How did the questionnaire respondents rate my translation?

Naturalness of language: On the whole, respondents rated my translation as more natural than either the source text or Ellis’ translation Only one German speaker rated the source text as more natural sounding than my translation and another three rated it equally. All but one respondent rated my translation more natural than Ellis’.This meets my aim of a more accessible text, although it could be argued that there is a consequent mismatch in style between the ST and translation.

Ease of understanding: whilst the new translation is still not an easy text, nobody rated it in the most difficult range and retrieval of pronoun reference was much easier than in either the source text or Ellis’ translation. Sentence length, too, was more easily manageable.

Across all these categories, academic readers found the text easier on the whole than those with a lower level of musical qualification. This would match my primary readership of 3rd year undergraduates and postgraduates. People also commented, though, that the new translation was more accessible across all readership categories. Again this matches my aim of increased accessibility to the text.

I also aimed to prioritise information retrieval over style. Many respondents felt they didn’t have time to summarise the passage, but of those who did, scores on information retrieval were generally quite high. Again, there was a correlation with academic ability, although the relatively small numbers here made it difficult to draw clear conclusions.

Generally readers liked having the German terms included in the text and preferred to have footnotes rather than in-text explanation.

As expected, I could not always match source text style and facilitate information retrieval. some respondents criticised inconsistency of style. I felt this was particularly true in more complex passages. It could be argued that Ellis translation is, in fact, a better match on style.




All but one respondent had a preference for my text, and even that was qualified dependent on the prospective use of the text. It was felt that Ellis translation may give a better feel for the complex syntax and vocabulary of Wagner.

I seem to be fairly much on target with my audience,  although I maybe would’ve liked to see a better response for undergraduates. However, I didn’t specify that I was aiming at final year students, so that may explain the result.


All in all, I feel that I was pretty much on target with my aims for the translation and so far have had some good feedback on it. Thanks again to all who have helped.

Wagner and Philosophy

This is one of the more challenging aspects of the text. As they were closer in time to the text, Wagner’s original readership would probably have found the references in Oper und Drama to 19th C philosophy a little easier to retrieve than modern audiences. Also, Wagner wrote for a literary and philosophical audience, not just musicians. My research shows that my prime audience is likely to be musicologists and those generally interested in German culture.

I have to say that, although I had heard of Kant, Feuerbach and Schlegel, I couldn’t have told you much about them and my knowledge of Greek Drama is verging on the embarrassing! However, as a German and Music graduate, I am probably fairly typical of my target audience, so I need to consider whether to give them additional help with the philosophical aspects of the text.

An additional problem for a translator is that, as this is a semi-literary text, I need to respect the language in it: that is, I can’t translate for information alone, I need to consider the style, too. A difficult balancing act!

Looking closely at the Source Text.

The Source Text (ST) is what translators call the text they are working from, which will be translated into the Target Text (TT). One of the things a translator needs to determine is, which features can be transferred from the ST to the TT. In doing this, they need to look at the “Receiver’s Profile” of both ST and TT and see where they differ.
In the case of Wagner’s text, the ST and TT audiences are clearly separated by a long period of time – 1852 to the present day. This means the TT reader may not necessarily be so familiar with the cultural background to the book, for instance 19th century philosophy and metaphors that were widely used in the writing of the time. These are factors that I may need to consider and compensate for in my translation.
I also need to consider who is reading the text and why. Wagner was aiming at a generally well-read reader who was interested in philosophy of the arts. My target reader is most likely someone who is studying music academically or who has a strong personal interest in Wagner and his music. They may not necessarily be so well-read in the arts as a whole.

My research shows that quite a lot of my readership have a working knowledge of German and so may welcome seeing some of Wagner’s key terms in the original language.
Whilst the modern reader may be more disconnected from 19th century thought, Wagner is now, obviously, an established musical figure. There is no dispute over the fact that he was immensely important in music history. However, we need to remember that at the time he was writing “Oper und Drama”, he was still fighting to establish himself and to make himself understood. This may have a bearing on how the translator balances stylistic and informational aspects of the text.
Another time I’ll expand on the main difficulties for me in translating the text.