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Drama Translation, Performance and Language Enhancement

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Valerie Pellatt


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This paper investigates a drama translation project carried out by Masters’ degree level Chinese-speaking students of Translating and Interpreting. The study evaluates the extent to which the students’ language skills and underlying cultural awareness were affected by the dual processes of collaboratively translating a modern Chinese drama (話劇) and performing the play in translation on a British stage. Unlike almost any other type of text, drama revolves around spoken language: a play must be translated for the stage, rather than the page. Through the holistic process of metamorphosis from a purely verbal site into physical, psychological, social and cultural orbits, drama translation forces the translator to think deeply about spoken language. The students who participated in the project became actors who translated their own play, and performers who created their own dialogue. They became participants who penetrated the drama in a way that actors-only, or translators-only might not. They owned the drama, and their deep and physical involvement in it enabled them to transmit more and better the predicaments and characters of modern Chinese people to a non-Chinese speaking audience. The project required a deep, close encounter with the Chinese of the original text, rendered in English which could be understood instantaneously by a monolingual British audience. The collaborative nature of the translation work allowed for on-the-spot peer revision and quality assurance. Performance and rehearsal constituted another level of review and monitoring of language - verbal, gestural and cultural. Drama translation presents challenges not found in other texts: there is no opportunity for footnotes or other types of explicitation onstage: the actors’ words and actions must convey everything that the playwright intends, including and particularly culture-specific ideas and emotional outbursts. Translation involves profound cultural differences which go beyond the words and touch every member of a community. As words are explored through action and performance it is likely that a whole range of language skills are enhanced.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pellatt V

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Critical Reflections on Foreign Language Education: Globalization and Local Interventions

Year of Conference: 2016

Pages: 67-83

Print publication date: 01/12/2016

Acceptance date: 30/09/2015

Publisher: Language Teaching and Testing Centre, National Taiwan University