Child and adult readers’ processing of foreign elements in translated South African picturebooks: An eye-tracking study

Haidee Kruger
School of Languages, North-West University Vaal Triangle Campus


The tension between domesticating and foreignising translation strategies is particularly strongly felt in the translation of children’s literature, and has been a key issue in many studies of such literature. However, despite the pervasiveness of the concepts, there is little existing empirical research investigating how child (and adult) readers of translated children’s books process and respond to for eignised elements in translation. This means that scholars’ arguments in favour of either domestication or foreignisation in the translation of children’s literature are often based on intuition and personal experience, with no substantial empirical basis. This article presents the findings of an experiment undertaken to investigate Afrikaans child and adult readers’ processing of and responses to potentially linguistically and culturally foreign textual elements in translated children’s picturebooks, against the background of postcolonial/neocolonial cultural and linguistic hybridity in South Africa. The paper reports the results relating to two of the research questions informing the study:

  1. Does the use of foreignised elements in translated children’s picturebooks have any significant effect on the cognitive effort involved in reading for child and adult readers?

  2. Is the comprehension of child and adult readers affected by the use of for eignised elements in translated children’s picturebooks?

A reading study utilising eye-tracking was conducted, involving both child and adult participants reading manipulated domesticated and foreignised versions of pages from two picturebooks translated from English to Afrikaans. To answer research question (1), data obtained by means of eye-tracking were analysed for dwell time, fixation count, first fixation duration and glances count for areas of interest (AOIs) reflecting domesticating or foreignising translation strategies. In order to answer question (2), short structured questionnaires or interviews with participants were used, focusing on the degree of comprehension of the two texts. Overall, the findings of the experiment demonstrate that while there are perceptible effects on processing and comprehension associated with the use of foreignising strategies, these effects are not straightforward or uniform, with notable differences not only for different AOIs, but also for child and adult readers.

Table of contents

Translations are phenomena with causes as well as effects (Chesterman 1998, 201). In other words, translations are both affected in various ways by various factors, and themselves affect other factors in a variety of ways. As Chesterman (1998, 219) formulates it, translations may be

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