Vol. 3. No. 4 R-12 January 1999
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Translation into the Second Language

Stuart Campbell (1998)
New York: Addison Wesley Longman
Pp. xiii + 208
ISBN 0-582-30188-2 (paper)
US $17.27

Stuart Campbell's study provides a comprehensive discussion of translation into a second language. The author is primarily concerned with translation as the product of a process of language learning projected onto an interlanguage framework. Therefore, translation skills should be evaluated according to the state of learners' interlanguage in any stage of its development. This study necessarily raises issues concerning the status of translation into second language in comparison with translation into mother tongue, which has always got the lion's share of applied linguistics and translation studies. In fact, the problem of language development has frequently been disregarded, "tacitly assuming the existence of a perfectly bilingual translator" (p. 1). Two other major points Campbell addresses are the textual approach that is necessary to translate stylistically appropriate texts and the description of different levels of language competence. All these issues are directly linked to the more general topic of how the competence to translate develops and what strategies may be employed to stimulate it.

Chapter 1 presents a translator-centered view of translation. First of all translators cannot be thought of as perfect machines, but as individuals who have certain skills which allow them to translate from one language into another. After reviewing the most recent ideas on translation competence, Campbell puts forward his own characterization in view of its possible applications to classroom teaching. According to him, the most important approaches to investigating competence are "psychological modeling of translation processing," "translation quality assessment," and "translation pedagogy." By psychological modeling the author means all those studies that seek to trace translators' mental constructs. He proposes to draw these models from empirical data. Quality assessment is also essential because it provides us with text-based models to evaluate the quality of translations, provided these schemes start from well-grounded theoretical premises. Translation pedagogy foregrounds neither the translator nor the text, but gives prominence to teaching hypotheses.

Chapter 2 is devoted to the relevance of second language translation as an inevitable practice in multicultural and ethnic contexts. The case of Australia is here examined in great detail to explain how commercial interests call for translators working into the second language. [-1-]

In Chapter 3, Campbell makes a claim for the necessity of translations into the second language on the basis of sociolinguistic evidence. He presents a case study of candidates for a university program in interpreting and translation at the Macarthur Institute of Higher Education (Sydney), which clearly shows how a country like Australia needs translations into English and not into the myriad of other languages spoken by the immigrant communities. This also requires that translation studies take into account the activities of individuals working in contexts similar to that of Australia, who therefore need to be considered as learners struggling to build their own systems of target language use and to achieve native-like linguistic competence. This case study is then complemented by another research study conducted on a group of students aspiring to receive a certificate of translator from Arabic into English. One of the main strengths of the book (and of chapter 4 in particular) is that translation competence is conceived as competence in the target language, and especially at textual level. The primary difficulty when translating a text into a second language is to produce a natural-sounding target text. Therefore translation competence has to do with a special type of second language ability, which corresponds to the learner's stage within the process of language learning. Furthermore, high levels of proficiency in L2 entail good command of stylistic varieties. With his case study the author intends to trace a profile of the "textual component of the translators' second language competence" (p. 60), which includes subtlety in mastering both registers and naturalness. Once he has established the notion of textual competence, Campbell also rejects the traditional way of assessing translation, and, more generally, students' productions in the second language. His central, and in my view very convincing, thesis is that correct evaluation of output in the second language should not be based on deficiencies only (mainly morpho-syntactic mistakes), but on the authentic-looking quality and situational appropriateness of target texts.

The following two chapters develop this notion further by investigating grammar and lexis. The grammatical assignment translators have to carry out is first of all to master the grammar of the target language at sentence level and then to make the leap to textual level, the ideal outcome being a faithful but authentic- looking text. In order to compare the degree of appropriateness of source and target texts--or faithfulness to text types in the source language in Campbell's own terminology--the author refers to Biber's work (1986, 1988) on text types. The striking merit of Biber's model lies in his multi-feature and multi-dimensional approach to genre variation. Campbell applies the model to a sample of translations from Arabic into English to ascertain that structural properties vary systematically in target texts, more or less in the same way as they do across text types. Obviously, variation runs parallel to textual competence, so that competence is higher when the target text resembles the source text structurally. [-2-]

Chapter 6 centers on competence in the use of lexis, i.e., in word choice and lexical transfers, but when examining lexis Campbell goes beyond translators' command of the target language and delves into the field of the psychological motivations and dispositions which are hidden behind translation choices. Data examination supplies interesting results: some translators tend to omit more words, whereas others try to translate each part of the source text. This attitude towards omissions may be described as a matter of persistence or capitulation. Another interesting result concerns similarity in translating solutions vs. unusual results. This variation can be accounted for with two alternative attitudes: risk- taking or prudence. These two axes--persistence/capitulation on the one hand and risk-taking/prudence on the other--are responsible for the disposition profile of any translator. The data for the disposition study were taken from the same corpus used to analyze grammatical features. The author describes and comments on the four possible patterns of disposition and provides us with debatable examples of lexical choices in order to ascertain what happens during the actual process of translation and the different strategies applied by translators. These techniques clearly mirror the ability subjects have to construct texts in the second language, especially in handling "sense." Despite working with empirical data, Campbell offers a coherent model that describes linguistic skills on the basis of well-defined linguistic and attitudinal parameters.

In the next chapter, the focus is removed from linguistic structure and it is instead placed on the figure of the translator. In particular, the competence to monitor oneself in performing translation is here thoroughly investigated. The problem is actually a thorny one: students show different self-assessing capacity depending on the language they are working with; secondly, translation is a job that necessitates real-time editing and much ongoing work. Output quality, as Campbell experimentally demonstrates, is systematically related to self-editing. Since there is little theoretical literature on how translators monitor their production, some important questions are still unanswered: When do translators perform their editing? Does this editing occur internally or externally? Campbell does not attempt to develop a full cognitive model, although he shares O'Malley and Chamot's three-stage model (1990), which conceives of translation as consisting of a construction stage, a transformation stage, and an execution stage, in which a message is transposed into a communicative mode. Revisions probably take place during the transformation stage, and are therefore internal, but also as the process of writing goes on, i.e., during the execution stage. Campbell's concept of "monitor" differs from Krashen's hypothesis in that the former is deduced from data, in line with a group of studies on second language acquisition. Campbell reports on the results of an assessment study with B.A. students of translation: the ability to estimate translation skills is closely linked to different types of bilingualism, and "poor language competence is [-3-] linked to overestimation and good language competence to underestimation" (p. 137). He then attempts to describe real-time editing, which varies a great deal from student to student. He has identified six dimensions of editing (strategy, purpose, level, frequency, economy and effectiveness), each of which has its own sub-dimensions. Strategy actually occurs as false start, bracketed alternative, deletion, insertion, and partial switch. The purpose of editing seems to be either that of correction or revision, the former being concerned with structural errors and the latter with choosing among alternative semantic solutions to achieve more appropriateness, although it is not always possible to fix a boundary between them. Editing applies to various levels, i.e., clause, phrase, word, but also text. Frequency varies from individual to individual and may be counted in number of edits per number of words. Again translators may be more or less economical in their editing. Economy can be ranked by counting the number of words per edit used by each translator. As for effectiveness, it is more feasible to calculate the effectiveness of correction, because it deals with structural rules, than that of revision, which is a matter of stylistic and personal choices. All these analytic instruments make it possible to better define the ability of editing and consequently some aspects of translation competence. What is more, they provide a useful framework of reference to assess both translators' monitoring capacity and translation results.

The concluding chapter draws the various threads together and projects the results onto the wider context of translation studies. The author claims that translation competence consists of different components: target language textual competence, disposition, and monitoring ability. Campbell repeatedly underlines that an essential element in second language competence is textual competence, that is to say awareness of structural elements in relation to genre variation. There are nonetheless differences in translation competence that are not due to textual skills, but depend on disposition. The notion of "monitoring" has been independently developed by Campbell and is based on real data. He does not fail to elucidate that the various components of translation competence are independent, each corresponding to an aspect of it, and that they are to be considered in an evolutionary perspective. Finally, striking differences in performance confirm the hypothesis that a model of translation must also justify individual variance. Among many stimulating applications in translation pedagogy there is the proposal to give up a long-established but reductive method of assessment based on error marking only. The model proposed by Campbell has the benefit of including different information types.

On the whole, the book successfully reconciles a theoretical outlook with the actual needs of translators and teachers, although it leaves out some remarkable aspects. Campbell recognizes the importance of world knowledge and cohesion, but includes neither of them in his study, although he admits that this is "a notable [-4-] omission" (p. 159). Both world knowledge and cohesion, and to a larger extent the more basic and wide-ranging notion of coherence, are necessary criteria when tackling translation tasks. Coherence (in the sense of Beaugrande & Dressler, 1981 and Givn, 1995) establishes continuity relationships that correspond to cognitive processes taking place in the mind that produces texts (and possibly in that which receives them). In addition, text coherence is a multi-level and inter-level procedural phenomenon that constructs the texture of any text. It is therefore clear that it is a primary requirement to observe in translation. Another aspect that has only been touched upon but could be expanded is the notion of "matching component": in my view, this idea is particularly useful in teaching translation in a contrastive perspective. If in fact students (or translators) constructed their personal corpora of translation equivalencies, their tasks would be infinitely easier and quicker. This practice could be encouraged by concentrating on thematic units (e.g. how to translate greetings, refusals, thanks, etc.).

The book concludes by presenting possible applications (to different language pairs, different subjects, different genres and also translation into the first language) together with suggestions concerning the suitability of the notion of translation competence in language teaching and assessment.


Beaugrande, R. A. de, & Dressler, W. U. (1981). Introduction to text-linguistics. London: Longman.

Biber, D. (1986). Spoken and written textual dimensions in English: Resolving the contradictory findings. Language, 62, 384-414.

Biber, D. (1988). Variation across speech and writing. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Givn, T. (1995). Coherence in text vs. coherence in mind, In T. Givn & M. A. Gernsbacher (Eds.). Coherence in spontaneous text (pp. 59-115). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

O'Malley, J. M. & Chamot, A. U. (1990). Learning strategies in second language acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Silvia Bruti
University of Pisa

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