Case Study

Two Speakers, One Audience:
Contrasting Speeches on Surrogacy Presented at a Sociology Symposium

For my Master’s thesis, I translated two contrasting speeches on a medical topic presented at a sociology symposium. Both speeches shared an audience but had distinctly different functions, linguistic styles, and displays of journalistic integrity.

The thesis consisted of three parts: the translation, an analysis, and a term base. The analysis examined the translation from a theoretical viewpoint and detailed the exact process I used in translating these speeches correctly.

Conveying the authors’ knowledge and expertise through the correct usage of terminology and the elimination of personal bias was a vital part of this translation. Preserving the speaker’s voices posed a challenge of wording and register, similar to the challenge of translating a character’s voice in a literary text.

Selected excerpts below. Full text available upon request.


Role of Audience in Translation

[…] While both Japanese texts are speeches presented at the Japanese symposium, they differ significantly in how they are read. The Kugu text reads as a pre-written speech prepared for publication, complete with citations and graphs embedded in the text, but Ohno’s speech reads as a transcription of what he said, possibly based on presentation notes. This is apparent in both the use of very informal speech, which would not be written down in advance and read aloud, and the repetition present throughout the text. Because of these stylistic differences, I decided to match my writing style to each of the source texts but keep the audience the same. …


[…] Determining the correct legal terminology for each set of parents in the surrogacy process was an integral step in translating these documents, and not just for the sake of accuracy. Ohno’s text presented a problem with terminology, as literally translating his speech could cause misunderstandings. He frequently spoke of “surrogate mother’s mothers,” the family of both surrogates, and the woman who would be the mother of the child born of the surrogate. Determining the right terms helped to clear up any possible misunderstandings, as well as illustrate Ohno’s familiarity with surrogacy as a reporter. […]

Functionalism and Speeches

[…] Christiane Nord defines a text as ‘functional’ when “it serves the function or functions it is intended for, and text function is determined by the factors of the situation in which the text will have to serve as a communicative instrument” (Nord 55). In establishing a functional typology of translations, Nord defines four basic textual functions: referential, expressive, appellative, and phatic (Nord 50). Following Nord’s typology, my texts fall under two functions. Kugu’s original function is referential with an informative subfunction, as he is describing and referring to objects and real-world phenomena, informing the audience of data in an unbiased manner to educate them. Ohno, on the other hand, functions appellatively with a persuasive subfunction, as he appeals to the receiver’s experience, feelings, and sensibility in order to cause a specific reaction. […]

Ethical Issues and Errors

[…] One ethical issue I encountered was Kugu’s statement that the Y chromosome is Y-shaped (Ohno par. 28). Despite its name, the Y chromosome is not shaped like a Y at all; this is a fact that a doctor like Kugu should know, yet repeats to the audience. His mention of this Y shape poses problems later in the sentence, where the lack of clearly defined plurals in Japanese means that 腕 can be read as both “arm” or “arms.” The correct scientific usage is “arm”, but given Kugu’s previous statement that it is Y-shaped, it was difficult to determine whether he was inferring the plural or non-plural. To solve this problem, I considered the purpose of Kugu’s Y-shaped statement. Since the function of his text is referential and informative, he aims to teach the audience new information, so I determined that Kugu made this incorrect statement for the sake of simplifying his speech, since his focus is on the genes on the chromosome itself, and for the sake of explaining why the Roman letter “Y” is present in the chromosome name. However, because Kugu is familiar with the correct usage, when he describes the morphology and gene locations on the chromosome, I chose to use “arm” instead of “arms.” […]