Scammell, C. (2018). Translation strategies in global news: What Sarkozy said in the suburbs. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. 98 pp.

This book touches upon the topic of translating cultural concepts and quotations in news reporting and falls within the scope of Translation Studies, Journalism, Cultural Studies, and Communication. Specifically, it is concerned with the use of two strategies: domestication and foreignization. While domestication is synonymous with translation conforming to norms of the target culture, foreignization means translation that retains the foreignness of the source culture (Bassnett, 2005; Holland, 2013). What results these two strategies have and when these strategies should be used have been topics of debate among many translation scholars. Claire Scammell’s Translation Strategies in Global News is a recent contribution to this debate.

Let me first sketch a brief outline of the main stances on domestication and foreignization. According to Holland (2013), the two strategies may have different results: domesticated texts meet readers’ expectations and, thus, their reception is easy, whereas foreignized texts go beyond readers’ horizons and may be identified as alien and unacceptable in the respective target cultures. However, this is not a consensus reached by all scholars. The debate over their use originated in literary translation. Lefevere (1992) believes that literary texts need to be domesticated, conforming to the genre that is dominant in the target culture, so that they fit well within the readers’ expectations and ensure better reception. However, Venuti (1995) considers foreignization a more ethical approach, criticizing domestication as an unequal cultural exchange and violation against the source text and an acceleration of ethnocentrism and cultural imperialism.

Such a debate of the two strategies also exists in the field of news translation. A strong case is made by Bassnett (2005), who holds that, given the demands of the respective audience, time constraints, and resemblance in linguistic processing between news translation and interpreting, domestication should be the norm to ensure quick and clear understanding and communication. This stance is also echoed by Bielsa and Bassnett (2009) and Cotter (2010). However, the problem is that sometimes it is hard to determine who the target audience is in a globalized world. In the words of Holland (2013), the target readers may be culturally heterogeneous and geographically scattered. They live in different places and have different cultural and social realities while speaking the same language. If a piece of news is domesticated for readers in the UK, it might be foreignized for English speakers in India. Therefore, the choice between domestication and foreignization is not easy.

Other scholars advocate the use of foreignization in news translation. One voice is Schäffner’s (2005), who believes that news readers are entitled to encounters with the foreignness of social realities for more new thinking and feelings. She is joined by Bielsa (2016), who advocates global openness in news reporting through foreignizing instead of obscuring differences. Discussions on the use of foreignization in news translation are rising (e.g., Scammell, 2016; Van Poucke & Belikova, 2016). 

In Translation Strategies in Global News, Scammell focuses on the translation strategies of journalists in foreign news reporting for British audiences by examining the practices of news agencies. She draws upon Venuti’s (1995) proposal of foreignization as a more ethical approach to combating ethnocentrism and imperialism and adapts it to the context of news translation. For this study, she has created a case-study corpus of five English news reports produced by journalists from the British news agency Reuters. The news event covered in these reports is related to comments made by the French politician Nicolas Sarkozy in 2005 during his second term as Minister of the Interior. Scammell has conducted a critical analysis of the current domestication practices in the Reuters corpus, by adopting Pedersen’s (2005) strategies for translating culture as the framework to analyze the strategies used by the journalists. She proposes the norm of foreignizing as a more ethical and practical alternative to translation for news agencies. It should be noted that, in this book, the foreignizing approach is partial, referring to the foreignization of only quotations and culture-specific concepts, two frequently translated elements in news reporting.

The book is organized into eight chapters. The first four chapters lay the theoretical foundations of the book. In Chapter 1, which is the introductory chapter, the author briefly describes the news event for her case study, discusses the impact of translation strategies on news accuracy and on the reception of news events in the target culture, and highlights the necessity of a foreignized alternative to the domestication norm in news translation. In Chapter 2, “The Global News Agencies”, the author discusses the role of journalists in news agencies (as translators of global news) as well as the dominance of quotations in reporting foreign events. Chapter 3, “Translation in Global News”, starts with a review of the literature on news translation as a complex research subject and a discussion of the debate over the two opposing translation strategies in news translation. Subsequently, Scammell examines the norm of domestication in news reporting and reviews the criticism of foreignizing news before she argues for the potential of foreignizing, at least for certain aspects, news. In Chapter 4, entitled “A Case for Foreignized News Translation”, the author discusses the role of news agencies in mediating information between linguistic and cultural boundaries. Using the translation of quotations and culture-specific concepts as examples, Scammell highlights that a domesticating approach can be problematic because it may undermine the objectivity and accuracy of news reports and deprive the audience of exposure to foreign culture by removing cultural uniqueness and obscuring journalists’ interventions. She also describes the news event, the method and the self-created corpus used in her exploration of partial foreignization as an ethical alternative to news translation.

From Chapter 5 onwards, Scammell focuses on the body of her research, including the methods, results, discussions, and implications. In Chapter 5, “Investigating Translation Strategy in the News”, the author defines what is meant by the term ‘strategy’ in her study and makes it explicit that her focus is on examining the strategies that Reuters’ journalists use in translating quotations and culture-specific elements when reporting global news. She also describes the methodology (i.e., textual analysis) and presents Pedersen’s (2005) categories of tactics for cultural translation as her framework of strategy analysis. In Chapter 6, “The Domestication Norm in Reuters Journalism”, the author finds that domestication is the dominant strategy deployed by the Reuters journalists when they translate culture-specific concepts. This strategy might be the result of the guidelines found in the Reuters Handbook of Journalism, which advocates a domesticating approach. Scammell then highlights the lack of attention to the impact on accuracy resulting from such a strategy. In Chapter 7, “A Foreignized Approach to Translation in the News”, the author proposes five updates to the Handbook, arguing for a foreignized approach as an alternative to the popular domestication norm, and she discusses the rationale and the impact of this alternative on news reporting. She argues that by adopting a foreignized approach, intercultural contact and understanding can be promoted. The author’s proposal to foreignize quotations and cultural concepts in reporting foreign events is a challenge to the current literature on news translation, in which most scholars propose a domesticated approach. In the concluding chapter, the author summarizes her findings on the current domesticating approach in news translation, reviews the proposed foreignizing norm in translating culture-specific concepts and quotations, and discusses the contribution of her research to the current literature as an exploratory study. She also suggests directions for future studies, for example, the involvement of readers as participants in research and the assessment of the impact of the strategies.

Scammell’s case study is not without its limitations. One limitation is that it narrows its scope to the translation of quotations and culture-specific concepts in news reporting. However, in the real world of news writing, translation goes far beyond quotations and culture-specific elements. Moreover, Scammell’s research involves only discourse analysis of journalistic reports of foreign events by one British news medium. As such, its findings may not be generalized to the translation of other types of news by other agencies. For future explorations, examination of strategies by other news agencies in translating other types of events is necessary, so that the findings can be generalized. Another limitation lies in the fact that Scammell’s proposal to foreignize cultural elements and quotations as an alternative to domestication is not substantiated by evidence. A lack of a sense of audience perspective, as Scammell admits, makes the proposal a prescriptive and subjective assumption. The methodology Scammell adopts is interesting, but could be diversified in further research, for example, through surveys of audiences’ actual preferences and expectations. In the study under review, the finding that domestication is used by journalists in translating quotations and culture-specific concepts in news reporting is descriptive. However, the proposal that foreignization should be used is prescriptive. There might be various reasons why news translators prefer a domesticated or foreignized version.

In the future, corpus-based critical discourse analysis should be combined with focus groups or surveys of relevant translators to explore the reasons behind their choice of strategies. Furthermore, involvement of target news readers in the conducted research and examination of their reactions to both domesticated and foreignized news through surveys or interviews would be a valuable exploration, as is also mentioned by Scammell in the conclusions of her book. A recent exploration to investigate readers’ reactions to the widely praised domestication strategy in news coverage can be found in Huiberts and Joye (2018). They found that readers react to mediated events so emotionally that there is no single answer as to how they will react, which explains why domestication may not be effective.

Corpus-based studies using language direction as an independent variable and strategy choice as a dependent variable would be another direction for future explorations. Scammell reveals that domestication is the norm in translating cultural concepts and quotations into English in news coverage. This finding is different from what Van Poucke and Belikova (2016) found. They observed that when translating certain cultural elements, specifically metaphorically used expressions from English in journalistic texts, foreignization is adopted. Can such a difference in strategy use be attributed to translation direction and the imbalanced political power of the two countries that speak the two languages involved?

Another issue worth exploring is the impact of the mediating role played by news media on strategy use. According to Clausen (2004) and Lee, Chan, and Zhou (2011), mediators play important roles between global events and regional readers of news reporting of such events. There is a trend to blur cultural borders through foreignization. However, news is still domesticated in the coverage of foreign events to defend borders. How news media in a country apply the domestication strategy depends on the country’s level of participation in the events, the type of political regime and economic relationship with the country where the foreign events are located.

In spite of its limitations, the current work initiates to propose foreignization as an alternative to domestication in news translation. Given its contribution to the current debate over strategy choice in news translation studies, it is an interesting book for academics of Translation Studies. Since it presents practical strategies for translating culture-specific concepts and quotations, which are a commonplace in news reporting, it is also worth reading for news translators and journalists.


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Xiangdong Li

Xi’an International Studies University, China