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IJ-ELTS: International Journal of English Language & Translation Studies Vol: 1, Issue: 2

The Translator's Agency and the Ideological Manipulation in Translation Afzali, Katayoon

The Translator's Agency and the Ideological Manipulation in


Translation: the Case of Political Texts in Translation Classrooms in
Iran

Katayoon Afzali
Sheikhbahaee University, Iran

Abstract
This study aimed to investigate how and to what extent Iranian translation students are
familiar with the changes that the meanings of ethics and manipulation have undergone
in translation studies. To this end, the researcher selected an editorial from the
SpaceWar website regarding United States claims about Irans nuclear program and
gave it as a translation assignment to thirty postgraduate Iranian students majoring in
Translation studies at Sheikhbahaee University, Iran. Firstly, the students were asked to
merely translate the text. In the second phase, the students were asked to translate the
given text in order to be published in Keyhan newspaper. Two sets of translations were
analyzed Using Van Dijks (2004) CDA Framework. Finally, frequencies and
percentages of the discursive structures were computed across two sets of translations
and used to systematically find out what proportions of the information extracted from
translated texts were noticeably manipulated compared to the source text. The findings
of the study showed that there is no any significant difference across two types of
translations. Furthermore, it was revealed that lexicality is the most frequent discursive
structure used by the students to show their ideology in translation.

Keywords: Ethics, translators agency, ideology, translator training

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IJ-ELTS: International Journal of English Language & Translation Studies Vol: 1, Issue: 2
The Translator's Agency and the Ideological Manipulation in Translation Afzali, Katayoon

1. Introduction
With the emergence of the cultural turn in translation studies, external factors affecting
translation have been paid attention to in this field. Therefore, macro factors, such as
translator, history, culture, politics in target contexts, translators agency and
ideological manipulation have become the main concern of translation studies
(Munday, 2008). In this relation, Lefevere (1992), one of the representatives of the
Manipulation school, believes that translation is the rewriting of source texts which are
manipulated by ideology, poetics, patronage and universe of discourse in which
ideology and poetics are the most important constituents.
Recently, the effect of ideology of the translator on the target audience and the
ideological presence of the translator in his/her translations have been noticed
considerably by experts of the field. In some cases, such influences are obvious and
explicit. On the contrary, in some cases more disciplined efforts are needed to realize
the boundaries of the influences. The ideologies underlying a text could be found and
understood through Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). In other words, CDA as one of
the main branches of Discourse Analysis (DA) has mainly concentrated on the links
between different approaches to talking and thinking. In other words, the focus of CDA
is the idea that cultural and ideological cues could be found in spoken and written texts
(OHalloran, 2005).
The ideological presence of the translator in the target text and the effect of ideological
manipulations of the text on the potential audience have been noticed by the experts of
the field recently. To this end, a variety of strategies are applied by translators to
manipulate a text ideologically. As a result of these variations, the borders of translation
ethics and visibility and invisibility of the translator in the target text is not crystal clear
for most of the translation students or even translators themselves. This is due to the
fact that the concept of ethics has broadened to cover the issue of faithfulness to the text
and faithfulness to the audience. In this relation Pym (2001) declares that the scope of
ethics in translation has widened and has included the translators agency and has
moved away from the descriptive paradigm towards processes of cross-cultural
communication. Lack of codified and comprehensive curriculum covering the issue of
text manipulation and the ways that a text should be manipulated is a problem of most
of the universities that offer translation courses. In this regard, Nord (2003) believes
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The Translator's Agency and the Ideological Manipulation in Translation Afzali, Katayoon

that almost all decisions in the process of translation are affected by ideological criteria,
consciously or unconsciously. Ideological factors play a vital role in defining
translation scopes (target-text intended purpose) and choosing appropriate strategies by
translators regarding the clients expectations.
Since it is believed that translators should be objective, faithful and trustful, the
prevailing opinion of most of the readers is that the ideology of translators is not
expressed in the target texts. On the contrary, it should be notified that the translators
ideology is integrated in every word they choose, and during the whole process of
translation (Toury, 2000). Therefore, it is important for translation students to be aware
that their responsibility is not just limited to being faithful to the author, but according
to Baker (2006), the translators and interpreters are responsible for being faithful to the
values of their society. There is a growing awareness among translation scholars that
translation and interpreting are socially and politically- directed professions, not simply
language-related activities. Hence, translation students should be aware of this new
change of scope in the area of translation studies (Simon, 2005).
Considering the emergence of the concept of text manipulation in the field of translation,
and the new meanings that ethics has adopted in translation studies, the current study
aims to investigate the extent that Iranian translation students ideologically manipulate
translating political texts, and the strategies they apply to do so consciously or
unconsciously. To this end, the following research questions were addressed:
1. To what extent translation students may consciously manipulate a political text based
on their ideology?
2. To what extent translation students ideology may affect his/her translation
unconsciously?
3. What are the common strategies used by the translation students in order to
manipulate a political text ideologically according to the purpose of the translation?

2. Background
A multitude number of studies focused on the way the translators manipulate a text
ideologically some of which were concerned with ideological manipulation of childrens
literature. In this regard, Sertekan (2007), has scrutinized the ideological aspects in five
different abridged Turkish versions of Charles Dickens Oliver Twist (1838) published

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The Translator's Agency and the Ideological Manipulation in Translation Afzali, Katayoon

by Timas, Damla, Nehir, Karanfil, and Tomurcuk Publishing Houses in terms of the
lexical choices made in the translation process. The findings indicated that the five
Turkish versions were governed by ideologically-based manipulations aimed at directing
the target readers, i.e., childrens attention to a particular worldview and shaping their
perception accordingly. He also, through critical analysis of the examples in the Turkish
versions, showed that certain lexical items were added, omitted, and distorted, which
points to the fact that such manipulations were carried out in accordance with the so-
called religious-conservative ideology.
Another study conducted in the realm of childrens literature is Khwiras (2010) study.
He investigated the translations of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and highlighted the
mistranslations and breakdowns caused by cultural and ideological differences among
Arab and foreign cultures. The findings of his study revealed that translators had
employed various translation strategies including modifications, omissions, and,
sometimes, additions, to avoid cultural and ideological misunderstandings.
Khajeh and Khanmohammad (2009) compared two Persian translations of the book
written by Noam Chomsky entitled Media Control. The findings confirmed that the
differences between the two translations and the original text are due to ideological
biases.
Bnhegyi (2009) examined whether the ideology of the translator affects the
reproduction of superstructure in translated political argumentative newspaper articles.
The superstructure of a Hungarian argumentative newspaper article and its two English
translations by two translators with opposing ideologies were compared employing
Hoeys (2001) Superstructure Model. Banhegyi found that ideology does not affect the
reproduction of superstructures in target texts. It was proposed that translators
ideologies might interfere in the translation process and affect the macrostructure of
target texts.
Another category of studies has focused on the way translators manipulate political texts.
For instance, Hirv (2011) focuses on the coverage of the so called Bronze Night in the
English-language online reports by the British Broadcasting Company (the BBC),
German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), and the Estonian-language reports by
Estonian public broadcaster Eesti Rahvusringhling (ERR) with the aim to find out
whether the transfer of news about the events in Estonia involved a change in the point of

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view and, if so, how these changes were produced by linguistic means and which
implications they may have. He found that the translational procedure involved
reframing, omission and generalization, furthermore the translators had used addition and
explicitation strategies for translating culturally specific information, which for the
Estonian reader was socially shared knowledge.
In the same vein, Bilal et al. (2012), through the analysis of two episodes of a very
popular talk show of a private television channel of Pakistan, intended to reveal how the
ideologies were represented in these shows, and found out that these talk shows mystify
the agency of processes by using various strategies. Their critical text analyses revealed
that how speakers choices enable them to manipulate the realizations of agency and
power in the representation of action to produce particular meanings which are not
always explicit for all readers.
As mentioned above, a multitude number of studies were conducted regarding text
manipulation in translation, and each have focused on this phenomenon from a different
perspective. However, as the background of these studies indicate, scarce practical
studies have been done regarding the role of ideological manipulation in translation
training. Therefore, the current study using a critical discourse analysis approach aims to
find out how and to what extent translation students consciously or unconsciously
manipulate a political text based on their ideology in the process of translation and what
are the common strategies used by them to manipulate a political ideological text.
3. Method
3.1. Participants
The participants of the study were 30 students majoring in MA Program of Translation at
Sheikhbahaee University, Iran. Having enrolled in the same program, the participants
formed a homogeneous group. They all had been exposed to concepts such as dynamic
equivalence and translator visibility in several courses in previous semesters.
3.2. Material
The editorial regarding United States claims about Irans nuclear program study was
downloaded from SpaceWar website. SpaceWar.com is owned and operated by Space.TV
Corp., a Delaware registered company (Delaware is a US state) that publishes a range of
space, science and technology Website . In operation since the mid 1990s, the Space TV

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network enjoys a monthly audience of more than 1 million visitors to its sites - with more
than 100,000 monthly visitors to SPACEWAR.COM.
The rationale behind focusing on political texts stemmed from the circumstance that
political texts are instances of texts where ideology in its purest or crudest form could be
manifested as the core of the translation process. Since the aim of the study was to detect
translators ideological manipulation, a political editorial about Irans nuclear program was
selected. The selection of this text was due to the fact that firstly, the subject of the text
was controversial so it could challenge translators ideologically; secondly, the text was not
very long so that it did not make the students bored.
3.3. Procedures
The political text on United States claims about Irans nuclear program was assigned to
30 senior students majoring in translation to be translated. These students were categorized
into two groups: The first group was asked to merely translate the text, but the second
group was asked to translate the given text in order to be published in Keyhan newspaper,
a news paper with certain political orientation in Iran. The students were given two weeks
to do this assignment.
The texts translated by students were analysed on the basis of Van Dijks (2004)
model to determine if the discursive structures are ideologically-loaded. Among the
elements proposed by Van Dijk, lexicalization, passivization, modality, omission and
addition were focused in this study. Lexicalization refers to choosing one word rather
than another. Passivization refers to changing an active sentence to a passive one or
vice versa. Modality can show the likelihood of the occurrence of an action.
Furthermore, it can show the underlying attitude of the speaker/writer toward that
action. Omission (deletion) refers to omitting a sequence of words without influencing
the grammar of the sentence. Addition refers to adding a sequence of words without
influencing the grammar of a sentence.
To analyze the translations , primarily the text was explored to spot syntactic aspects
such as grammar, vocabulary and modality. Moreover, special lexical, syntactic and
grammatical selections were detected to see if they represented certain ideological
significance. Then, the contents of the texts were analyzed with respect to the
semantic features of the lexicons and the ideologically-loaded expressions employed.

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To analyze the collected data first, source text and its two sets of translations (translation
of the group 1 who had translated the text and the translations of group 2 who had
translated the text for Keyhan) were analyzed through a careful sentence-by-sentence
comparative/contrastive reading and the elements of Van Dijks(2004) framework
surveyed. At the same time, on the basis of Van Dijks framework the students strategies
used in order to manipulate the source text were analyzed. In this regard, first of all, the
source text was critically analyzed in order to find the structures and the words where the
author has loaded his ideology. Then two sets of translations were compared with the
source text separately. To increase the reliability of the conclusions and to make the
interpretations as objective as possible, frequencies and percentages of the discursive
structures were computed and used to systematically find out what proportions of the
information extracted from translated texts are noticeably foregrounded or back grounded
against the source text.
To examine if the difference between the discoursal features used by the two groups of
translators is significant, Chi-square test has been applied.
4. Data analysis
As it was mentioned previously, initially the texts the students were supposed to translate
was analyzed critically. CDA (critical discourse analysis) revealed that the selected texts
included 12 sentences with 40 key words and structures that induced ideological
connotations. The results of the analysis of the text have been appended in appendix I.
The translation of these 40 structures were put in to the spotlight in two sets of translations
mentioned in method section in order to determine the degree of conscious and
unconscious ideological manipulation by students.
Using Van Dijks (2004) CDA framework, the frequency and percentage of the five
major discursive structures of manipulation; namely, addition, deletion, passivization,
lexicality, and modality in First and Second translations were presented in table 1.
Table: 1 The frequency and percentage of discursive structures in the first and second
structures
Strategy of First translation Second translation
manipulation Frequency percentage Frequency percentage
Addition 18 10.3% 6 3.6%
Deletion 33 19.0% 40 23.8%

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Passivization 14 8.0% 10 6.0%


Lexicality 102 58.4% 104 61.9%
Modality 7 4.0% 8 4.8%

As Table 1 indicates, in the first translation the highest frequency and percentage is
related to Lexicality, deletion, addition and passivization respectively. In the case of the
second translation, the highest frequency and percentage is related to lexicality, deletion,
passivization, modality and deletion respectively. Table 1 also shows that lexicality has
the highest frequency in both sets of translations. After lexicality deletion has the highest
frequency in both conscious and unconscious translations.
In order to facilitate the comparison of discursive structures in two sets of translations,
figure 1 shows the frequency of these discursive structures in the form of a bar graph.
Figure1. The frequency and percentage of discursive structures across two types of
translations

At the last stage, in order to find out if the difference between the differences of the two
types of the translations is significant a Chi Square test was run. Table 2 shows the results
of chi-square test at p>0.05.
Table: 2 the results of the Pearson chi-square test for comparison of the two types of
translation
Value Df Chi- square

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7.321 4 0.120

As Table 2 indicates, there is no significant difference between two types of translation


at p < 0.05. Thus, there is no significant difference between two sets of translations. In
other words, students have done no conscious attempt in order to manipulate the target
text regarding the skopos of translation.
5. Discussion and Conclusion
As Table 2 indicates, the findings showed no significant difference across two sets of
translations conducted by the students. In other words, the conscious ideological
manipulation (text translated for Keyhan) is not significantly different from
unconscious ideological manipulation in the performance sample of the study. This
indicates that the students are unaware of the concept of manipulation in translation.
Perhaps the most important reason for this issue is that the students do not know how to
manipulate the text regarding the Skopos of the translation which can be traced back to
the inadequacy of translator training program.
It seems that the approach of the students taking part in this study is linguistic and not
cultural or ideological and this can be due to the lack of a comprehensive curriculum for
translation courses in Iranian universities. In other words, translation students are not
trained properly to manipulate the texts based on their contexts of translation. Its worth
mentioning that, the level of ideological manipulation that have been detected in the
current study is the consequence of unconscious process of ideological manipulation or
weak process of conscious manipulation since the difference between the frequency of
the elements of Van Dijk model across two groups of participants did not vary
significantly.
As Maier (2007) states an increased focus on translation ethics can guide translators to
guide responsibly , and to take their visibility seriously. Since the debate of ethics has
shifted away from impartiality and faithfulness to questions of justice and the need to
decide and to remain as fixed as possible on the instrumental and utopian social and
political goals that translation and interpreting can help to adjudicate (Innghilleri, 2011;
p. 103).

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In translation studies courses, realizing the strengths and weaknesses is the first and
most important step to be taken. This study indicated that translation curriculum has not
kept abreast of the most recent theories of translation.
The findings of this study indicate a number of recommendations for practice. The
findings are expected to be beneficial for news translators to use it as a guideline to
solve problems they come across when translating, or to improve their translation and
for newsreaders to understand better when reading foreign news. Furthermore
instructors of translation can use this study to explain translation strategies or suggest
which strategy should be used for each kind of text. This study also can be useful for
students of translation, journalism and other related fields to make use of the analysis of
the findings, by adapting or applying the strategies for their assignment as well as their
work. Above all, the findings of this study can be conducive to expanding students'
critical thinking abilities in comprehension and production of language and also in
revitalizing the neglected construct of language proficiency.
There are several changes that could make replication of this study more precise and
informative. Firstly, the demographic features of the sample of study are not clearly
defined. Secondly, the number of students that had been selected to participate in the
study was confined to 30 undergraduate students of translation, a further study can
involve more participants. Thirdly, ,different methods of data collection may be used in
similar studies. In the current study, the data was collected only via a class assignment
and there was no time limitation. In subsequent studies, other methods of data collection
such as monitoring during the process of translation can be used. Also other types of texts
like childrens literature, scientific, etc texts can be considered in order to survey
students performance.
In conclusion, this study points to certain directions of further research. The current study
is a comparative analysis of conscious and unconscious ideological manipulation.
Conscious ideological manipulation and unconscious ideological manipulation may be
investigated separately in subsequent studies. Furthermore, further research regarding
ideological manipulation can investigate the role of gender, age, education, academic
position, field of study, on ideological manipulation of subjects.

About the Author:

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Dr. Katayoon Afzali holds a PhD in teaching English as a foreign language and is an
assistant professor at Sheikhbahaee University/Iran. She has published research
papers in various journals and has participated in a number of conferences. Her major
areas of research interest include: translation, contrastive rhetoric, genre analysis,
reading literature, pragmatics, and discourse analysis.

References:
Baker, M. (2006). Translation and Conflict: A Narrative Account, London: Routledge.
Bilal, A. et al. (2012). Critical discourse analysis of political TV talk shows of Pakestani
Media. International Journal of Linguistics. 4(1), pp. 203-219.
Bnhegyi, M. (2009). The translators ideology and the reproduction of superstructures.
WoPaLP Vol. 3, 2009.
Hirv, J. ( 2011). Ideology in translation transfer: Media coverage on the Bronze Night
in EESTI
Rahvusringhaaling , BBC and Deutsche Welle. Unpublished M. A. thesis. Finland:
University of Tartu.
Inghilleri, M. (2011). Ethics. In Routledge Encycloppedia of Translation Studies (Eds.
Baker & Saldanha). London & New York: Routledge. pp. 100-104.
Khajeh, Z, & Khanmohammad, H. (2009). Transmission of ideology through
translation: A critical discourse analysis of Chomskys Media Control
and its persian translations. Iranian Journal of Applied Language
Studies; 2009; 1(1); 24-42.
Lefevere, A. (1992). Translation / History / Culture. London and New York: Routledge
Maier, C. (2007). The Translators Visibility: The Rights and Responsibilities Thereof, in
Myriam Salama-Carr (ed.). Translating and Interpreting Conflict,
Amsterdam: Rodopi, 255-66.
Munday, J. (2008). Introducing transaltion studies: theroies and applications. London
and New York: Routledge. Amesterdam: John Benjamins Publishing
Company.
Nord, C. (2003). Function and loyalty in Bible translation. In M. Calzada-Prez (Ed.)
Apropos of ideology (pp. 89-112). Manchester: St. Jerome.
Pym, A. (2001). The Return to Ethics, Special Issue of The Translator 7(2): 139-54.
Sertekan, K. (2007). The ideology of lexical choices in the Turkish translations of Oliver
Twist. Dokuz Eyll University. Turkey.
Simon, S (2005). Translation and Social Activism. Special Issue of TTR 18 (2).

Toury, G. (2000). The nature and role of norms in translation. In L. Venuti (Ed.) The

translation studies reader (pp. 198-211). London: Routledge.


Van Dijk, T.A. (2004). Politics, ideology & discourse. Retrieved December 24, 2005,
from http://www. Discourse. Org/download/articles.

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Appendix I

US says Iran lying about nuclear weapons program

1. The United States charged Tuesday that Iran is lying about developing a nuclear
weapons program, and said the UN watchdog will eventually have to bring the issue
before the Security Council.
2. In another salvo in the US campaign to press the Islamic regime in Tehran over
its alleged nuclear plans, Under Secretary of State John Bolton said there was a crisis of
noncompliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
3. "If we permit Iran's deception to go on much longer, it will be too late," Bolton
said at a meeting to prepare for a conference next year to review the NPT. "Iran will have
nuclear weapons."
4. Iran, dubbed part of US President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" along with
North Korea and the former Baghdad regime, has repeatedly denied trying to develop
such weapons and claims its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes.
5. But the United States has been skeptical about Tehran's pledges to improve
cooperation and transparency with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA), saying Iran has reneged on similar vows.
6. Last week, Bush said any development of an atomic weapon by Tehran would be
"intolerable."
7. The IAEA reprimanded Iran last year for failing to make a full accounting of its
nuclear activities, but bowed to international pressure and signed the NPT's additional
protocol allowing tougher probes by the watchdog agency.
8. "Iran's oil-rich environment, grudging cooperation with the IAEA, its deception,
and its 18 year record of clandestine activity leads us to the inevitable conclusion that
Iran is lying," Bolton said.
9. Bolton said that while the United States had not pressed the IAEA to report
Tehran to the Security Council yet, he expected that the agency would "at some point"
need to do so.
10. "If Iran continues its unwillingness to comply with the NPT, the council can then
take up this issue as a threat to international peace and security," Bolton said.
11. "If the council is unable to do so, it will not only be a blow to our efforts to hold
Iran accountable, but also a blow to the effectiveness of the council itself and to the
credibility of the entire NPT regime."
12. Unless Iranians "come clean on their nuclear program, end the suppression of
their people and stop supporting terrorist activities, they will face deepening international
isolation and even greater economic and diplomatic pressure," said Bolton.

The overall topic of the text is about United States charges against Irans nuclear
program. At the first glance and just reading the title of the text, it gets clear that the
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author has a harsh attitude against Iran. The author has opted the term lying to refer to
Iran and not any other euphemistic or less derogatory counterpart such as doesnt say the
truth or is not truthful. On the other hand to use say and not other counterparts such
as claim or believe wants to show the certainty of this issue, while that in the first
paragraph of the text the author uses the word charge that shows the uncertainty of this
claim. Again in the title lying about nuclear weapon program implicates that Iran
certainly has a nuclear weapon program and its program is not a peaceful one ,and is
lying about it.
The title of this article reads US says Iran lying about nuclear weapons program. Here
the application of US says is neutral. Saying is a neutral verb that conveys nothing
about the US. However, Iran lying has negative connotation about Iran. Moreover, the
application of nuclear weapons program instead of nuclear program indicates
discursive strategies of presupposition by the writer. The writer wanted to show that there
is a nuclear weapon program.

In the first paragraph of the text, we have The United States charged Employing
charge as a verb has been purposeful by the writer. When we charge someone we put
ourselves in higher level so that we can charge someone else. The application of lying
explicitly and negatively conveys negative feelings about Iran. In the same vein, the
application of developing indicates that the nuclear program aims to produce weapons
and Iran is developing the program. The use of have to implies that writer thinks that
Iran should be referred to Security Council.

In the second paragraph, the term the Islamic regime in Tehran is a negative term that
indicates the tyranny nature of Tehrans regime. Employing alleged as the verb shows
that the writer does not believe in the safe nature of Irans nuclear program.

In the third paragraph, the term Iran's deception has highly negative connotation. The
use of modality discursive strategy is obvious in Iran will have nuclear weapons" at the
end of paragraph. The writer wants to say that it would be late and there is no doubt about
it.
In the fourth paragraph, the use of axis of evil referring to Iran, exaggeratedly conveys
negative feelings about Iran. Also the use of claims regarding to Iran indicates the
authors doubts on Iran peaceful civilian purposes.

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