Linguistic Levels of Translation: A Generic Exploration of Translation Difficulties in Literary Textual Corpus

Magda Madkour


This case study research was based on a generic exploration of the translation problems that graduate students face in literary translation. Literary translation is fundamental to translation programs at higher education due to the upsurge that has occurred in publishing classical and modern literary works from various cultures. However, literary texts have special characteristics that make the process of transferring them from one language into another a daunting task. Translating literary texts is difficult even for professional translators because misinterpreting the messages of the source texts can lead to distorting the aesthetic aspects of the literary work. Students need to learn various linguistic levels of literary translation as well as strategies and methods of translation. Learning the linguistics levels of translation necessitates providing adequate training that is based on enhancing students’ cognitive abilities. Cognitive-based translation training helps students learn the procedures of solving the problems of translating sound and literary devices. Cognitive approaches are relevant to the translation process since cognition implies mental activities that students can use to understand and synthesize the literary text, and reconstruct it creatively. Therefore, the current study aimed at examining the relationship between cognitive teaching methodologies and students’ performance in literary translation. To examine this relationship, qualitative and quantitative data was collected from graduate students at the College of Languages and Translation at Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University (IMAMU University), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In addition, corpus data was gathered from authentic literary texts including, novels, short stories, and poetry, to investigate the effect of linguistic analysis and cognitive strategies on the quality of literary translation. Quantitative data was analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), and qualitative data depended on the software NVivo. The results of data analysis indicated a correlation between using cognitive teaching methodology and students’ performance in literary translation. The themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis referred to topics related to causes of  translation problems, including lack of experience in the field of literary translation; weakness in literary translation skills; and challenges in interpreting literary devices and eloquence. Data analysis revealed that these problems were due to using traditional teaching methods that were based on giving lectures and direct instructions, and rote learning. The emergent themes concerning ways of resolving these problems include the importance of employing cognitive methods to stimulate students’ creative abilities, and motivate them to improve their analytical and critical thinking.  The discussions, presented in the literature review of the present study, focus on five issues: the linguistics levels of literary translation; the characteristics of literary texts; the problems of translating literary texts; the main principles of the cognitive method which makes it appropriate for teaching literary translation; and the relationship between literary translation theories, cognition, and creativity. The research recommendations highlight the importance of bridging the gap between translation theory and practice to provide strategies for solving the problems of translating literary texts. The recommendations also include the procedures for integrating Newmark’s translation theory into cognitive taxonomies to enhance students’ knowledge, and help them acquire refined skills for translating literary texts efficiently.


Cognitive teaching methodologies, linguistic analysis, literary translation, Newmark translation theory

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