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News Translation as Reconstruction of Reality within Frames

News Translation as Reconstruction of Reality within Frames


Drawing upon the communication theory of news reporting as construction of reality (Tuchman 1978), this study aims to systematically explore news translation as a means to reconstruct social reality within certain frames of different institutions.

Framing refers to the institutional effort in highlighting some aspects of an occurrence to achieve the designated effects on the readership. Translators, who actively mitigate between the source and target texts by comprehending contexts of the targeted market, thus translate news within certain frames of the institution they represent. Analysis will be made by resorting to framing studies in journalism on the contexts and translated texts concerning the exchange rate of the Chinese currency with a view to illustrate how the translation has served as a means of reconstruction of the reality.   

Key words: news translation; framing; reality; China

1. Introduction

The twenty-first century is characterized by rapid development of technology to an unpredictable stage. While information is accessible anywhere now on mobile devices, nobody can tell where the new technology will lead us afterwards. With the world virtually hooked-up, information elites make every effort to exert their power into all corners of the globe by churning out news of one kind or another in different languages to feed the demand from the ever-on-the-increase of netzens across the world. Leading news agencies and newspapers such as Reuters provide news coverage in dozens of languages including Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese among others; Newsweek in Spanish, Korean, etc. and Financial Times have revamped their news coverage by expanding into other languages such as its German language edition, Financial Times Deutschlandince in 2000, and its debut in China in the year 2003 on its website (FTC). It covers a wide range of topics related to China but are reported in English, which is then translated into Chinese with its targeted readership in the Chinese market. During this process, translation has a role to play in disseminating the ideologies and constructing frames of news stories into the targeted audience, henceforth in shaping their understanding of events going on around the world.     
Translation studies (TS) has gone through a short distance since its debut as an independent discipline over thirty years of so, from the early source text (ST) oriented, aiming at achieving the equivalent effect with the ST (i.e. Nida and Taber 1969Nida 1964) , to the target text (TT) oriented approaches, i.e. by carrying out particulars designated in the translation brief (instructions from the commissioners) (Reiss 1989Nord 1997Vermeer 1987) to multi-disciplinary approaches integrated such as re-writing (Lefevere 1992), cultural turn (Bassnett 1998) and post-colonial theories (Robinson 1997). Translation is viewed more and more in the context of inter-disciplinary studies.
In the case of news translation, findings from media studies have been integrated to unveil the stories behind the scenes, by way of viewing it as a process of discursive mediation or transformation with translator’s subjectivity involved (cf. Chen 2011Wang 2009Valdeón 2008) . In this connection, the study views news translation as a means to reconstruct social reality by integrating findings from communication studies in the notion of news as construction of reality (Tuchman 1978) within given frames on the part of different institutions. Data of the study is part of a larger project drawn from FTC dating from 2008 to the end of 2011, covering the topic of Renminbi (RMB), the Chinese currency, exchange rate in parallel texts, i.e. the ST in English with its corresponding translations in Chinese, while texts of similar topics within the same time span from Caokao Xiaoxi - Reference News (RN) in Chinese, mostly translated from leading western media are also collected to mirror the translation approaches. Textual analysis will be made with a view to illustrate that the translation is a reconstruction of reality on the part of the translator. Section Two will first give a brief review of literature to lay the theoretical groundwork of the study and then it will be followed by detailed analysis in the next section.

2. Theoretical groundwork

2.1   News as construction of reality
We are all involved in everyday communication with other people and the world in one way or another by way of comprehending the happenings around us. Media constitutes the lion’s share of this comprehension process by updating us all the time. Our worldly view is undeniably shaped by its angles and standpoints in presenting events and issues. Just as observed by the study of Nimmo and Combs (1983, 4), “media of communication intervene media in the form of language, customs, symbols, stories, and so forth. That very intervention is a process that creates and re-creates (constructs and reconstructs) our reality of the moment and over the proverbial long haul.”  
Snow and Benford (1988, 199) suggest that for any interest group or social movement to be successful in garnering support, whether from members, potential participants, or the interest of the news media, it must perform three fundamental framing tasks, i.e. a diagnosis of some event or aspect of social life as problematic and in need of alteration; a proposed solution to the diagnosed problem that specifies what needs to be done; and a call to arms or rationale for engaging in ameliorative or corrective action. 
Tuchman (1978, 184) argues that just like news worthiness receives definition from news editors who negotiate which items to be carried on page one, news “helps to constitute it as a shared social phenomenon, for in the process of describing an event, news defines and shapes that event,” instead of mirroring society.

2.2   News as frames

In the analysis on social reality through the lenses of philosophy, Goffman (1974) analyzes the structure of experience individuals have in their social lives in the strips of the everyday world in the name of the frame. It has since been widely adopted in the study of news stories (i.e. Tuchman 1978; Entman 1991; 1993; 2004). According to Tuchman (1978, 192) frames turn nonrecognizable happenings into discernible events, without which, they would be mere happenings of mere talk, incomprehensible sounds. Entman (1993) has made the point that “framing involves selection and salience.” Frames highlight some bits of information about an item that is the subject of a communication, thereby elevating them in salience. The word salience means making a piece of information more noticeable, meaningful, or memorable to audiences. An increase in salience enhances the probability that receivers will perceive the information, discern meaning and thus process it, and store it in memory. Entman (2004, 26) in his study of Projections of Power further clarified that “to frame (or framing) refers to the process of selecting and highlighting some aspects of a perceived reality, and enhancing the salience of an interpretation and evaluation of that reality.” He (1993) summarizes the main aspect of framing by saying that frames define problems, diagnose causes, make moral judgments and suggest remedies. It is clear that a very large number of textual devices can be used to perform these activities. They include using certain words or phrases, making certain contextual references, choosing certain pictures or film, giving examples as typical, referring to certain sources and so on.  

    •     News translation as reconstruction of realities

In the study of news translation, Gambier (2006) has pointed out that the “media provides frames of reference, or highly stereotyped representations of specific situation, to make the event accessible to the public. And they shape other kinds of frames—the ones that the audience, the individuals use when interpreting information about events. The frame systems consist of stereotypical scenarios, routines, and beliefs, and are based on expectations in a given social situation.” Translation from one language into another will no doubt plays the role in guiding the way in making sense of message in the audience, i.e. reconstructing reality of a story, in which process it will involve anticipating and comprehending the context of the target text and its acceptability in the targeted audience while asserting the ideological influence on them.  

3. Data and methodology of the study 
Analysis and Comments from FTC will be used as the corpus of analysis for the present investigation. For one thing is that they are the articles that translations from English into Chinese are mostly available while many news stories are written directly in Chinese; for another is that they are the news writings in which ideas and ideologies prevail. Among articles of this genre on the newspaper’s website, the column named “Lex” stands out, on which issues of China and the world are analyzed in an in-depth manner.  
As the study is more China-focused, key word search is pinned down as “Lex 中国 (China)” on FTC. Because articles on the website is dynamic, i.e. updating each day, I decided to close a time scope for the present study. Experimenting searches with various keywords on the site have shown that retrievals generally trace back to archived articles of the past three years or so. As some significant events happened in China as well as the world during the time when my study materialized, such as the Olympic Games, financial crisis and European debt crisis among many others, I decided that articles of the past three years dating from 2008 to the end of 2011 would be collected as corpus of the study. By carrying out the due search on 23 December 2011, the last week before the New Year holiday, 819 results were retrieved, among which 367 were comments and analysis. Detailed look into these articles finds that some are outdated i.e. beyond the time scope of the study; others are not translated ones; and also some articles were not related to any happenings in China, as such they were deleted. Thus all together 215 articles were taken as valid data for the study, which covers a wide range of topics such as world economy, Chinese currency, stock market, banking, etc. which suffices the purpose of the study. Hence the data is categorized according to contents under each categories. Parallel texts in English and Chinese are to be studied for relevant findings. Texts on the same topics from leading Chinese news websites such as Caijing Ribao (Financial Daily, FD), with mostly updated financial news about China in Chinese, and Caokao Xiaoxi(Reference News, RN, carrying mostly translated articles from world leading news media) will also be collected and studied in comparison to mirror the analysis of the content from FTC. The present study will serve as a pilot study of the bigger project. Category 2 in the name of “Chinese Currency” will be used as the data of analysis.

2. Chinese Currency


4. Historic overview on the currency row

China has been on a collision course with the developed economies ever since its fast growth over the past decade or so. It abandoned its policy of a fixed exchange rate in July 2005, sometimes called a pegged exchange rate, which is a type of exchange rate regime wherein a currency's value is matched to the value of another single currency or to a basket of other currencies, or to another measure of value, such as gold . This move in favor of a link to a basket of world currencies was hailed as an important step forward in its move toward market economy by Washington Post in 2005 .  But it was still not to the satisfaction of Washington, who blames the under-valued yuan (Chinese currency, also known as Renminbi or RMB) for China’s trade surplus while hitting the US jobs.  On the day of the writing, 9 February 2012, the exchange rate between RMB and the US dollar is 6.3 to 1; back on the same day in 2008, the rate was 7.2 to 1, which means the currency saw a rise of 14% over the past three years. From the diagram below, it can be seen that the exchange rate has risen from 7.8 to 6.3, about a substantial rise of 24% over the past five years.   
(Five-year Exchange rate between US dollar and RMB, Feb 2012 accessed 9/02/2012
The stance on both sides is in great disparity concerning the Chinese currency. The view will find its way into the media. The following analysis will go into details of the translated articles carried on FTC and RN to further unveil whether they fit in with the frames. First the analysis will take a look at the headlines, then the body of the news.
5. Analysis

Here in the analysis, I am focusing on the meaning and content of headlines and bodies of the translated news rather than on the syntactic formation.  

    • Headline

Headline embodies the heart and soul of a news report. Bell (1991, 186-9) cited Kniffka that “headline is the newspaper’s opportunity to stamp its individuality on what is otherwise a mass-produced product.” It mostly abstracts the main story while being part of a news rhetoric functioning to attract the reader.  
The headlines in the following table categorized under Chinese currency are collected from the column Lex on FTC for the past three years or so, with the ST numbered and the TT meaning back-translated in italics.

  •  中国流动性之忧 (Concerns of Chinese liquidity)

 人民币升值的期望 (Anticipation of Renminbi Appreciation)

  • Chinese monetary policy

 中国货币紧缩政策 (Chinese monetary austeritypolicy)

  • China's build up of FX reserves

 中国外汇储备今年首季再增 (China’s foreign reserves increased again in the first quarter) 


 Lex专栏:人民币全球化 (Globalize Renminbi )


 美元时代未落幕 (Era of US dollar not finishing yet)


 Lex: 中国外汇储备 (China’s foreign reserves)


LEX专栏:亚洲外汇储备锐减 (Asia’s foreign reserves decrease sharply)


 Lex专栏:中国货币政策悄然收紧?(Chinese’s monetary policy is tightening)

  • The Chinese consumer

 Lex专栏:解决失衡问题的关键是人民币 (Renminbi is the key to settle the problem of imbalance)


 人民币兑美元还涨不涨 (Any further rises for Renminbi against the dollar)

The ST of the headlines can be taken as objective, neutral, and impersonal as asserted by ethics of news workers, which presents the facts in a straightforward way without discursive or distorted interference. Take No. 1 Chinese Liquidity and 3 Chinese Monetary Policy for example, which may give the fact that content of the articles is something that has to do with China without slanting to either side, which may already be eye-catching enough for western readers, given the dynamic (and probably exotic) economic and social development in the far east. However, from the back translations, it can be seen that the headlines have been changed into a different picture with addition of the words “concern” and “austerity” respectively which is thus interpreted that the Chinese liquidity is problematic and monetary policy is one that is featured by difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce its budget deficit.  
Of all the 11 articles, 8 of the headlines are translated with additions.  Addition or amplification is a technique often adopted by translators to supply necessary words in translation on the basis of comprehension of the original, or adding some words to the TT in order to convey the meanings of the ST accurately (Newmark 19881989Chen 1999Newmark 1988;Baker 1992Xu 2000) . That is to say that translators are justifiable in adding words in one way or another to their translations. However the additions here are beyond the language or meaning scope. They have been chosen by the translator in view of the ideological frames of the institution represented, which have thus transformed the story accordingly. Similarly 2, 4, 8, 9 and 11 are all amplified into more serious and explicit scenarios, while 6 and 7 are rewritings in Chinese, as is shown in the literal meanings in bold and italics. 

On the other hand headlines carried on RN during the similar time span are as follows:

  • Why Americans should learn to love the renminbi

美国人应该学会喜欢人民币(Americans should learn to love the renminbi )

  • China Texts US with Currency Move

中国隐现宽松货币政策迹象China shows signs of easing monetary policy)

  • White House Reviewing Proposed U.S. Legislation on the Yuan, Carney Says

美国白宫放口风要压人民币升值 (White House has spread the rumour that it will press Renminbi appreciation)

  • China Bashers Pass Buck on What’s Ailing U.S.

美媒:是时候停止对人民币汇率说三道四了(American media: it’s time to stopmaking irresponsible remarks about Renminbi exchange rate)

  • Now, Will China Get It?

美媒:中国经济压力或终使人民币升值(Pressure from Chinese economy may eventually make Renminbi appreciate)  

  • Tariffs and currency questions dominate China's economic agenda Chinese manufacturers will be watching developments at G20 summit anxiously as calls for appreciation of the yuan grow

 (English media: Chinese businesses watch anxiously at the G20 Summit)

  • US Panel Urges Congress to Act on China's Trade Policies

美报告鼓噪对中国全面施压(American reportsclamour to press China extensively)  

  • US body attacks China on economic policies

美官方委员会抨击中国经济与国防政策(American official committee attacksChina on economic and defensepolicies)

 One unanimous assertion on the RN when publishing the translated news is that it all goes under “外媒称”(according to foreign media), which is the umbrella term of all the media sources from other countries. In this pool of sources, it chooses to translate those that serve to fit into or reconstruct it to accommodate to its own frame. In the data collected here, the STs are from FT, Bloomberg, VOA and BBC, which are all English sources. Given the language constraints, sources from other languages will not be examined. As they are invariably translated into Chinese under the same newspaper, these sources will not be differentiated in the course of analysis.  
In the headlines above, the ST of 12 means to answer the question of “why” by giving reasons while the TT turns it into an affirmative statement by deleting the word “why”, which turns it into a fact that Americans should learn to love Renminbi. In 14, 15 and 18, the verb choices of 放口风(spread the rumour), 停止…说三道四(stop making irresponsible remarks), 鼓噪(clamour)are all derogatory terms with satirical meaning in Chinese.
In fact, the ST of 14 is about the statement made by Jay Carney, White House press secretary, on views of the Obama administration claiming that China’s currency as “substantially undervalued” and that it is reviewing legislation that aims to penalize China. Generally speaking, message from such a person means official stance of a government, rather than informal remarks of no importance. By putting the headline into “White House has spread the rumour that it will press Renminbi appreciation,” it carries with it the sense between the lines that the White House is using some unofficial channel to air its views while China might retaliate should the message be validated. 
The headline in 15 “China Bashers Pass Buck on What’s Ailing U.S.” is an assertion from those who criticize China that it is responsible for some problems in the US, which also implicates that this might not be true, as learnt from further reading of the article. The translation takes on a reverse strategy by putting it explicitly into that this is some message from the American media which says that “it’s time to stop making irresponsible remarks about Renminbi exchange rate,” which thus conforms to the Chinese frame that the country is doing things right. 
No. 18 is under “US Panel Urges Congress to Act on China's Trade Policies,” which is the view from a US congressional advisory body who is urging the lawmakers to take tougher action against China’s trade policy. In the translation, it is rendered into “American reports clamour to press China extensively,” in which “鼓噪 (clamour)” literally refers to the loud sound of drum hitting and shouting to boost the courage of soldiers before going to war in ancient times, meaning confused loud noises in its modern sense, according to the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary (Language Institute 2002) . It is often connected with the passing noise that is out of tune with the main stream. Also in the TT, the scope has been broadened into “extensively” rather than restricted to trade policy.  Similar amplification is found with 8, in which “US body attacks China on economic policies”, whose scope is extended into “defense” on top of economy.
The remaining headlines of 13, 16 and 17 in the samples are rewritten by the translator or transeditor as is shown in the table, which will be discussed in Section 6. The term “transediting” was coined by Stetting (1989) by referring to “the various procedures involved in the transformation of news events produced in one source language and published in a target one” (Valdeón 2008, : 299).

    •  Body of the news   

Translated versions of the news is available on FTC by clicking on the hyperlink of “中文 (Chinese),” at which the text will be presented in full screen, or by clicking “对照 (Comparison),” both the Chinese and English texts will be presented in parallel with similar lengths. Content of the news is by and large faithful renditions of the source, with the name of translator clearly visible at the end. Careful readings still find that sometimes actors in the ST is shifted or more specified while addition and omission is also adopted.

  •      China took markets by surprise at the weekend, lifting the

ratio of reserves that banks must hold by 100 basis points. 
基点。(Unexpected by the market, the Chinese Central Bank lifted the ratio of reserves by 100 basis points this weekend.)  

  •      What does Beijing know that nobody else does?

(What does the Chinese Government know that nobody else does?)

  • China added $178bn to its foreign reserves in the second quarter, taking  its total booty past $2,000bn, the equivalent of twice the annual economic output of New York.

今年第二季度,中国外汇储备增长1780亿美元,储备总额超过2万亿美元,相当于纽约年度经济产出的2倍。(In the second quarter this year, Chinese foreign reserves has increased $178bn, with its total over $2,000bn, the equivalent of twice the annual economic output of New York) 
In the above sentences, the actors of both 19 and 21 are “China,” which broadly conveys that the country is doing something while in the translation they are more specified into the Chinese Central Bank and Chinese foreign reserves respectively. In 20, it is the convention of many western media to use the name of capital when referring to its government, which is not the convention of the Chinese media, thus “Beijing” is put into the Chinese government.

In the case of translated articles from RN, it is all transedited as conspicuously indicated as “编译”(trans-edit) on the paper. Length of all these transedited articles is shorter than the original, which may attribute to the limit of space of the newspaper on the one hand and which cannot escape the presupposed framing on the part of the translator while reconstructing the text on the other. Take the 12th article, “Why Americans should learn to love renminbi” for example, the ST author makes an analogy of workers in the West earning 10, 20 or even 30 times more than the Chinese or Asian coolies (slave labour) to something from the heaven and the earth in the first four paragraphs, the TT text deleted them all together. 
Another drastic deletion comes with the 15th article, “China Bashers Pass Buck on What’s Ailing U.S.”, in which opinions on the side supporting the Yuan appreciation by Bergsten of the Peterson Institute for International Economics is nowhere to be found in the transedition. Only the counter argument against the currency appreciation has been transmitted. Here are some more examples from the on-line version.

  • China bashing is all the rage in Washington, as politicians of both parties blame the world’s fastest-growing major economy for high jobless rates in the U.S.

(Now China has become the key target of attacks from Washington, politicians from both parties have pointed the spearhead of anger at the world’s fastest-growing economy, they seem to unanimously think that the rise of China has directly pushed the jobless rate in the U.S.)         

  • So isn’t it time we left China alone?

(The article of Hassett ended with the rhetorical question: so, now isn’t it the time that we stop making irresponsible remarks about China?)

  • American economic leadership seems to be on its heels.

(American New York Times carries an editorial which thinks, the position of American economic leadership seems precarious.)
Examples from the body of these transeditions can easily serve as evidence to determine which sides the articles are taking. In 22, both “politicians blame the world’s fastest-growing major economy” have become “愤怒的矛头指向” (have pointed the spearhead of anger at), which is a metaphor in Chinese when the parties involved are enraged that they are on the edge of a fight. Besides, the addition that they seem to unanimously think that the rise of China has directly pushed…” conforms to the catchword in the Chinese media - “中国的崛起”(the rise of China), which is often used in recent years when talking about the development in China. It is a term in the commendatory sense with the connotation that once the country was prosperous but somehow declined, and now it has risen again.
In 23 and 24, additions of “The article of Hassett ended with the rhetorical question” and “American New York Times carries an editorial which thinks” both serve to emphasize the fidelity and newsworthiness of the opinions expressed in the articles, though in 24 the Chinese idiom “岌岌可危” (precarious or in imminent danger) exaggerates a bit of the meaning in the phrase “on one’s heels” from the ST.

6. Discussion and conclusion

These rewording of headlines and news stories are by no means randomly “transedited” by translators without being aware of it, given the complicated process of a piece of news assembly process before it goes to the reading public, i.e. through news editor, filtered or written by sub-editor (cf. Tsai 2005Bell 1991, :45White 1997) .  The Chinese translations of FTC have shown that the focal points have been changed from reporting an event to something mostly in the negative sense. Thus such headlines not only become more eye-catching, but also distinguish themselves from most headlines carried on the Chinese news media. As such can be substantiated by the search with the key word“人民币汇率”(RMB exchange rate) on RN, the results mostly revolves around 人民币汇率并非中美贸易失衡的主要原因 (RMB exchange rate is not the main reason of trade imbalance between the US and China), which serves to strengthen objects of the frame on the Chinese side.  While the framing effort on the side of FTC shows that it is reconstructing the reality that the Chinese economy is ailing with “concerns” and “austerity” measures, and the rewriting of some headlines further orients towards this end as well.  The one under “Renminbi is the key to settle the problem of imbalance,” in rewriting the headline into “the Chinese consumer” is a case in point, in which the TT conforms more to the framing on the western side rather than a faithful rendition of the ST.      
The translated or transedited news texts from both FTC and RN serve to disseminate the frames on both sides in their headline, which is the first line of information that reader will come across and will contribute to assisting them in making decisions whether they will read the article further or not. No matter what the content will come along, the headlines have succeeded in reconstructing the frames for the different institutions they represent. 
In the body of the news, take the word “booty” for an example. It is deleted in example 3 in the sentence: “…taking its total booty past $2,000bn.”  Booty, which carries similar meaning with loot, means “especially literacy, valuable things that a group of people, especially an army that has just won a victory, take away or steal from somewhere, those seized in war,” though informally also means “something gained or won” according to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (International Edition) (2004). Thus the deletion reflects the deliberation on the part of the translator on gaining access to Chinese market in comprehending the derogatory sense of the word. 
In the case of RN, the deletion of the much higher salary of western workers in No. 12 also accommodates to the Chinese media in the convention of reporting mostly the good news in appraising and commending the Party’s policy and the country’s governing. Though the fact is already known to the Chinese general public, the media does not mean to convey the message as strong evidence from the western media which counters to the taste of the Communist Party. The deletion of the counter argument in No. 15 is even more conspicuous in serving to reconstructing the fact, which looks more like that the American main stream media is admitting that they are doing things wrong in “making irresponsible remarks.”   
Hence the analysis concludes that news translations, no matter comparable in parallel texts or transedited passages are a reconstruction of reality by conforming to the framing of different institutions they represent. Just as what Tuchman (1978, 196) argues that news “not only defines and redefines, constitutes and reconstitutes social meanings; it also defines and redefines, constitutes and reconstitutes ways of doing things – existing processes in existing institutions.”


科技英语与翻译). Taipei(台北): Bookman Translation Library(书林出版有限公司). 
现代汉语词典(Contemporary Chinese Dictionary). Bejing: 商务印书馆(Commercial Press).  

Volume 54 (Numéro 4):684-703. 
英汉互译实践与技巧). Beijing(北京): Tsinghua University Press(清华大学出版社).

This paper was presented at the FIT 7th Asian Translators' Forum, 27-29th 2013 in Penang, Malaysia.

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About Nancy X. Liu

Nancy X. Liu

Nancy Xiuzhi Liu is an Assistant Professor in Translation and Interpreting, Mandarin and English at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. Her on-going research is media text translation from the perspective of communication studies and discourse analysis. Her research interests also revolve around the translation of cultural-related texts between English and Chinese, as well as pedagogical researches into teaching, curriculum and material development for MA students.

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