinguist Allan Bell, who found that speakers shift their language style based on their knowledge of their audience and concluded that “speakers design their style for their audience”. Bell divides the audience into four categories of hearers who impose different levels of impact on the speaker’s language style, depending on their direct or indirect relationship with the speaker. It is therefore the speaker’s responsibility to identify what types of audience he has and design his utterances accordingly. When applying audience design in translation, it means that the translator needs to know who his audience is and respond to his audience accordingly.

Simply translating a source language text into a target language text does not necessarily lead to communication. How does communication happen? According to Sperber and Wilson (1995), human communication involves “expression” and “cognition of intentions”. Cognition of intentions relies on the context to interpret the intended message, and context here refers to a cognitive environment to enable the interpretation process. In translation, the source language audience’s cognitive and cultural contexts do not match those of the target language audience. Therefore, the onus is on the translator to identify the mismatch or the missing context and provide a cognitive environment for his target language audience to enable them to interpret the message understood by the source language audience.

Dr Han received her PhD in English Literature from the University of Sydney in 1995. She joined the Australian national broadcaster SBS TV in 1996 and she is now the head of SBS Subtitling Department. She has subtitled over 300 Chinese films and documentaries for the Australian audience. She is also the leading subtitler of the popular Chinese TV show If You Are The One, showing on SBS TV since 2013. In 2006, she joined the Western Sydney University, where she teaches translation and interpreting courses. She has taught a whole range of courses, including Audiovisual Translation, Literary Translation, Accreditation Studies, Legal Interpreting, Medical Interpreting, Introduction to Translation and Introduction to Interpreting. A leading expert in audiovisual translation and intercultural communications, Dr Han has been invited to speak at national and international conferences and forums. She has also been invited to teach at prestigious universities in China. She is the translator of a modern Chinese classic Educated Youth by Ye Xin.

Contact: Chiew-Hui Ho
Phone: 02 9351 3083