The role of Chinese translator and agent in the twenty-first century

Authored by: Ting Guo

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Translation

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138938267
eBook ISBN: 9781315675725
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315675725.ch33

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Abstract

It is somewhat tricky to talk about the role of the Chinese translator and agent in the twenty-first century. First, ‘Chinese translator’ is a vague notion, given the increased migration flow of Chinese people around the world and the growing number of Chinese people inside and outside China who are participating in translation-related activities. The definition of ‘Chinese translator’ is also debatable. For example, can only people with Chinese nationality be referred to as Chinese translators? Does this category only include professional translators? How do we distinguish professionals from amateurs? Second, although the term ‘agent’ has become a buzzword in the field of translation studies (e.g., Sager 1994; Milton and Bandia 2009; Buzelin 2010; Khalifa 2014), there seems to be no universally accepted definition of the English term ‘agent’ in the field. As Hélène Buzelin (2010: 6) notes, the definitions of agents of translation vary in their inclusion of translatorial and nonhuman factors. For example, Juan Sager (1994: 321, cited in Shuttleworth and Cowie 1997: 7) defines the agent of translation as ‘a person who is in an intermediary position between a translator and an end user of a translation’; while John Milton and Paul Bandia (2009: 1) try to include both human and nonhuman entities such as magazines, journals and institutions in their definition, highlighting ‘their role in cultural innovation and change’ (in this they follow Bruno Latour’s work; see Harman 2009 for an overview). Similar problems are also found in the term’s Chinese translation. Despite a rich literature on the roles of Chinese individuals, institutions and publishers in the process of translation, very little attention has been paid to the definition and use of the term ‘translation agent’. The Chinese translation of this term also varies, ranging from 翻译参与者 (fanyi canyu zhe, translation participants), 翻译行为者 (fanyi xingwei zhe, translation actor) to 翻译主体 (fanyi zhuti, performer of translation, often refers to ‘subject of translation’ in English by Chinese scholars). These different Chinese translations suggest that despite the growing number of publications using it, the notion of translation agent is still undefined in the field and closely associated with other notions such as translation subjectivity and agency in China.

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