In the process of learning a language, we often face set expressions which can be very difficult to translate. They are called phraseological units or idioms. Phraseological expressions are structurally, lexically and semantically fixed phrases or sentences. This is an indivisible phrase inherent in any language, the meaning of which does not follow from the meaning of its constituent components. Knowing idioms not only enriches and enlivens our speech, but also allows us to better understand their meaning and use in the mother tongue and the language we are leaning. Phraseological unit shows the history of the people, the specifics of their lifestyle and culture. With the help of set phrases, the aesthetic aspect of the language is enhanced, since phraseological units have great stylistic capabilities to make speech colorful and metaphorical. A. A. Stasiuk writes: “The informational aspect of language is complemented by a sensory-intuitive description of our world through idioms, as well as through different shades of colour” [1, p.58].
The aim of this article is to analyse different ways of translating English set expressions and to choose the most adequate translation method.
Russian scientists as N.N. Amosova, N.M. Shansky, S.G. Gavrin, A.V. Kunin, A.I. Smirnitsky and others are devoted their works to the study of phraseological units of the English language.
English phraseology has a peculiar character, since when translated into any other language, the expressiveness, connotation that the idiom has in the source language is not always reflected. Differences in the worldview, culture and world perception of different people in some cases make it impossible to change phraseological units in translation. Hence, to learn the ways of translating set expressions is considered relevant to this day.
Materials and methods of research
In the scientific work, the methods of comparison and description of English phraseological units were used, and the research materials were taken from the works of English and American writers mostly works of M. Twain and Ch. Dickens.
The nature of the meaning of phraseology is closely related to the background knowledge of the speaker, to the practical experience of the individual and to the cultural and historical traditions of the people who speak the language. One cannot but agree with A. S. Romanov’s statement: “The phraseological fund of the language, which is nationally specific by nature, accumulates and preservers the system of values, public morality and worldview. Appealing to figurative perception of objects, processes and phenomena of objective reality, the most vividly illustrate lifestyle, geography, socio-historical traditions and customs of particular ethnic groups of people” [2, p.144].
Russian linguist N. M. Shansky highlights the following basic and universal properties of phraseological expressions:
- by structure they are word combinations or sentences;
- reproduced in speech as complete units;
- stable (with a constant structure and fixed order of the components) and meaningful units, semantically indivisible and have a coherent meaning, which does not depend on the meanings of their components;
- they do not allow insertions between the components,
- they are characterized by imagery and expressiveness, based on their figurative and expressive power [3, p.82].
Translating phraseological expressions from one language to another is a bit of a challenge for the translator, as many of them are vivid, expressive and concise [4, p.11]. Being nationally distinctive, they may not have traditionally accepted equivalents or borrowed variants in the target language. As a result, most of them may have more than one translated version in the target language. This can be either a common meaning translation (word-for-word translation), or a literary variant that, in addition to the lexical meaning, also reflects the aphorism, expressiveness, colourfulness, vividness of the source language idiom. In the process of translation it is necessary to convey the meaning of set expressions as well as their stylistic function, image and contextual features. If there is no analogue in the language, the translator has to look for an “approximate correspondence” [5, p.51].
Speaking about the problem of translating idioms, Y.I. Retsker says: “A translator should be able to understand the basic issues of the theory of phraseology, identify phraseological units, reveal their meanings and convey expressive and stylistic functions in translation” [6, p.145]. Consequently, when working with idioms it is important to know the two languages, to analyse the stylistic and cultural-historical aspects of the source language.
Research results and discussion
The main ways of translating phraseological units are phraseological and non-phraseological translations. Phraseological translation involves using set expressions that are close between the English language unit and the translated language unit, ranging from a complete to an approximate equivalent match. The full equivalent contains a set of lexical and grammatical criteria. These include: combinations belonging to the same grammatical category and absence of national colouring. This is a relatively small number of units, working with which implies the art of owning a dictionary.
On cloud nine – на седьмом небе от счастья
Make ends meet – сводить концы с концами
As cold as ice – холодный как лед
The cream of society – сливки общества
Phraseological translation includes phraseological equivalent and phraseological analogue.
A phraseological unit that has its equivalent in the target language refers to a phraseological equivalent [7, p.111]. Phraseological equivalent and phraseological analogue are often found in international phraseology, compound terms, verbal – noun combinations. International phraseology combine idioms of different nations from historical, mythological, literal sources, borrowed from one language into another. For instance:
1. He heard no noise on board, for the young people were as subdued and still as people usually are who are nearly tired to death – Он не слышал шума на борту, потому что молодые люди были такими же подавленными и спокойными, какими обычно бывают люди, которые устали почти до смерти[M. Twain, “The adventure of Tom Sawyer” ch.30 p.195].
2. … too wicked for their peace of mind,… – слишком ужасна и они не в силах сохранять спокойствие духа,..[Ch. Dickens, “David Copperfield”ch.1 p.3].
3. “He was but a poor man himself, said Peggotty, but as good as gold and as true as steel – those were her similes” – Он сам бедняк, сказал Пегготи, – но сердце у него золотое, а надежен он, как сталь, – таковы были её сравнения [Ch. Dickens, “David Copperfield”ch.3 p.14].
4. ‘God Heavens!’ cried my mother, ‘you’ll drive me mad! – “Боже правый!” – кричала моя мать. – “Ты сведешь меня с ума!” [Ch. Dickens, “David Copperfield”ch2 p.8].
Equivalents usually correspond to international phraseological units and do not create problems for the translator. Consequently, the use of phraseological equivalent implies full conformity of the translation with the original in terms of image, grammatical structure, lexical content, as well as stylistic colouring.
A phraseological analogue is a phraseological unit with a similar meaning but a different image. Phraseological analogue is used when no equivalent can be found. The use of this method of translation provides high level of equivalence.
1. “Keep your breath to cool your porridge and I shall keep mine to swell my song”- чем сказать, лучше смолчать. Видно, уж надо мне смириться, да тем и кончить дело.[J.Austen “Pride and Prejudice” ch.6 p. 8].
2. …that was always the substitute for exactly, in Peggotty’s militia of words – ‘bring my mind to it’ – …на языке Пегготи это всегда означало «категорически», – не могла собраться духом [Ch. Dickens, “David Copperfield”ch.3 p.18].
3. When I came back, she was dying; and all the blood in my heart has dried up… – Когда я вернулся, она умерала, и кровь застыла у меня в жилах… [Ch. Dickens, “Oliver Twist”, ch.5 p.15].
4. Miss: “Pray, Madam, who were the Company?” Lady Smart: Why, there was all the world and his wife” – Скажите, пожалуйста, кто же там был? Леди Смарт: “Кого только там не было!”[“Polite Conversation” J. Swift Dialogue III, p.65]. Russian analogue of the idiom is “Все без исключения, всё светское общество”.
If it is difficult to find an absolute equivalent in the target language, an analogue is used that conveys the same meaning and fulfils the same function. The phraseological analogue and the original phraseological unit may differ in combinability, syntactic links and components, morphological relatedness.
If there is neither equivalent nor analogue of the idiom in the target language, it is translated by non-phraseological means. Non-phraseological translation conveys a phraseological unit using lexical means, not phraseological ones. Most phraseological units are translated in this way, because it is not possible to find an equivalent or analogue for them that would fully convey all aspects of their meaning preserve stylistic and emotional colouring, have identical or similar cases of use in morphology and syntax. However, this method should be used only as a last resort. Non-phraseological translation includes lexical, literal and descriptive translation.
In lexical translation the content of the source language phraseology is fully expressed by a single word in the target language. Many English verbs expressed by a word combination can be conveyed by their lexical equivalent. For example:
1. “It was not fuzzy and filled with pain as he had anticipated, but lucid and clear, like a note from a crystal bell”– «Она отнюдь не была полностью поглощена своими физическими страданиями, как ранее он предполагал, мысли её были ясными и прозрачными» [Paolini C. “Eragon” 2015 p.428].
2. …hear nothing, until I fall off the seat with a crash, and am taken out, more dead than alive, by Peggotty. – …ничего не слышу и наконец, с грохотом падаю со скамьи, и меня чуть живого уносит Пегготи [Ch. Dickens “David Copperfield”ch.2 p.7].
3. … and all the blood in my heart has dried up, for they starved her to death –… и кровь застыла у меня в жилах, потому что её уморили голодом. [Ch. Dickens, “Oliver Twist”, ch.5 p.15].
4. “But for all he was the first to go in, yet it was observed he was invariably the best to come off and his partners in mischief were alone to pay the piper” – Он всегда был вожаком, но неизменно выходил сухим из воды, его сообщникам приходилось расплачиваться самим [R. L. Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae, ch.I].
In the following examples, it can be noted that despite the lack of an equivalent in Russian, the translator has correctly and convincingly conveyed the meaning of the phraseology and its figurative expression, which is as vivid as the original.
Many phraseological units have no equivalents in the Russian language. First of all, these are phraseological units based on realities that do not exist in the target language. As a rule this kind of idioms translated by literal and descriptive methods.
Literal translation (calque) is used when other techniques cannot convey phraseology in its entirety of stylistic and emotional meaning, but it is desirable to bring the figurative basis to the point of view.
1. “The final feather broke the camel’s back” – Последняя соломинка переломила спину верблюда [M. Twain, “The Adventure of Tom Sawyer” ch.10 p.80]. Russian equivalent of this idiom is “последняя капля переполняет чащу”, but a translator preferred to use here literal translation instead of its analogue.
2. Let nothing be lost upon you – Пусть ничто для вас не пропадает [O. Wilde, “The Picture of Dorian Grey”ch.2 p.9].
3. But the first step he made wrung such a hideous creak from the crazy floor that he sank down almost dead with fright – Но первый же его шаг, сопроводился таким жутким скрипом ополоумевшего пола, что Том упал на него, полуживой от страха [M. Twain, “The Adventure of Tom Sawyer” ch.27 p.178].
4. “There! Get downstairs, little bag of bones” – Ну, ступай вниз, мешок с костями! [Ch. Dickens, “Oliver Twist”, ch.4 p.11].
The advantage of literal translation is that it preserves the original imagery, which is important in fiction. It also helps to accurately translate phraseological units that are extended metaphors. In most cases, idioms originated from ancient culture, religion or other known sources are translated literally. The following English proverb was borrowed from German literature:
“Speech is silver, silence is gold” – «Слово серебро, а молчание золото»
Idioms from ancient Mythology:
Heaven on Earth – Рай земной; A labour Sisyphus – сизифов труд
Idioms created by French writers and most commonly used in modern English:
Appetite comes with eating – аппетит приходит во время еды;
The reverse side of the medal – обратная сторона медали
A descriptive translation is not a translation of the phraseology itself, but of its explanation. This method helps the translator to describe the meaning through explanations, comparisons, descriptions, interpretations any means that conveys the essence of a phraseological unit with the maximum possible preservation of meaning. The syntactic and morphological structures of a collocation may differ dramatically from the translated element. Thus the idiom loses its figurative and associative features and is freely translated. This can be seen in the following examples:
1. “The house was a white elephant, but he could not conceive of his father living in a smaller place; and all the more did it all seem ironical” – Дом был явно дорогим удовольствием, но он не мог представить себе отца живущим в маленьком доме; и это только подчеркивало иронию, которую он видел сегодня во всем. [Michael Connelly, “City of Bones” 2002].
2. During two long weeks Tom lay a prisoner, dead to the world and its happenings. – Две долгих недели Том пролежал дома, ничего не ведая ни о мире, ни о событиях, в нем происходивших [M. Twain, “The Adventure of Tom Sawyer” ch.23 p.155].
3. “Have you had any news of your horse this morning?” – “Yes, he’s fit as a fiddle”- Получили вы сегодня утром, какие нибудь сведения о вашей лошади? – Да, она в прекрасном состоянии. [J. Galsworthy, “The Country House” part I, ch. II].
Such a translation differs from the original in vividness, but still correctly conveys its full meaning. A descriptive translation should still aim for phraseology, or connotative meanings. In descriptive translation, it is still necessary to strive for phraseologization, or connotative meanings.
It can be concluded from this study that there is a mismatch between the two languages, which is one of the important problem when translating idioms. The differences between the source and target languages and the differences between the cultures to which they belong create a major problem in the translation routine.
Considering the above difficulties in translation, it was found that the most common and effective method is to use a phraseology that corresponds to the original phraseology in meaning and stylistic colouring, but with a different internal form, as it is not always possible to find a complete equivalent to the phraseological expression.