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Skopos Theory: Person’s Development as a Translator Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2019


The contemporary globalized world is associated with the need in development of various communicative approaches. The translator is playing an important role as a mediator between people pertaining to different cultural backgrounds (Cui, 2009: 8). The Skopos theory was developed in the 1970s to address the new trends that started appearing in the information era (Parker et al., 2008: 36).

I believe the theory provides a variety of valuable tools for translators to deal with numerous texts. The theory is applicable in the majority of spheres, but in some cases translators cannot rely on the tools offered.

Nonetheless, as far as I am concerned, a successful translator should be aware of the major peculiarities of the theory as this will help him/her self-develop and encounter a variety of interesting approaches to fulfil different tasks.

Major Peculiarities of the Theory

The central point in the theory is that the target text is dominant as the original text is less important since it is based on different cultural peculiarities. For instance, when it comes to advertisement, the target text should appeal to the target audience and the exact translation is quite irrelevant as it tends to miss specific characteristics of a target audience pertaining to a different cultural background (Malmkjær, 2005: 35).

When translating an advertisement, translators should render ideas but speak the language the target audience will easily perceive. Importantly, proponents of the theory stress that it is not enough for a translator to be bilingual as the translator should be bicultural (Snell-Hornby, 2006: 52). Functionality of the translation is brought to the fore by the proponents of the theory.

Importance of the Theory for a Translator

Where the Theory Is Applicable

I believe the major concept of the Skopos Theory is very important for a translator as it helps to achieve the major goal of translation, i.e. to make an original text understandable for a target group. As has been mentioned above, this approach is especially important in advertising as the major objective of an original text to tell about the product and sell it, i.e. make it attractive to potential customers (Garces, 2008: 124).

Thus, it is the translator who understands cultural peculiarities of the target audience and ‘sells’ the product to specific people. The theory is not only important for advertising, but it is also applicable in business.

Translators become mediators when it comes to signing contracts and arranging deals (Gile, 2009: 250). Admittedly, translators have to take into account specific cultural background of the partners to make them speak the same language.

Where the Theory Should Be Used Carefully

However, translators should also understand that there are areas where the theory should not be employed to certain extent. For instance, legal communication needs precision in ideas and terms (Kocbek, 2008: 54). Sometimes complete adherence to concepts of the theory can be harmful as trying to make the terms clearer can lead to distortion of data (Cao, 2007: 35).

I go along with this view and think that translators should pay specific attention to legal terms. However, it does not mean the theory is absolutely inapplicable in legal communication as translators can make the target text clearer for recipients (Kocbek, 2006: 233). Of course, this will require a lot of effort and skills on the part of the translator.

Some may think that these difficulties cause troubles for translators, whereas I see lots of opportunities for self-development. In the sphere of legal communication importance of the major concepts of Skopos theory become evident.

The theory helps translators develop as adherence to major concepts of the theory will require a variety of skills. Translators need to know peculiarities of cultural backgrounds as well as legal systems of the original texts and target texts.

Where the Theory Should not Be Used

Nonetheless, there is a sphere where the theory should not be used or rather can be used only to a certain extent (Munday, 2008: 81). Literary works should not be perceived as a source of information to be understandable for the target audience.

The translator should understand that the literary work has a specific literary value which cannot be distorted by changing devices to fit the cultural background of the target text (Leon, 2008: 19). It is necessary to remember that any literary text is a certain introduction to the culture (Mason, 2001: 67).

In other words, reading a piece of fiction writing, the reader learns more about culture and the very way other people perceive the world. Every literary device serves for a fact about the other world. I believe it is crucial to make readers feel the difference in other people’s perception. Therefore, the translator should be much closer to the original when working with a literary work.

Why the Theory Can Be an Interesting Way to Self Develop

Obviously, adherence to the concepts of Skopos theory makes it a bit harder to translate texts as translators have to take into account a variety of issues. Nonetheless, this also makes the translator’s work more interesting. Translators learn a lot of interesting facts about other cultures. I also think that it is interesting to try to find ties between two different cultures.

It is exciting to make a text perceivable for people brought up in a different cultural reality. Major concepts of the theory require attention to a broader scope of details and cultural interactions. As far as I am concerned, it is much more interesting to understand all tinges of meaning available in the text.

I believe that it is really interesting to see the whole cultural strata behind a phrase or even a single word. Therefore, it is clear that following major postulates of the theory is not only important for a translator’s development but it is interesting as well.


It is necessary to note that the central concept of Skopos theory, i.e. to provide a target text which is understandable for the target audience rather than close to the original, can be regarded as one of the most important approaches for a translator. The theory provides tools which help translators self-develop. Adherence to the concepts of the theory is associated with learning more about different cultures.

Translators acquire a lot of skills and learn a variety of facts, which helps them develop. It is also important to note that concepts of Skopos theory make translator’s work really interesting as he/she does not only translate specific words, but translator searches for ties between two cultures. Therefore, Skopos theory can be regarded as an interesting way for a translator to self-develop.

List Of References

Cao, D. (2007) Translating Law – Nop/077, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Cui, Y. (2009) ‘The Goal of Advertisement Translation: With Reference to C-E/E-C Advertisements’, Journal of Language & Translation 10.2, pp. 7-33.

Garces, C.V. (2008) ‘Translating for a Purpose: The Skopos Theory Applied to the Translation for Minority Languages’, Philologia LIII.3, pp. 123-137.

Gile, D. (2009) Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training, Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing.

Kocbek, A. (2008) ‘The Challenges of Intercultural Legal Communication’, International Journal of Euro-Mediterranean Studies 1.1, pp. 53-71.

Kocbek, A. (2006) ‘Language and Culture in International Legal Communication’, Managing Global Transitions 4.3, pp. 231-247.

Leon, C.M. (2008) ‘Skopos and Beyond: A Critical Study of Functionalism’, Target 20.1, pp. 1-28.

Malmkjær, K. (2005) Linguistics and the Language of Translation, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Mason, I. (2001) ‘ Translator Behaviour and Language Usage: Some Constraints on Constructive Studies’, Hermes, Journal of Linguistics 1.26, pp. 65-80.

Munday, J. (2008) Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications, Oxon: Taylor & Francis.

Parker, R.H., Garcia, K.G., Guadarrama, K. (2008) Thinking Translation: Perspective from Within and Without, Boca Raton, Florida: Universal-Publishers.

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