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Exploring power and ethnocentrism: in sign language translation.

This article demonstrates that theories intended to prevent ethnocentric eth·no·cen·trism  
1. Belief in the superiority of one's own ethnic group.

2. Overriding concern with race.

 influence for one pair of languages may, in fact, be the catalyst for the phenomenon it purports to prevent in another pair. while it explores the issue in relation to sign language translation, the article raises the question of whether the findings can be extrapolated to other languages.

THE VAST BULK of available literature about message transfer between signed and spoken languages is concerned with the practice and theory of sign language interpreting. However, this paper explores the emerging field of sign language translation. The phenomenon itself is so unfamiliar to translation and interpreting professionals that the concept may seem, at first, quite perplexing per·plex  
tr.v. per·plexed, per·plex·ing, per·plex·es
1. To confuse or trouble with uncertainty or doubt. See Synonyms at puzzle.

2. To make confusedly intricate; complicate.

THE FOLLOWING QUOTATION from Peter Newmark (1991, P. 35) tends to reflect the more traditional view of translation and may help identify the cause for this bewilderment be·wil·der·ment  
1. The condition of being confused or disoriented.

2. A situation of perplexity or confusion; a tangle: a bewilderment of lies and half-truths.

Noun 1.
   In general terms translation is a
   cover term that comprises any
   method of transfer, oral and written,
   from writing to speech, from speech
   to writing of a message from one
   language to another. Professionally,
   however, the term 'translation' is
   confined to the written and the term
   interpretation' to the spoken

As can be noted in this definition and others like it (e.g. Munday, 2001, pp. 4-5; Riccardi, 2002), the concept of translation is generally reserved for message transfer between written languages. Given that sign languages do not possess a written form, but rather comprise a visual-spatial language incorporating use of the hands and body, and employing features such as space, facial expression facial expression,
n the use of the facial muscles to communicate or to convey mood.
, mime, and gesture, they do not seem to fit within the traditional profile for translation. Because of this, the discussion here will begin by providing an overview of instances of sign language translation. The paper will then explore the concepts of 'power' and 'ethnocentrism' in light of Venuti's (1995, 1998) theory of 'foreignised' translations in application to specific examples of sign language translation. While the examples I discuss will be drawn from sign language translation, the issues are relevant to translation tasks in general, regardless of the language pair.


Sign language translation is not a new phenomenon, although recent technological advances have certainly precipitated a sharp increase in practice and made it more available. However, research into the field is relatively new. This paper will focus on translations between Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and Australian English, but that is not to say that the comments expressed here will not have application to translations between other signed and spoken language combinations,

It should be reiterated that the focus of this paper is on sign language translation, rather than sign language interpreting. However, some of the issues discussed certainly bear relevance to the field of interpreting. To differentiate between these two processes, the following definitions will be adopted from Leneham, (2005, p. 81):
   Interpreting: a speech-based event
   which occurs in real time, without the
   potential for it to be corrected.
   Translation: a text-based event which
   does not occur in real time and is
   potentially correctable.

From these definitions it is clear that the most distinguishing features between the two processes relate to the channel of communication (speech versus text) (Roy, 2000), the temporal aspect (in real time, or not) (Frishberg, 1990), and the potential for the resulting target text (TT) to be corrected or not (Nord, 1997). In addition, there are other distinguishing factors, such as the immediacy im·me·di·a·cy  
n. pl. im·me·di·a·cies
1. The condition or quality of being immediate.

2. Lack of an intervening or mediating agency; directness: the immediacy of live television coverage.
 of the audience (Riccardi, 2002). In interpreting, the audience requiring the interpretation is present (either physically, or via telecommunications technology) where the source text (ST) is being delivered. This is implicit in Adj. 1. implicit in - in the nature of something though not readily apparent; "shortcomings inherent in our approach"; "an underlying meaning"
underlying, inherent
 the definitions given above, where the interpretation--the delivery of the TT--must be done in 'real time' and is speech based. On the other hand, the intended audience for a translated TT may never have access to the ST, and is quite removed from the translation process; indeed, it may never even be aware of the existence of the ST or the translator's involvement in developing the TT. From this description, it would appear that the two processes are quite distinct. However, this is not ,always the case--as will be seen in the discussion below.


As stated above, the phenomenon of sign language translation is something quite unfamiliar to most interpreting and translating professionals--even those working within the field of sign language interpreting. Therefore, the discussion will begin by defining sign language translation. In doing so, it is hoped that any uncertainties regarding the veracity of sign language translation as bona fide acts of translation will be resolved.

Given that Auslan is a visual language without a written form, the only way of accurately preserving an Auslan text requires the use of video (or film) recording equipment. The translator then has the opportunity to work from a video-recorded ST, or--in the case of delivering an Auslan TT--to produce a video-recorded text. Referring to a video-recorded ST or the production of a video-recorded TT allows a sign language translator to follow the translation process of analysis, transfer, and restructuring as identified by Nida & Taber (1969). Occasionally, in the act of translation, a written text is produced during the process of delivering the TT. This could be interpreted by some to indicate an intermediary step in the translation process, that is, for example: Signed ST (video) [right arrow] written text [right arrow] Spoken TT. However, the focus of this paper is the relationship between the ST and the ultimate TT. Without this focus it would be necessary to indicate any intermediary written, spoken, or signed texts for 'all of the translation processes, which would only serve to confuse the discussion. Any intermediary written, spoken, or signed texts, however, can be seen purely as a means to the end, and as part of the drafting process which would exist in any translation task.

In spite of the fact that sign language translation is not a new phenomenon, it is believed that this paper is the first attempt to define the variety of sign language translation processes. The list below indicates six different translation processes, each of which could be identified as an example of sign language translation. A brief description of each process is given below.

1. signed ST (video) [right arrow] spoken TT

2. spoken ST [right arrow] signed TT (video)

3. signed ST (video) [right arrow] signed TT (video)

4. written ST [right arrow] signed TT (live)

5. written ST [right arrow] signed TT (video)

6. signed ST (video) [right arrow] written TT.

1. Signed ST (video) [right arrow] spoken TT

Examples of this type of translation can be seen in Deaf TV programs, or movies and documentaries with deaf characters. This process is neither unique nor a recent evolution in sign language translation; there are international Deaf TV programs which have been running for more than two decades. However, the potential fur this type of translation work has sharply increased with recent technological advancements resulting in the potential for consumer-based productions using personal computers and video equipment. (The convention of using the uppercase 'D' has been followed here to indicate reference to the Deaf community--attributing to it equal social significance, as is the case with other communities, for example, the Arabic, Vietnamese, or Italian communities. Alternatively, the lowercase 'd' refers to the physiological state Noun 1. physiological state - the condition or state of the body or bodily functions
physical condition, physiological condition

wakefulness - a periodic state during which you are conscious and aware of the world; "consciousness during wakefulness in a sane
 of deafness, without implying any direct 'affiliation to the Deaf community. To illustrate, a person may be deaf without being a member of the Deaf community--see Lane, 1995).

2. Spoken ST [right arrow] signed TT (video)

Although primarily responding to a spoken ST, this process also incorporates features of processes 4 and 5 below. This process has strong parallels with the process of sign language interpreting. However, there are subtle differences. An example of this translation process can be found in news reports or bulletins incorporating sign language interpreters--usually positioned to one side, or in the corner of the screen. Again, this is not an uncommon phenomenon, with examples found as far a field as Britain, Hong Kong Hong Kong (hŏng kŏng), Mandarin Xianggang, special administrative region of China, formerly a British crown colony (2005 est. pop. 6,899,000), land area 422 sq mi (1,092 sq km), adjacent to Guangdong prov. , China, Denmark, Indonesia, Sweden, Germany, Finland, and the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . Interestingly, Australia has never had a regular news bulletin of this kind, leaving the Australian Deaf community as an under-represented linguistic minority, in spite of the existence of two Federally-funded national television broadcasters. This oversight certainly illustrates the power of, and the status awarded to, this minority language, an issue which relates to the discussion below.

The difference between the 'above process and interpreting is that during delivery of the translation, the translator is not only responding to a spoken ST, but may also have access to a written version of the ST via teleprompter--Deaf translators working for news bulletins will, naturally, not have access to the spoken ST and will follow a similar process as outlined in process 4. Because of this, it could also be argued that this process could be defined as 'sight translation'--where the source text remains visually accessible to the translator (Agrifoglio, 2004) through the use of a teleprompter. The main difference between sight translation and 'regular' translation is the temporal aspect. In sight translation the translator may have extremely restricted time to develop the TT and so usually translates small sections of the text at a time. Unlike a 'regular' translation task, the potential to correct and modify the TT before delivery is limited. However, the script for the news bulletin will generally only indicate what the news anchor will say, excluding live 'feeds', live interviews, and field reports.

An additional feature that distinguishes this activity from general sign language interpreting is that the bulletin is recorded onto videotape videotape

Magnetic tape used to record visual images and sound, or the recording itself. There are two types of videotape recorders, the transverse (or quad) and the helical.
 (even if broadcast live) and could potentially be re-shown at a later timeslot. Therefore, unlike an interpretation, this process delivers a recorded TT. This is a hybrid process incorporating aspects of both interpreting and translation (Leneham, 2005; Turner & Pollitt, 2002).

3. Signed ST (video) [right arrow] signed TT (video)

One common myth about sign language is that it is universal. While there may be some commonalities between sign languages, the differences at the phonological pho·nol·o·gy  
n. pl. pho·nol·o·gies
1. The study of speech sounds in language or a language with reference to their distribution and patterning and to tacit rules governing pronunciation.

, morphological mor·phol·o·gy  
n. pl. mor·phol·o·gies
a. The branch of biology that deals with the form and structure of organisms without consideration of function.

, and lexical levels have supported their recognition by linguists' as bona fide languages. Therefore, material presented and recorded in sign language A would need to be translated into sign language B for it to be accessible to users of that sign language.

4. Written ST [right arrow] signed TT (live)

While there are similarities between this process and process number 2 above, the difference is that this translation is delivered live, while the script and format of the ST is known and there is usually much greater preparation time. The best example of this translation process can be seen in theatre interpreting, where the translator develops an Auslan translation from a written script in response to a specific production of that script. One of the unique demands of this process is that the translation is delivered live, in response to a live rendition ren·di·tion  
1. The act of rendering.

2. An interpretation of a musical score or a dramatic piece.

3. A performance of a musical or dramatic work.

4. A translation, often interpretive.
 of the ST. Given the live rendition, the translator must respond to unforeseen occurrences--such as actors forgetting their lines, technical glitches, the interpreter's nerves, etc. Furthermore, unlike a written translation of a play, the Auslan translation may be delivered once and, due to copyright restrictions, will usually remain undocumented. If the translation is to be delivered on repeated occasions, then each individual performance will, naturally, be an individual version of the translation. The result is that the Auslan TT is still very much connected to the English ST, which would not be the case if the script were to be translated into another spoken/written language. It has been noted that this process represents a hybrid form of translation and interpretation (Turner & Pollitt, 2002; Leneham, 2005).

5. Written ST [right arrow] signed TT (video)

This is similar to process number 4 above. However, the TT is recorded onto videotape and 'readers' of the TT may never refer to the original ST. In this sense, the TT becomes a new original, potentially replacing the ST. Examples of this can be seen in Auslan translation of books from the Holy Bible Holy Bible

name for book containing the Christian Scriptures. [Christianity: NCE, 291]

See : Writings, Sacred
 (Harris, 2002), children's picture books (Conlon & Napier, 2003), and public policy documents (A user guide in Auslan to the Disability Discrimination Act, 1992).

6. Signed ST (video) [right arrow] written TT

The final translation process is the reverse of process number 5 above. In this instance, the signed ST--for example, a signing deaf character in a film, documentary, or TV program--is translated into a written text, and translated as subtitles sub·ti·tle  
1. A secondary, usually explanatory title, as of a literary work.

2. A printed translation of the dialogue of a foreign-language film shown at the bottom of the screen.

 or captions, instead of a voice-over being added (as in process 1). This process poses the same challenges confronted when translating foreign films by adding subtitles (Cintas, 2003; Lomheim, 1999). Additional examples of this process include the translation of sign language poetry and testimonies from deaf witnesses in legal matters.


Following from this initial discussion about the nature of sign language translation, the remainder of this paper will explore the topics of 'power' and 'ethnocentrism' in sign language translation. The discussion will focus on exploring examples from translation processes 5 and 6 above, but the concepts will have general application to the other processes.

The concepts of power and ethnocentrism ethnocentrism, the feeling that one's group has a mode of living, values, and patterns of adaptation that are superior to those of other groups. It is coupled with a generalized contempt for members of other groups.  in translation relate to a balance of power, as indicated in the following quote from Alessandra Riccardi (2002, p. 87):
   Translation may greatly influence
   the way in which a culture is
   trasmitted and perceived in a
   target culture ... Translation always
   implies an unstable balance
   between the power one culture can
   exert over another.

The remainder of the paper aims to explore some examples which illustrate this 'unstable balance' between the languages in sign language translation, in so doing, it will highlight issues related to how sign language translation can greatly influence the way in which the culture and language of the Deaf community are perceived--and, thereby, either promote or oppress op·press  
tr.v. op·pressed, op·press·ing, op·press·es
1. To keep down by severe and unjust use of force or authority: a people who were oppressed by tyranny.

 the Deaf community and its language.

To begin the discussion, it is necessary first to establish definitions for the terms 'power' and 'ethnocentrism', both of which have been the source of great discussion in the literature. In very simplistic sim·plism  
The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.

[French simplisme, from simple, simple, from Old French; see simple
 terms, the concept of power as it relates to translation can be explored from two general perspectives. One, a pragmatic point of view, examines the power intended or conveyed within an utterance ut·ter·ance 1  
a. The act of uttering; vocal expression.

b. The power of speaking; speech: as long as I have utterance.

, defined as the 'illocutionary force' (Austin, 1962). To illustrate this point, Leo Leo, in astronomy
Leo [Lat.,=the lion], northern constellation lying S of Ursa Major and on the ecliptic (apparent path of the sun through the heavens) between Cancer and Virgo; it is one of the constellations of the zodiac.
 Hickey (1998. p. 220) offers an example from a business letter which ends with the following sentence: 'Thanking you for the prompt settlement of your account.' He points out that this phrase is ambiguous in that it could be asking the customer to pay, or thanking them for having 'already paid the account. He thus argues that the translation should remain equally ambiguous. However, if the intent is clear, then the intended power or illocutionary force of the utterance should be conveyed.

The other general view of power in relation to translation explores the status of the languages, cultures, and communities connected to the translation task. Within this view we could explore the issue of hegemony hegemony (hĭjĕm`ənē, hē–, hĕj`əmō'nē, hĕg`ə–), [Gr.,=leadership], dominance, originally of one Greek city-state over others, the term has been extended to refer to the dominance of one , postcolonial post·co·lo·ni·al  
Of, relating to, or being the time following the establishment of independence in a colony: postcolonial economics. 
 translation theory (Spivak, 2000), power relations (Niranjana, 1992), and the selection of materials for translation and the influence of literary norms discussed within Polysystem Theory (EveZabir, 1978/revised 1990/2000). Within these frames, the concept of power in translation is very complex. In the limited space available here, this paper will focus on the 'unstable balance' of power in sign language translation, drawing on the theory of 'foreignising translation' (Venuti, 1995, 1998). Venuti's theory of foreignising translation will form a basis for the arguments in this paper because of his focus on the power of the translator and the need to promote increased understanding of cultural difference.

The topic of ethnocentrism is arguably ar·gu·a·ble  
1. Open to argument: an arguable question, still unresolved.

2. That can be argued plausibly; defensible in argument: three arguable points of law.
 more complex; consequently, explication ex·pli·cate  
tr.v. ex·pli·cat·ed, ex·pli·cat·ing, ex·pli·cates
To make clear the meaning of; explain. See Synonyms at explain.

[Latin explic
 proves challenging. In simple terms, the concept refers to the belief in the superiority of one's cultural identity and group norms over those of another, much of which stems from one's socialisation into membership of one's language community. Given that a sign language is one of the languages of the translations to be discussed, it is important to recognise the acceptance of Deaf communities as linguistic minorities with their own cultural identity groups (Ladd. 2000; Lane, 1992, 1995; Padden, 1980; Reagan, 1985).

To defend minority culture literature from the influence of majority cultures, Lawrence Venuti (1995) advocates 'foreignised' translation processes (also called 'minoritised' translation, Venuti, 1998)--approaches that 'promote cultural innovation as well as the understanding of cultural difference' (ibid., p. 11). The alternative to this approach is a 'domesticated' translation. Venuti (1995, p. 20) offers the following definitions for the two translation approaches:
   Domesticated translation: '... an
   ethnocentric reduction of the
   foreign text to target-language
   cultural values, bringing the
   author back home ...'

   Foreignising translation: '... an
   ethnodeviant pressure on [the
   target-language cultural] values to
   register the linguistic and cultural
   difference of the foreign text,
   sending the reader abroad.'

In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, a domesticated do·mes·ti·cate  
tr.v. do·mes·ti·cat·ed, do·mes·ti·cat·ing, do·mes·ti·cates
1. To cause to feel comfortable at home; make domestic.

2. To adopt or make fit for domestic use or life.

 translation adopts a transparent, fluent style to minimise the strangeness of the foreign text (Hatim, 2001, p. 229) while, on the other hand, a foreignised translation 'deliberately breaks target language conventions by retaining something of the strangeness of the foreign text' (ibid., p. 230). One final political point, which Venuti argues underlies these translation approaches, is made at the end of his definitions: either the translation will bring the author to the reader, or will move the reader towards the author. The political purpose behind choosing one of these translation methods over the other becomes evident in translations into English, as noted by Venuti (1995, p. 20):
   Foreignising traslation in English
   can be a form of resistance against
   ethnocentrism and racism, cultural
   narcissism and imperialism, in the
   interest of democratic geopolitical

Venuti would argue that, by adopting a foreignising approach, the translator is empowering the foreign culture and language and resisting the ethnocentric influence of English (in particular). Venuti intends the application of his theory towards translations from the 'minority' language to the 'majority' language--an attempt to model Venuti's theory can be seen in Table 1 Use of the disempowering/empowering classification refers to the effect the translation will have on the status of the majority language and community. The status of ethnocentric or ethnodeviant indicates whether the focus is on addressing the linguistic needs and expectations of the target language community (ethnocentric), or reflecting the source language community (ethnodeviant).

The shaded section of Table 1 indicates an assumption which expands on Venuti's original theory. For a translation from a majority language to a minority language, Venuti would argue for a translation which would resist the influence from the ST on the literature of the minority. As such, one could assume, as indicated in the shaded section of Table 1, that a domesticated translation from a majority language to a minority language would empower the minority community through a possible slight disempowering of the majority language. However, it goes without saying that the level of disempowerment of a majority language such as English would be minimal--given the robustness of the language and its literature.

At first glance, the theory of domesticated/foreignised translations may seem to have immediate application to the field of sign language translation, which deals with the transfer of a message between a minority language (e.g. Auslan) and a majority language (e.g. English). It is, therefore, important to consider the following questions:

1. Is there evidence of ethnocentric influence in translations between Auslan and English?

2. Does this influence vary depending on the language direction of the translation?

As significant as these questions are, unfortunately the dearth of research into sign language translation makes it impossible to give any accurate evaluation of current practice. However, the following simple examples will allow us to explore these issues at an elementary level and question the extent to which Venuti's categories and the intention behind them are applicable to sign language translation.

Before beginning to discuss the examples, it is necessary to offer a brief word of clarification. As already mentioned, Auslan does not have a written form, so English orthography English orthography refers to the method of spelling words in the English language. English orthography has relatively complicated rules when compared to other languages with similar orthography systems, written with alphabetic scripts.  and lexical items have been used to represent Auslan lexical items. As a consequence, the gloss of Auslan signs represents a word-for-sign translation, achieved by choosing an approximately equivalent word for the Auslan sign in that context. Given that Auslan is a visual-spatial language, it is quite difficult to capture all visual aspects in a written form. While it would have been possible to include more information in each glossed example, the detail included in the glossing of Auslan has been deliberately kept to a minimum in an effort to reduce confusion for readers who are unfamiliar with the language. Therefore, the glossing below should be interpreted not as a detailed representation of the Auslan texts, but rather as a simplified record to facilitate discussion. For an explanation of the glossing system used, please refer to the glossing conventions above.


Example in offers the first opportunity to explore the concepts of ethnocentrism and power in sign language translation. This simple example, taken from Banna (2004), provides an illustration of the sixth translation approach described above. A hypothetical scenario for this translation could be the creation of an educational resource by adding captions to a video-recorded ST of a deaf individual A deaf individual, or deaf person, may mean:
  • a pre-lingually deaf person, someone who is deaf at birth or became deaf in infancy before acquiring mastery of a spoken language, will often have sign language as a first language, and may be part of the Deaf community.
 signing. It is evident from this simple illustration that the TT is perfectly grammatical English. Merely by reading the English sentence it would not be apparent to the reader that it is a translation of an Auslan source text. As such, Venuti would be likely to argue that this translation disempowers the Deaf community and oppresses their language and culture, by suppressing it to such an extent that it is no longer evident--in favour of a text conforming to expectations of the majority language.

By contrast, we can compare Example 1b, where the TT sentence has maintained the Auslan construction: 'different, different, different'. The structure of this TT sentence would signal to the reader that there is something 'foreign' about this text--and that it may be a translation.

The political purpose in adopting a foreignised translation approach, as suggested by Venuti, would be to empower the language and culture of the Deaf community and resist the ethnocentric influence from the English-speaking community. However, Cresswell (2001) asks whether receivers of the English TT who are uninformed about the Deaf community would identify a phrase which does not conform to Verb 1. conform to - satisfy a condition or restriction; "Does this paper meet the requirements for the degree?"
fit, meet

coordinate - be co-ordinated; "These activities coordinate well"
 standard English as an element of the language and culture of the Deaf community, or simply think it was 'bad' English. Additionally, Cokely (2001) has indicated that 'deafcentred' meanings are not always successfully conveyed to those who are unfamiliar with the Deaf community, and may in fact contribute to the continued oppression of Deaf people This is an incomplete list of notable deaf people. Important historical figures in deaf history and culture
The idea that a person who was deaf could achieve a notable or distinguished status was not common until the latter half of the 18th century, when Abbé Charles-Michel de
 as handicapped or disabled individuals, rather than promoting the recognition of them as a linguistic cultural minority. Therefore, as Banna (2004, p. 114) states, 'the use of foreignisation as a strategy in Auslan 1-English] interpreting [and translation] should be considered carefully in context to ensure that the outcome corresponds with the intention' of the source text and the purpose of the translation.

To summarise the discussion of Examples 1a and 1b, it should be clear that the latter deliberately attempts to resist the ethnocentric influence from the majority language in order to redress Compensation for injuries sustained; recovery or restitution for harm or injury; damages or equitable relief. Access to the courts to gain Reparation for a wrong.

REDRESS. The act of receiving satisfaction for an injury sustained.
 the unstable balance of power between the two communities. Conversely con·verse 1  
intr.v. con·versed, con·vers·ing, con·vers·es
1. To engage in a spoken exchange of thoughts, ideas, or feelings; talk. See Synonyms at speak.

, it could be argued that Example la succumbs to the ethnocentric influence from English and delivers a TT which moves the 'author towards the reader'. However, as can be noted in the comments by Gresswell, Banna, and Cokely, it is questionable whether this kind of approach would achieve Venuti's intentions or further disadvantage the minority community.


The second example is a translation of the Australian national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. For brevity Brevity
Adonis’ garden

of short life. [Br. Lit.: I Henry IV]


symbolic of transitoriness of life. [Art: Hall, 54]

cherry fair

cherry orchards where fruit was briefly sold; symbolic of transience.
, the example only focuses on the first three lines of the anthem. This example is an illustration of the fifth sign language translation process in the list discussed earlier: written ST [right arrow] signed TT (video).

Before continuing, it must be reiterated that Venuti's theory of foreignisation is intended to be applied to translations from minority languages into a majority language; therefore, it could be argued that it is not applicable to this example, which is clearly the reverse process. However, by broadening the application of Venuti's theory we can consider Example 2 in terms of 'taking the reader to the author' or 'bringing the author in the reader'. In other words, we can discuss the translation in terms of the extent to which it creates the feeling of a 'transparent original' text in the target language and culture. From this perspective we can explore the level of ethnocentric influence from the dominant language on minority language target texts for translation into sign language.

The first point of interest in discussing Example 2a is the level of equivalence. It should be fairly obvious, even with limited knowledge of Auslan, that there is a strong correlation between the ST and TT at the word level. Such a high level of influence from English grammar English grammar is a body of rules specifying how meanings are created in English. There are many accounts of the grammar, which tend to fall into two groups: the descriptivist  indicates a strong bias towards the dominant language and culture. This influence is the justification behind labelling it as a foreignised translation. Furthermore, in line with Venuti's definitions, this translation has clearly moved the receivers towards the author--sending them outside their language community to the community of the foreign text, In addition to the influence at the lexical level, one could also explore the resulting semantic inaccuracies in the translation; however, that is beyond the scope of this paper. This translation shows the strong influence from English and the power it can exert on the language of the Australian Deaf community and their access to social discourse in Auslan.

By contrast, we can consider Example 2b as a domesticated translation because it has resisted the ethnocentric influence from the dominant language and has moved the author to the reader. It should be clear from this alternative translation of the first three lines of the national anthem that the focus is on achieving 'pragmatic equivalence' (Baker, 19992), rather than equivalence at the word level.

In comparing Examples 1 and 2 it is interesting to note that the implications associated with domesticated and foreignised translations are reversed. In other words, while Venuti argues for the use of foreignising translation approaches to empower minority communities, it is obvious that this goal is not achieved in either language direction. In Example 1 we can see that using a foreignised approach (Example 1b) has the potential to further disadvantage the Deaf community. Similarly, in Example 2, the foreignised translation (Example 2a) also disadvantages the Deaf community by adhering to the form of the ST, thus making the TT appear foreign and potentially incomprehensible. Therefore it is clear, even from this rudimentary rudimentary /ru·di·men·ta·ry/ (roo?di-men´tah-re)
1. imperfectly developed.

2. vestigial.

 exploration, that the potential for ethnocentric influence exists within sign language translation. However, it also seems clear that the wholesale application of Venuti's theory of foreignised translation may not be applicable to sign language translation. Of course, a more detailed empirical investigation is needed to confirm this. However, this elementary investigation encourages us to consider whether this would also be the case for other minority languages--especially others without any written form and/or a limited literature, such as many indigenous languages in Australia and elsewhere.

In Table 1, the consequence of a domesticated translation from a minority language to a majority language was 'disempowering' to the minority language community. However, as indicated in Table 2 (see page 12), in a domesticated translation from Auslan to English (which is a translation from a minority to a majority language) the potential influence of power has been reversed, resulting in a translation that is 'empowering'. Similarly, the influence of power evident in a foreignised translation from a minority language (Auslan) to a majority language (English) also differs between the two tables; from 'empowering' in Table 1, to 'disempowering' in Table 2. As shown in the discussion of Example 1, a foreignised approach for an Auslan-English translation has the potential to further disempower dis·em·pow·er  
tr.v. dis·em·pow·ered, dis·em·pow·er·ing, dis·em·pow·ers
To deprive of power or influence.

 the Deaf community. As such, it can be seen that translations from Auslan into English reflect the reverse of arguments about power made by Venuti, as represented in Table 1. However, the influence of power in a translation from a majority language (English) to the minority language (Auslan) remains consistent between the two tables.


In summary, we can return to two questions posed earlier ('Is there evidence of ethnocentric influence in translations between Auslan and English?' and' Does this influence vary depending on the language direction of the translation?'). The discussion of the translation examples has clearly demonstrated the potential for ethnocentric influence in sign language translation. However, it should be recognised that there may be several factors which dictate the translation style for any given translation, including the translator's (in)experience, the client's preference for translation style, and the demands of the translation task. This being the case, in spite of the potential for ethnocentric influence and the risk of disempowering the Deaf community, it cannot be stated unequivocally that one translation approach should be adopted over another.

In answer to the second question, Table 2 summarises the findings to show that domesticated translations are more likely to resist ethnocentric influence, regardless of the language direction; this is in opposition to the intent of Venuti's theory. What this suggests, and what is perhaps the most significant point to come from this discussion, is the complexity of the ethnocentrism issue in translation. It can be seen that theories intended to prevent ethnocentric influence for one language pair may, in fact, be the catalyst for the phenomenon it purports to prevent in another language pair. While this paper has explored the issue in relation to sign language translations, it raises the question of whether the findings can be extrapolated to other languages.

Additionally, this paper has demonstrated the inadequacies of existing definitions for translation, which refer exclusively to the written word--thereby excluding the field of sign language translation. This phenomenon reflects a certain power imbalance between written and signed languages--where the latter are often overlooked or seen to have lesser status. In light of the discussion about power and ethnocentrism, this seems a significant issue that needs to be addressed. Regardless of theories for translation approaches to resist such ethnocentric power imbalance between language communities, it is clear that there remains a veiled imbalance regarding the status of sign languages. It is hoped that this imbalance of power will be redressed as the field of sign language translation gains greater recognition through continued empirical research Noun 1. empirical research - an empirical search for knowledge
inquiry, research, enquiry - a search for knowledge; "their pottery deserves more research than it has received"

In conclusion, sign language translation is an emerging field which remains largely unacknowledged. This discussion has shown that there is scope to apply contemporary translation theories and approaches to sign language translation; however, there may not always be direct correlation Noun 1. direct correlation - a correlation in which large values of one variable are associated with large values of the other and small with small; the correlation coefficient is between 0 and +1
positive correlation
, so it should be done with caution. It is anticipated that continued investigation will allow us to more fully understand the processes involved in sign language translation and potentially lead to developing theories which reflect its unique demands, as well as help to define translation more comprehensively.


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This is a version of an original paper presented at the Translation and/as Culture conference at Monash University Facilities in are diverse and vary in services offered. Information on residential sevices at Monash University, including on-campus (MRS managed) and off-campus, can be found at [2] Student organisations , 11-12 November 2005.

Marcel Marcel

the fast ebbing of time impels him to devote his life to recording it. [Fr. Lit.: Proust Remembrance of Things Past]

See : Time
 Leneham is a PhD Candidate at Macquarie University Location
University publications and material indicate that its campus is located in the suburb of North Ryde, although the Geographical Names Board of NSW indicates it is located in the suburb of Macquarie Park. The University has its own postcode: 2109.
 in Sydney. His e-mail address is marcel.leneham@ling ling: see cod.
Glossing conventions

Example         Meaning of gloss

COMMUNITY       Direct word-for-sign gloss
+               Repeated sign
(,,,,)          Action accompanying sign or additional information
                about the sign
ALL-WITH        Signs that need to be glossed by more than one
                English word to convey the intended meaning

Example 1a

Auslan-English (domesticated translation)

Gloss of Auslan TT    DEAF COMMUNITY (pause) PEOPLE
                      DIFFERENT +++ (right to left)
        English TT    There is diversity within the Deaf community.

Example 1b
Auslan-English (foreignised translation)

Gloss of Auslan TT    DEAF COMMUNITY (pause) PEOPLE
                      DIFFERENT +++ (right to left)
        English TT    Within the Deaf community people are
                      different, different, different.

Example 2a
English-Auslan (foreignised translation)

English ST          Australians all let us rejoice,


English ST          For we are young and free;

Gloss of Auslan TT  FOR WE YOUNG AND FREE;

English ST          We've golden soil and wealth for toil ...

                    WORK ...

Example 2b
English-Auslan (domesticated translation)

English ST          Australians all let us rejoice,


English ST          For we are young and free;

                    PLUS OPEN-GENERAL;

English ST          We've golden soil and wealth for toil ...

                    WILL SUCCESS ...

Table 1
Model of Venuti's theory for foreignising

                                  Domesticating   Foreignising
                                  translation     translation

Minority language [right arrow]   Disempowering   Empowering
majority language                 Ethnocentric    Ethnodeviant

Majority language [right arrow]   Empowering      Disempowering
minority language                 Ethnocentric    Ethnodeviant

Table 2

Model of approaches for sign language translation

                                Domesticating    Foreignising
                                translation      translation

Auslan  [right arrow] English   Empowering       Disempowering
                                Ethnocentric     Ethnodeviant

English [right arrow] Auslan    Empowering       Disempowering
                                Ethnocentric     Ethnodeviant
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Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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