What Schleiermacher said about translation

Schleiermacher zum Übersetzen

First page of the treatease “About the different methods of translation” by Friedrich Schleiermacher, 1816, as displayed in the German Romanticism Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) said about translation: “Either the translator leaves the author in peace as much as possible and moves the reader towards the author; or he leaves the reader in peace as much as possible and moves the author towards the reader.” (transl. The German Romanticism Museum.)

Debate on Translation Methods

All translation students – including me when I was changing careers some years ago – learn about this general problem involved with translation:

Should the translated text reflect the characteristics of the foreign language or rather read like a text written in the native language?

More than 200 years ago, Friedrich Schleiermacher started a debate on possible translation methods. Schleiermacher himself concluded the first method would do best (while most of today’s translators disagree).

I was not really impressed about the debate when I learned about it early in my translation studies.

But I was the more surprised to find the original text displayed in the German Romanticism Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

I never thought I would be able to look the author of the debate in the eye “posthumously”.

Journey into Romanticism – Schleiermacher’s Text

Suddenly, pure theory had a face, a context, a purpose. I could literally see this fundamental idea about translation evolve.

During that time, the Romanticism, poets and scholars translated important foreign literature for the first time, discussing possible approaches. And Schleiermacher, a philosopher, talked about the “different methods of translation” in a speech before the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1813. The book providing the text was from 1816.

The complete text can be read on the internet in a free copy provided by the University of Michigan.

What an effect from such a little book.

WordPress Cookie Notice by Real Cookie Banner