Natural Translation: A Reply to Hans P. Krings

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Hans P. Krings' book Was in den Köpfen von Übersetzern vorgeht (Krings 1986) is a pioneering and substantial contribution to empirical research on translators' mental processes ("empirische ûbersetzungsprozessuale Forschung")—an approach and a field which have been grossly neglected until recently and which even now attract only a fraction of the research in translation studies that they merit. His work is noteworthy for taking as subjects people who had no pretensions to being polished professional or artistic translators, namely German university students who were advanced learners of French; and as text some relatively simple and mundane material, a newspaper article about a mouse in a railway dining car. Furthermore, subjects did their translations into their second language. Methodologically the interest lies primarily in his use of 'think-aloud' introspection ("lautes Denken"). It should also be remarked that he is nonjudgmental as regards the translations produced; he is only interested in how subjects arrived at them. In all of these respects he steps outside the paradigm that has long reigned in translation studies, which can be characterized as text-based (and therefore postmortem) analysis and criticism of translations of technically or artistically difficult texts produced by highly competent translators working into their dominant language. Whilst I therefore admire the book, it is not my purpose here to review it as a [ p. 98 ]whole. But it happens that in his opening review of the previous literature Krings devotes several pages (pp. 19-22) to my own research and to my theory of 'natural translation', and it is on those pages that I propose, gratefully but critically, to dwell.

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