Translation and Censorship | January 2019 | Translation Journal

January 2019 Issue

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Translation and Censorship

Faculty of letters and languages
Department of languages
University of Bechar- ALGERIA
Email :

The process of translation always is affected by the cultural, the religious, political and ideologies
beliefs. Thus, in the case of censorship, many internal and external forces can affect the process of
translation especially when the translator holds ideologies contrary to the source language (SL) regime
or religion. Thus, even though ‘religion’ and ‘translation’ are two rather different concepts they are
strongly interrelated. In the case of our country and its religion, the translator was influenced either by
an external force (i. e., censorial government or its institutes) or internal force (personal beliefs). My
article is based on a brief theoretical literature overview, analysis of activities translated from English
into Arabic.
KEY WORDS: Censorship, religion terms, translator, translation methods, translation of children

The process of translation always is affected by the cultural, the religious, political and
ideologies beliefs. Thus, in the case of censorship, many internal and external forces can affect
the process of translation especially when the translator holds ideologies contrary to the source
language (SL) regime or religion. Thus, even though ‘religion’ and ‘translation’ are two rather
different concepts they are strongly interrelated. Furthermore, Loreta Ulvydienė said: “if
censorial ideology collides with the final translation, such kind of pressure leads to rewriting
the text or conscious erasure of unwanted parts of the discourse. If internal or external forces of
censorial ideology affect the translator before the actual translation process it ends up breaking
the coherence between source and target texts”(Ulvydienė, 2016). In any way censorship is
seen as an expression to consolidate one’s power and dominate over source language culture
and ideology (Fawcett, 2003), since the source culture is too different from the target one.
Thus, a lot of SL culture lacks arises or overflows with the source ideology to the TL culture.
In this case the translators have censorship adapted to their works while other translators, who
are not in agreement that SL and TL texts should lose coherence, choose to censor translations
on their own, however, in the most subtle way possible (in this particular case the translator
becomes the censor).
In the case of our country and its religion, the translator was influenced either by an external
force (i. e., censorial Algerian government or its institutes) or internal force (personal beliefs).
Therefore, translation was viewed as the only tool for manipulation. Further on, in the case of
Algeria censorship, translation has two aims to protect TT readers from the unwanted influence
and ideology coming from the SL culture and to support and promote Arabian ideology,
language and beliefs. In addition, Eugene Nida and Tomas Venclova said that There are
various aspects for breach of coherence between source and target texts, for example,
“insufficient competence of the translator or insufficient maturity of the very culture” (1979) as
a result it is impossible to avoid gaps during the translation process. However, he claims that
the strongest force for the deterioration of coherence between source and target texts “is the

conscious and planned ideological deformation characteristic to totalitarian countries” (ibid.,

1. Definition of Censorship and Self-Censorship:
Censorship is defined by the Cambridge International Dictionary of English as “the practice
of examining books, films, etc. and removing anything considered being offensive, morally
harmful, or politically dangerous. It is the suppression of objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or
inconvenient materials to authorities, which is enforced by the relevant institutions, represented
by the censor on whom censorship responsibilities are conferred.( Wikipedia’s definition). In
addition to that, Censorship means the opposite of freedom of access to gambling websites,
sex, crime and Nazi films, etc., and it means the control of discourse, and the activity of a
person who “examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio programs, etc. for the
purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other
grounds” (Webster, 1994). According to Burridge censorship is “the suppression or prohibition
of speech or writing that is condemned as subversive of the common good” (Allan and
Burridge, 2006).in the past it used to be the benefits of any symbolic authority which regulate
the public as the church, state (McCARTHY, 1995). The broader meaning of this term
according to Wolf is a defender and guardian of tradition, delimiting not only the other, but
also acting to immunize against any sort of change. It stabilizes tradition, regulating and
strengthening something that by its very nature has a particularly variable character. (Michaela,
2002). These definitions insist that censorship is the repressive regimes that continue to ignore
freedom of the press, freedom of expression, etc. in contrast, today; we can find a range of
meanings to the term censorship whose exercise does not depend upon forceful imposition by
an external ‘institution’ but rather upon ideological, aesthetic or cultural circumstances. Hence,
it is so complex that its meaning cannot be restricted to the oppressive practices of autocratic
While censorship has two main classifications: preventive censorship which shifts the
pressure to adapt from the public to the inner life of the individual, thereby helping individuals
to internalize censorship–this type also falls under the heading of self-censorship– and explicit

censorship, which presupposes a certain irreducible degree of conscience and intentionality
(ASSMANN, 1987). Self-censorship “is as an individual ethical struggle between self and
context translators tend to censor themselves—either voluntarily or involuntarily—in order to
produce rewritings which are ‘acceptable’ from both social and personal perspectives”
(Santaemilia, 2008). As the online edition of the
Cambridge Dictionary describes it, “Selfcensorship is the control of what you say or do in order to avoid annoying or offending others,
but without being told officially that such control necessary”. In the process of translation, selfcensor may include all the imaginable forms of elimination, distortion, downgrading,
misadjustment, infidelity, and so on. Moreover the decision of self-censor will result from the
implicit understanding and the complete identification with the official censor’s views of what
may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the particular public
that censorship is supposedly safeguarding.
2. Reasons for censorship:
In the Arab world, censorship has been imposed on all means of communication: books,
newspapers, radio, TV, cinema, etc. for three reasons: first, politics: certain governments to
rule their citizens easily they do not letting them know about other cultures (and their ways of
thinking). Second, religion: in the Arab world some scenes from an American movie showing
people drinking whisky had to be re-shot substituting milk for whisky because alcohol is
forbidden in their religion. However, in some cartoons it is translated to jus. Third, selfcensorship: Sometimes the translator who decides to modify certain elements because he/ she
feels that they are not appropriate to their public. Translators tend to think they should protect
the audience, and so they believe they can determine what is right or what is wrong to
communicate, regardless of what the spirit and manner of the original were.
3. Cases:
Case I: Self-Censorship in translating Children’s Literature: Harry Potter as
a case study

These cases will illustrate the manipulation in translated texts for religious and cultural
reasons: the translator decides to modify certain elements in popular
Harry Potter series
because he feels they are not appropriate; for instance, pig and pork in the Arab Islamic world
are forbidden and the usage of “pig” as a metaphor for uncleanliness. In this case, the translator
tends to change these words according to the Arab Islamic culture: The word
pig; for
instance, is translated as /
harūf/ (sheep in English), even if what is seen in the cartoon is a
piglet. Obviously, this is due to religious reasons for in Islamic culture, ‘pigs’ are viewed as
filthy, unclean, and prohibited animals.Therefore also a swear word, yet there are cultures
where the pig or boar are considered not only acceptable but even holy. Harry Potter series is
rife with magic; as a result its translation shows different degrees of acceptability in terms of
translational freedom throughout the Arab world , for example, the translation of “
as /bisātun tāirun/ (flying carpet in English) (Athamneh, 1999). The name
Whomping Willow”, which is suggestive of the ability of the tree to strike people hard with its
strong branches, its Arabic translation is /
aš-šajaratu l-‘imlāqatu/ (the gigantic tree). In these
examples, the manipulation is clearly used in the translation of
Harry Potter. This
manipulation is done by the translator in order to protect his audience from the foreign culture
and religion and because he/ she feels that they are not appropriate them.
Case II: Self-Censorship in Obscene Matters
In the case of media translation, censorship is sometimes present when dubbing and subtitling
mask the deletion or replacement of erotic, vulgar or inconvenient sentences, allusions or
references. Translators become self-censors by being aware of sexual connotations, puns on
words, taboo elements, etc. and he should modify them to “protect the audience.” Actually,
there is a wide range of censoring activities, from deleting a scene to changing the language to
a non-vulgar one, to omitting references or directly changing the whole plot (cf. Gambier,
forthcoming). For example, in one episode of
Friends, Rachel and Monica are trying to get
their apartment back, which they lost to Joey and Chandler while playing a game. When they

finally get desperate, Monica tells the boys that she and Rachel will kiss for one minute in
order to get their apartment back. The boys agree.

There are still many aspects of self-censorship and censorship that should be further analyzed,
and many more reasons why translators, writers and publishers willingly silence themselves.
Moreover, the omission and modification are the translator’s duty in this case. However in
other instances, the omission is a mistake, which can be caused by a) the translator’s lack of
adequate knowledge; b) the fact that the translator underestimated the audience/reader. Thus,
translators should be aware of the fact that their self-imposed censorship is actually robbing the
reader/ audience of their chance of understanding and even learning about other cultures, other
lifestyles, other realities. As baker said that in this time of globalization, translators should be
visible in order to illuminate the hybrid realities in which the translator’s intervention
efficiently functions.

Allan and Burridge, 2. p. ( 2006). Forbidden words. Cambridge : UNIVERSITY PRESS.
ASSMANN, A. a. (1987).
Canon andCensorship. Contributions to the Archeology of Literary
Communication II.
Munich, finch.
Athamneh, N. A. (1999). English-Arabic Translation of Dubbed Children’s Animated Pictures.
Babel ,
Fawcett, P. (2003). The Manipulation of Language and Culture in Film Translation. In.
St. Jerome , 145-
163. .
McCARTHY, J. A. (1995).
Einleitung. Zensur und Kultur:‘Autoren nicht Autoritäten!’”, in Zensur und
Kultur. Censorship and culture.
Niemeyer: Tübingen.
Michaela, W. ( 2002). Censorship as Cultural Blockage: Banned Literaturein the Late Habsburg
META , Volume 15, numéro 2, 2e semestre P46.
Santaemilia, J. (2008). The Translation of Sex-Related Language: The Danger(s) of Self-Censorship(s).
META , Volume 21, Number 2, 2e semestre ,P221-222.
Ulvydienė, L. (2016). Communicative Anthropology, Relativism in Literature and Modes of Censorship
in Translation.
the Anthropologist , vol25 issue 03, 294-303.
Webster. (1994).
Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English. New York: Gramercy. .

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