The Reception of Translated Foreign-Affairs Discourse: China’s International Communication System
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-06-10. This item is currently available to University of Melbourne staff and students only, login required.
© 2020 Bei Hu
Although we know that national image can be highly dependent on the way a country’s foreign-affairs discourse is translated, the communicative effect of translations on real target readers has rarely undergone empirical scrutiny. This research reports on a quasi-experiment where 22 Australian readers were asked to rank different degrees of translator intervention in texts selected from Chinese foreign-affairs discourse. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to examine the readers’ textual comprehension, image of China and reading satisfaction. The readers’ evaluations were then compared with similar evaluations made by 14 Chinese institutional translators. One major finding is that there are major gaps between the communicative effects the translators think they are offering and what their real readers actually receive. The study suggests that reception is a matter of degree: the acceptance of a translation is a complex continuum rather than a simple binary opposition of absolute consensus vs. completed refusal. The readers appear to distinguish ways of legitimizing an “ethically acceptable” translation and they seem disposed to compromise and “satisfice” – i.e. accept translations that they know might be inadequate in terms of linguistic proficiency. Ethical criteria such as perceived accountability, neutrality, and transparency have priority over language-specific solutions that simply conform to target conventions. A trade-off model is proposed in order to explain how a translation is ultimately accepted or refused. The study shows that the readers’ expectations are diverse and sometimes incompatible. This is because when reading a translation, readers are consciously or unconsciously calculating risks and effort at each decision-point. In order to reduce the risks (e.g. of being manipulated or of communicative failures), the readers weigh up the costs and benefits, usually investing more effort in high-risk situations. This study suggests that trust is a powerful mechanism in helping achieve trade-offs and promote cost-effective communication. This is because trust can significantly reduce receptive effort: if the translator is trusted to be “neutral,” “accountable,” or “faithful,” the acceptance of any translator intervention will be much higher. This also explains why a one-size-fits-all translation is neither realistic nor necessary: for different readers, the ways they prioritize risks and make a compromise are different. By analyzing a range of explanatory variables including familiarity with the start culture and the ideological conflicts that might impinge on the reader’s decisions, the study concludes that trust plays a powerful role in reception and can offset various risks involved in translational communication.
KeywordsReception studies, institutional translation, norm theory, risk management, Chinese foreign affairs discourse
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References