About the Author(s)

Amanda Nokele Email symbol
Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, University of South Africa, South Africa

Koliswa Moropa
Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, University of South Africa, South Africa


Nokele, A. & Moropa, K., 2016, ‘Indlela or uhambo? Translator style in Mandela’s autobiography’, Literator 37(2), a1286. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i2.1286

Original Research

Indlela or uhambo? Translator style in Mandela’s autobiography

Amanda Nokele, Koliswa Moropa

Received: 04 Feb. 2016; Accepted: 07 July 2016; Published: 31 Oct. 2016

Copyright: © 2016. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


One of the aspects that concerns translation scholars most is the question of the translator’s style. It was realised that little research had been undertaken investigating the individual style of literary translators in terms of what might be distinct about their language usage. Consequently, a methodological framework for such an investigation was suggested. Subsequently considerable research has been conducted on style in the European languages. However, the same cannot be said about African languages. This article proposes a corpus-driven study of translators’ style, comparing isiXhosa and isiZulu translations of Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom by Mtuze and Ntuli, both published in 2001. The target texts are compared with each other focusing on the use of italics, loan words and expansions and contractions as features that distinguish the two translators. The source text was used not to evaluate the target texts but to understand the translators’ choices. ParaConc Multilingual Concordancer was used to align the source text and its target texts for easy examination. The results revealed that the fact that the two translators were dealing with an autobiography did not deter them from displaying their personal imprints as creative writers.


Indlela of uhambo? Vertalerstyl in Mandela se outobiografie. Die kwessie rondom vertalerstyl is ’n aspek wat vertaalkundiges besonder interesseer. Daar is besef dat daar nog min navorsing oor die individuele styl van literêre vertalers gedoen is, veral rakende hul unieke taalgebruik. Gevolglik is ’n metodologiese raamwerk vir sodanige navorsing voorgestel. In Europese tale is reeds beduidende navorsing gedoen oor styl maar in Afrika-tale nie. In aansluiting by voorgestelde definisies van vertalerstyl, bied hierdie artikel ’n korpusgedrewe studie aan van vertalerstyl waarin die Xhosa- en Zoeloe-vertalings – deur onderskeidelik Mtuze en Ntuli (albei verskyn in 2001) – van Mandela se Long Walk to Freedom vergelyk word. Die doeltekste word met mekaar vergelyk ten opsigte van die gebruik van skuinsdruk, leenwoorde, uitbreiding en verkorting as onderskeidende kenmerke van die twee vertalers. Die bronteks is nie gebruik om die doeltekste te evalueer nie, maar eerder om die vertalers se keuses te begryp. Die ParaConc Multilingual Concordancer is gebruik om die bronteks en die doeltekste te belyn ten einde die ondersoek te vergemaklik. Die resultate het getoon dat die feit dat die twee vertalers met ’n outobiografie te make het, hulle nie daarvan weerhou het om hul persoonlike styl as kreatiewe skrywers op die teks af te druk nie.


No translation is an exact copy of its original, no matter how faithfully the translator attempts the translation (Mikhailov & Villikka 2001:378). Mikhailov and Villikka further assert that even if two translators translate the same text ‘as faithfully to the original as possible’, the result would be ‘two clearly different translations’. This is owing to the fact that each person employs his or her own idiolect (Landers 2001:90). It has been widely argued in translation studies that literary translators should adhere to the style of the original author (Chesterman 1997; Landers 2001; Nida & Taber 1974). Landers (2001:49–52) argues against this notion because in his view, products of such a practice are awkward and incomprehensible. He is of the opinion that translators should decide what kind of text they want to create and whether they want to be visible or not. To him, producing a text that ‘leaves as little evidence as possible’ of the translation process is what translators strive for (Landers, 2001:49). He views the translator as the person in control of the process, the decision maker. Jones (2011:143–144) draws attention to the fact that there is tension among translation scholars regarding this issue. Some advocate for replicating the style of the author, while others argue that translators are writers in their own right and inevitably leave their mark. He further asserts that literary translation is a manipulative exercise because it involves issues of identity and ideology, which influence the translator’s decision-making and style of writing (Jones 2011:156–157).

It has also been argued that autobiographies are not only sensitive or intimate texts (Brierley 2000) but also historical artefacts that should be translated as faithfully to the original as possible (Aurell 2006; Honey 2006). However, this is very difficult to achieve since translators are individuals with unique thinking patterns (Landers 2001:90). When considering the fact that translation is a cognitive process which involves decoding, encoding and decision-making (Albir and Alves 2009; Hewson & Martin 1991; Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk 2010), the final product cannot be the same as the original. Every translator aims to achieve fluency; as a result, they make decisions that will ensure that they achieve this goal (Landers 2001). These decisions manifest themselves through the mode of expression they select, which sometimes reveals itself through certain patterns. It is against this background that the researchers decided to explore the style of the two translators who translated Mandela’s autobiography. They wanted to discover how the translators dealt with the book as a literary text and autobiography. The question this study therefore seeks to answer is: What kind of decisions did the latter make and what kind of recurring patterns that distinguish the two translators can be identified from their translations?

The aim of this paper is to present a comparative study of these translators’ styles. Style in translation is revealed by the choices translators make during the translation process (Baker 2000). The focus of the study is therefore placed on the identification of recurring features of translator style exhibited by choices made by Peter Mtuze and Bheki Ntuli in their renderings of Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom into isiXhosa and isiZulu as Indlela ende eya enkululekweni and Uhambo olude oluya enkululekweni, respectively. Long Walk to Freedom was translated into four South African languages, that is, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Sesotho sa Leboa. IsiXhosa, isiZulu and Sesotho sa Leboa are three of the previously marginalised languages of South Africa, which together with eight others such as the formerly dominant Afrikaans and English now constitute the 11 official languages of the democratic South Africa.

The authors first present a brief biographical sketch scrutinising the translators. The second section presents the definition of style followed by a review of existing literature on translator style and the theoretical framework underpinning the study. A concise description of the methodology followed in the analysis is outlined; thereafter, the interpretation of the findings is discussed. The conclusion is then presented by way of a summary.

Biographical sketches of the translators

Prof. P.T. Mtuze

Prof. Mtuze is a well-known Xhosa writer who started writing at a young age, whilst still at school. Nokele (2011) noted that his writings cover many genres: short stories, novels, drama, poetry and translations. He also wrote his autobiography, An alternative struggle: an illustrated autobiography, which was published in 2007. Mention should be made of Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom which he translated as Indlela ende eya enkululekweni as being the best amongst his translations. Most of his books were prescribed for schools and have also been converted into braille for the blind. He received awards from the national and Eastern Cape provincial departments of Sport, Arts and Culture for his contribution to isiXhosa literature. Prof. Mtuze started his working life as a court interpreter in the previous government’s Justice Department. He also worked for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Radio Xhosa as an announcer in 1969 and was later appointed as Director of Language Services in the [then] Ciskei government. As an academic, he started out as an isiXhosa lecturer in the Department of African Languages at the University of South Africa in 1985 where he taught until 1988, retiring as professor and head of the Department of African Languages at Rhodes University in 2006. He is currently the Publications Co-ordinator for Vivlia Publishers and Booksellers in King William’s Town and serves as an ecclesiastical canon in the Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown.

Prof. D.B.Z. Ntuli

Prof. Ntuli is a retired professor from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He started working at UNISA in 1967 as a language assistant, eventually retiring from academia in 1999, holding the position of professor and head of the isiZulu section in the Department of African Languages. Before he joined the UNISA staff, he worked for SABC as an announcer from 1964 to 1967. Prof. Ntuli is a renowned isiZulu writer, has published a number of works including novels, dramas, short stories, poetry and essays, and is well known for his short stories and essays (Mabuza 2000) for which he won the BW Vilakazi Award. Ntuli is also a distinguished translator who won the South African Translators’ Institute Prize for Outstanding Translation in 2003, for translating the book under discussion, Long Walk to Freedom as Uhambo olude oluya enkululekweni. Furthermore, he is also one of the translators who translated Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet into the South African indigenous languages of isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Setswana, Sesotho sa Leboa and Xitsonga. His translation of The Prophet into isiZulu is known as Umpholofethi (2003). His latest translation is that of the famous Lewis Carroll’s children’s book Alice in Wonderland into isiZulu, which is known as U-Alice Ezweni Lezimanga (2014), and he is much esteemed for his exceptional contribution to isiZulu literature (Mabuza 2000:389). He is now a freelance reviewer, editor and translator for various publishers.

As is evident from these biographies, both translators have a wealth of experience as writers and translators in their respective languages. They are both very well educated and both have academic backgrounds at the professorial level. It is therefore interesting to note the similarity between their career paths as language specialists.


Nida and Taber (1974:207) define style as ‘the patterning of choices made by a particular author within the resources and limitations of language and literary genre in which he is working’. They also maintain that style ‘gives a text its uniqueness’. Landers (2001:90) explains it as ‘a characteristic mode of expression’ displayed by the translator, whether consciously or unconsciously. The emphasis is on patterning of choices rather than one-off occurrences (Baker 2000:245; Munday 2008). Bakhtin (1981:276 in Munday 2008) makes a very important point when he points out that ‘any utterance – oral or written … can reflect the individuality of the speaker (or writer); that is, it possesses individual style’. These definitions also highlight the visibility of the translator that has been advocated by Venuti (1986). Venuti argues that translators should make themselves visible by applying strategies that would make their intervention in the text recognisable. By so doing, they display their individual styles.

The definition that has been adopted in this paper is that of Saldanha (2011) which she adapted from Short’s (1996 in Saldanha 2011:28) definition of authorial writing and thereafter applied to translation. Saldanha argues that identifying translator style is more complex than identifying authorial style because there is always a link with or reference to the original author or text. Saldanha (2011:31) proposes the following definition:

A ‘way of translating’ which:

  • is felt to be recognisable across a range of translations by the same author,
  • distinguishes the translator’s work from that of others,
  • constitutes a coherent pattern of choice,
  • is ‘motivated’, in the sense that it has a discernible function or functions, and
  • cannot be explained purely with reference to the author or source text style, or as a result of linguistic constraints.

The last point of her definition sets it apart from other definitions like that of Boase-Beier (2006), for example. Boase-Beier (2006:5) proposes four viewpoints from which style in translation can be considered:

  • the style of the source text as an expression of its author’s choices,
  • the style of the source text in its effects on the reader (and on the translator as reader),
  • the style of the target text as an expression of choices made by its author (who is the translator), and
  • the style of the target text in its effects on the reader.

Boase-Beier’s approach places emphasis on the text instead of the translator while Saldanha’s definition emphasises the fact that the style of the author is not used as a yardstick but as a reference to confirm the translator’s shifts. Its use is optional.

This paper represents an attempt to reveal stylistic patterns in translated texts. By focusing on and comparing the isiXhosa and isiZulu translations of Long Walk to Freedom, the study adds an African perspective to the existing literature on corpus-based studies of translators’ styles.

Before analysing the styles of the two translators, it is necessary to briefly mention the theoretical framework underpinning this study.

Theoretical framework

This study is guided by the Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) and functionalist theories. These theories were propounded at more or less the same time as a result of dissatisfaction with the prescriptive equivalence-based theories of translation. Both these theories advocate for target-oriented translation. The aim of DTS theorists was to describe translation phenomena and to encourage the inclusion of the target culture and socio-political characteristics of the target audience (Toury 1980, 1995). Proponents of this approach examine a corpus of authentic texts in an attempt to understand the nature of the texts and the constraints operating on them. In this article, the researchers aim to determine the styles of the translators by describing the techniques they adopted, in line with Toury’s (1982:24) assertion that ‘descriptive studies are actually the best means of testing, refuting, and especially amending and modifying the underlying theory’.

Being a form of communication, translations are regarded as having a ‘skopos’ (Vermeer 2000), a term coined by Hans Vermeer referring to the aim or purpose of a translation. The functionalists view translation as a human action with a purpose. It is therefore this function of the text in the target system that determines the translation process, that is, which translation strategies can be adopted (Nord 1997). The translator is regarded as ‘the’ expert in the translational action to carry out these functions (Vermeer 2000:228). There are four text functions that were identified by functionalist theorists, that is, the referential function, which has the informative function as a sub-function, the expressive, the phatic and the appellative functions. As experts, the initiators of the translational act entrust translators with the responsibility of carrying out the translation functions.

The biographical background of the translators that is provided in the Prof. PT Mtuze and Prof. DBZ Ntuli sections above confirms that the translators under investigation are experts. According to Mtuze (2003:141), the translation of Long Walk to Freedom was initiated by Vivlia Publishers towards the end of 1999. Although the purpose of the translation is not clearly stipulated in Mtuze’s report, it is assumed that it was meant to inform all South Africans about the struggles against the apartheid government as reflected in Mandela’s life story. In his article, Mtuze (2003:141) mentions that all four translators, that is, Krog (Afrikaans), Mtuze (isiXhosa), Ntuli (isiZulu) and Serudu (Sesotho sa Leboa), held a meeting with Mandela to discuss certain cultural aspects they would come across in the translation process. This shows that they were concerned about their responsibility for translating the text as well as wanting to avoid misinterpretation of anything. They did not want to transgress the loyalty principle (Nord 1997) and misrepresent the author. They as ‘the experts’ had to decide how they would translate and fulfil the informative function of the text.

The following section outlines the studies that have been conducted on translator style in order to place this study in context.

Translator’s thumbprint

The question of translator style was introduced by Baker (2000). After noticing the general preoccupation with the style of a literary writer and acknowledging that translators are writers in their own right, she became interested in finding a way to reveal the distinctive style of a literary translator. She was aware that translators are individuals with unique personalities which may manifest themselves in their translations. She argues that it is impossible to produce a stretch of language without leaving one’s ‘fingerprints on it’ (Baker 2000:244). This concurs with Herman’s notion (1996) that there is a translator’s voice in every translation (in Boase-Beier 2006). Baker (2000:245) defined style as ‘a kind of thumb-print that is expressed in a range of linguistic – as well as non-linguistic – features’. She further explains that style may encompass, among other issues, consistent use of specific translation strategies, glossing and manner of expression. The aim of her paper was to propose a methodology for identifying consistent stylistic characteristics that could be attributed to the translator. She proposed a corpus-based investigation where the researcher would study and compare certain patterns displayed by translators and then establish whether the patterns identified could be found in other works translated by the same translator. This was achieved by exploring the use of the English reporting verb SAY and its variations by Peter Clark and Peter Bush in their translations. In her findings, she noted that Clark used SAY more frequently, especially its past tense form, than Bush. This, she argues, could be attributed to the influence of the source language which is Arabic. She used the British National Corpus and Translational English Corpus as her control corpora. Since Baker’s (2000) publication, numerous studies investigating elements of individual translators’ styles have been published.

Mikhailov and Villikka (2001) conducted research to determine whether translators do have ‘stylistic fingerprints’. They compared fiction texts originally written in Russian with their Finnish translations. They collected a corpus of texts originally written by the same author and other authors in Russian and compared these with Finnish translations of different texts by the same translator as well as translations of the same text by different translators. They used richness of vocabulary, frequent words, word, sentence and paragraph counts and favourite words as their basis of comparison. With regard to vocabulary and frequent words, they discovered that these were not reliable indicators of individual style as the translators tended to stick to the source text. However, they found that ‘the use of modal words, particles, conjunctions, grammar forms, etc., as well as splitting or joining sentences and paragraphs and expanding or shortening the text’ can be taken as indicators of personal features (2001:383).

In 2004 and 2007, Winters conducted two separate studies to determine features of translator style in the translation of Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned as Die Schönen und Verdammten. The novel was translated into German by two translators, Renate Orth-Guttmann and Hans-Christian Oeser in 1998. In her first study (Winters 2004), she explored the use of loan words and code switches. In her second study (Winters 2007), she investigated the use of speech–act report verbs as features of translator style. Both studies were corpus based. In her investigation of the use of loan words and code switches, Winters used WordSmith Tools and Multiconc concordancers to interrogate her data. WordSmith Tools was used to obtain key words, frequency lists and concordance lists while Multiconc was useful for producing parallel concordances of the translations. In her findings, Winters revealed that Orth-Guttmann preferred to germanise loan words whilst Oeser tended to code switch. In other words, Orth-Guttmann tends to domesticate whilst Oeser is inclined to keep the foreign words.

As in her analysis of loan words and code switching, Winters used WordSmith Tools and Multiconc to facilitate the scrutiny of speech–act report verbs. She discovered that Oeser preferred lexical repetition whilst Orth-Guttmann avoided it. Orth-Guttmann, she noticed, exercised her creativity by employing a greater variety of verbs whilst Oeser was inclined to repeat verbs that appear in the source text. Both studies undertaken by Winters confirm that no two translators can produce identical translations because each has a different personality which influence their translation style.

Translator style manifests itself in various ways. A pilot study conducted by Kamenická in 2007 revealed that an ‘explicitation profile’ can be used to distinguish translators and thus contribute to identifying translators’ individual styles. Kamenická utilised a parallel corpus of translations based on Halliday’s language metafunctions: experiential, logical, interpersonal and textual. The focus of comparison was on measuring the frequency, distribution and variability of explicitation phenomena in the translations of two novels: David Lodge’s Small World by A. Přidal and John Cheever’s Falconer by R. Nenadál. Her definition of an explicitation profile includes implicitation since this is usually studied alongside explicitation (Kamenická 2007:118).

Adding to the existing literature, Munday (2008) explored Harriet de Onis’s translation, amongst others, focusing on the use of condensed pre-modifiers, a variety of verbs or process forms and prosodic elements. He also studied ideological intervention when examining lexical choices, demonstrating that stylistic choices and ideological orientation do contribute to a translator’s individual style.

In 2010, Pekkanen conducted a very thought-provoking research in which she confirmed the position adopted by earlier studies that argued it is possible to talk about translators’ style. She studied translations undertaken by Saarikoski, Matson, Mäkinen and Linturi of different novels from English into Finnish. Her findings demonstrated how translation shifts reveal the individual style of a translator. She also proposed a framework for identifying translator style where the researcher investigates the micro-level data and the effects thereof at the macro-level. Pekkanen drew attention to the fact that translator style cannot be interrogated by computer software alone, owing to the different structures of languages. The software may not be able to recognise inflected lexical items found in certain languages.

The studies cited above underscore the fact that translators do tend to leave a personal imprint on the texts they manipulate and that to a large extent it is possible to identify such characteristics. Observable in these studies is the fact that they are corpus based. Most of them used two types of corpora: the core corpus which consisted of translations under investigation and a control corpus, which served as a reference to confirm the personal imprint. The present study differs from these studies in that it does not employ a control corpus because the focus of style is limited to the translation of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography by the two translators. The researchers believe that if ‘style is inextricably intertwined with one’s idiolect’ (Landers 2001:90), this research is legitimate and a control corpus is not necessary; hence, the first point in Saldanha’s definition of style (par 3) has not been considered. The study will provide fresh evidence of translator style to the existing corpus-based studies.

The section that follows presents the method of analysis that was adopted.


For the present study, the authors compiled a corpus, which consisted of the aforementioned isiXhosa and isiZulu translations of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, entitled Indlela ende eya enkululekweni and Uhambo olude oluya enkululekweni. The original text was used for reference.

The authors proposed a data-driven approach to the study, aiming to uncover patterns that distinguish between the two translations. Barlow’s (2001) ParaConc Concordancer which produces parallel concordances was used for ease of analysis. The three texts, that is, the English original and the isiXhosa and isiZulu translations, were aligned sentence by sentence. For the purposes of this study, just part eight and nine were uploaded on ParaConc for analysis. Although all three texts could be uploaded on ParaConc software, the researchers were able to view only two texts at a time, the original and one translation. The two translations were also aligned separately. The graphic in Figure 1 is a window with the English and isiXhosa texts. On the bottom left corner of the window, it is indicated that two parallel texts were uploaded. On the bottom right corner of the window is recorded the number of words for each text, starting with the source text, English text and then the target texts, isiXhosa and isiZulu. Figure 2 illustrates the alignment of the two translations. ParaConc allows the researcher to see instances of search words in the source text on one screen and the parallel sentences in the two translations, as in Figure 3. For the texts to be uploaded on the software programme, they have to be scanned, converted to text format and thoroughly cleaned to remove foreign characters that are created during the conversion process. This takes a great deal of time; as a result, only selected sections of the book were prepared for the software. A manual inspection of the layout of the translations was also carried out and this yielded useful data for analysis too. Both methods of analysis have advantages in that concordancers allow quicker and easier analysis, while a manual analysis is not preoccupied with the results. The isiXhosa and isiZulu texts were given Afrikaans and Swedish labels since ParaConc does not have these languages in its built-in list.

FIGURE 1: English-isiXhosa parallel texts.

FIGURE 2: IsiXhosa and isiZulu alignment.

FIGURE 3: High organ concordance lines.

Figure 1 and Figure 2 did not just depict the alignment of the uploaded texts but furnished word count information as well. Looking at the bottom right corner of Figure 1, one notices the word count for each text. The word count for parts eight and nine is 51 149 for the English text; 38 077 for isiXhosa and 37 180 words for isiZulu. Figure 2 portrays the word count of part eight only. From these figures, one notices the difference in word count between the two translations: isiXhosa uses 20 522 and isiZulu 19 775 words. Figure 3 displays the results of the word search for ‘High Organ’. The concordance lines show that this word was rendered as ‘High Organ’ (iSigqeba esiPhezulu) in isiXhosa, a loan word plus the isiXhosa equivalent in brackets; and as ‘High Organ’ in isiZulu. What cannot be seen from the window are the italicised words. These can only be observed in the hard copy.

When the researchers were looking at the hard copies of the translations, they could note immediately that the book covers have the same design, but there is a slight difference in the title and contents. Mtuze rendered the title Long Walk to Freedom as Indlela ende eya enkululekweni (Long road to freedom) while Ntuli used Uhambo olude oluya enkululekweni (Long walk to freedom), which means the same as the source text. Looking at the page numbers, it was noticed that there is a difference of approximately 20 pages in length between the two translations. This corresponds with the difference in word count that has been noted above. Another difference that was noted is that the isiZulu translation has a translator’s preface, while the isiXhosa one does not. Instead, it contains a brief note on the list of technical terms that appear in the book. This is found at the end of the book. In his preface, Ntuli reports on the challenges he encountered whilst he was translating the autobiography. One of those he mentions, for instance, is that of indigenising loan words but at the same time not adhering strictly to isiZulu orthographic rules. Instead of writing ihelikhophutha, he chose to write ihelikhoptha because the former does not sound right: ‘kuzwakala kungemnandi’ (Mandela 2001b). Mtuze however reported on the challenges he faced when he was translating the text in the form of a journal article (Mtuze 2003). These differences prompted a more detailed analysis of the texts. The following characteristics were noted and examined: use of loan words for place names and months, loan words in italics plus target equivalents, loan words with paraphrase, use of indigenised words with paraphrase and expansion and deletion.

Findings and interpretation

This section presents the interpretation of findings.

Use of loan words for place names and months

This section provides the incidences of loan words in the isiXhosa and isiZulu translations and the source text. Translating by using loan words is a strategy that can be used to compensate for non-equivalence, that is, when the target language lacks the specific word. With regard to names of places and institutions, Mtuze uses African names in all possible instances while Ntuli keeps to English names. However, it was observed that Ntuli rendered Johannesburg and Durban as eGoli and eThekwini, respectively. Although these are only two examples, they suggest that Mtuze would prefer coming closer to the vocabulary of the target reader whenever possible. It is interesting to note here that both translators used loan words for months of the year when they could have used indigenous names. One can argue that they opted for indigenised loan words in this respect because the latter have been accepted by the speech communities and have become part of their everyday discourse. Hence, they wanted the texts to be more accessible to their target readers. Table 1 portrays the use of loan words.

TABLE 1: Loan words in source text and target texts.
Use of loan words in italics and target equivalent for legal and/or political terms

Here, we discuss the most prominent stylistic feature in the translations, that is, the use of italicised loan words and their equivalents in brackets. Both translators used many such words, especially those that had to do with legal and/or political terms. Words of this type are used to compensate for the lack of equivalence in the target language (Baker 2011:33). Using borrowed words is one way of creating new terms or words and is a common strategy for language development. Striking are the different approaches the translators adopted when rendering these terms in their target languages. For example, Mtuze, in most cases, first writes the Act in italics and then gives the equivalent thereof in isiXhosa in brackets. He then uses the italicised English word or phrase alone later in the text. Ntuli on the other hand starts with the isiZulu expression followed by the English equivalent. The English equivalent is not italicised. This can be noticed throughout the texts as shown in Table 2. The examples cited here are just a small sample of what is in the book.

TABLE 2: Use of italics and target equivalents.

When reading texts are published in any language, usually one notices that foreign words appear in italics. For example, in an English text, French words or phrases are normally printed in italics. In Long Walk to Freedom (Mandela 1994:32, 544), words and phrases in isiXhosa or Afrikaans are italicised. Ntuli has deviated from this norm: this is a significant decision that differentiates his style from Mtuze’s. It can be argued that Ntuli chose not to italicise the English words because people incorporate these words ‘as is’ in their daily conversations most of the time. In this regard, Mabuza (2000:382) notes Ntuli’s preference for loan words in his short stories and essays. He comments that this demonstrates that isiZulu is a flexible language (Mabuza 2000:385). Also noteworthy in this table is that Mtuze supplies isiXhosa equivalents for almost all the loan words he uses in his translation. Ntuli on the other hand sometimes avoids loan words and uses paraphrase instead (refer to examples 3, 8, 11, 15, 20, 22 and 23). In some examples, one notes that Mtuze did not italicise the source words (see example 24). In this regard, Pekkanen (2010:51) maintains that individual propensities need not be uniform but may vary or contradict each other.

The following section briefly discusses indigenised loan words plus paraphrase and expansion and contraction as examples of explicitation and simplification. The latter two strategies are some of the features that reveal translator style. Simplification can be defined as the translator’s attempt to make the language of translation more easily understood by the reader. According to Baker (1996 in Moropa 2005:269), simplification involves making matters easier for the reader. It raises the level of explicitness by resolving ambiguity. Three types of simplification have been identified in translation studies: syntactic, stylistic and lexical. Stylistic simplification, which has been observed in this study, entails splitting long sentences in the source text, replacing elaborate phraseology with shorter ones and reducing or deleting redundant information (Laviosa-Braithwaite in Moropa 2011:269). Kruger (2000 in Moropa 2005:11) notes that in South Africa this phenomenon is used frequently in health texts which are aimed at African readers in rural areas. This is not true for health texts only, but for literary and other texts as well, as has been revealed in studies conducted by Moropa (2005, 2011). Moropa (2005) rightfully asserts that translators apply this strategy subconsciously.

Explicitation is the flipside of simplification. Shuttleworth and Cowie (1997:55) define the former as ‘the phenomenon which frequently leads to TT stating ST information in more explicit form than the original’. The translator may add explanatory phrases, spell out implicit information or add connectives so that the text can flow logically and read easily. This process may be motivated by the translator’s conscious desire to explain the meaning to the target text reader.

Indigenised loan words plus explanation

Using a borrowed word plus an explanation is one of the strategies for dealing with non-equivalence (Baker 2011). Here, we have two strategies combined: adopting a borrowed word in the target language and thereafter indigenising it, that is, using the target language orthography and coupling it with a paraphrase or explanation. As illustrated in Table 3, Mtuze tends to combine these strategies while Ntuli would either use the loan word in indigenous form or employ a paraphrase. The reason for Mtuze to utilise both strategies, one could argue, is for the benefit of the target reader, to facilitate her or his understanding. It can also be argued that this represents a method of preserving and developing the language. For instance, if the reader did not know the Xhosa word for ‘crayfish’, he or she will be able to deduce it from the translation. It is also interesting to observe that Mtuze chose ‘iiferkekire’ a word borrowed from Afrikaans ‘verkyker’ (cf. example 5). This illustrates that languages expand their lexicon by borrowing from languages with which they co-exist. It has now become common to use borrowed words in ordinary conversation even when the particular word exists in the target language; as a result, the indigenous words tend to be lost. Keeping the original word in the domain benefits the language.

TABLE 3: Indigenised words plus paraphrase.

The Zulu translator only uses the loan word or a paraphrase at any one time. One may argue that he does not see the need to combine loan word and explanation since these are in the domain already. Since the word is used more often, the translator possibly did not regard it as necessary to explain further. The fact that the word has been indigenised indicates that it has been accepted by the speech community and has been included as part of the lexicon. Using a paraphrase is another characteristic that distinguishes Ntuli’s style from that of Mtuze.

Expansion and contraction

Expansion in simple terms means an increase in size. In this study, it refers to a process where the translator adds more words or information in an attempt to facilitate understanding on the part of the reader. Contraction is the opposite. This may be referred to as stylistic simplification which may be characterised by shortening of words, condensing of sentences and so forth. Instead of distracting the target reader with long explanations, the translator simply omits a word or expression.

As has been observed above, the isiXhosa text contains more pages and words than the isiZulu translation. This suggests that there is a kind of expansion or contraction in either of the translations. Expansion or contraction can be determined on the basis of word count. After a close examination of the two translations, it was discovered that Mtuze displays a tendency to explicate or add information, thereby expanding the text, while Ntuli has a propensity to delete or omit certain words or shorten sentences, resulting in a contracted text. Table 4 illustrates instances of expansion.

TABLE 4: Showing additions (expansion).

As illustrated, the additional information is printed in bold. The extra information provided by Mtuze in brackets is not crucial in that the meaning of the text is not dependent on it but could be useful. For example, the information provided in example 9 ‘eliphakathi eKoloni’ (which is inside the Cape) could be useful to a reader who does not know where the Great Karoo is situated. It would also help the reader to not confuse the Great Karoo with the Little Karoo (Klein Karoo). The description of the game ‘Scrabble’ (example 5) could also be useful to the reader who does not know what Scrabble is. In these examples, Mtuze employed explication as a way of simplifying information for the reader. In his article, he confirms (Mtuze 2003:151) that he sometimes used explication so that the ‘ordinary person could understand’. Words or phrases like ‘ukutsho ke’ (which means) ‘ngabula bona’ (according to them) or ‘ngabula maqabane’ (as the comrades would say) expose Mtuze’s voice as translator because these are not translations of what is in the source texts but translator’s additions. Ntuli, however, did not see the need to add anything. Unlike Mtuze, he did not regard it as necessary to repeat the direct quote in example 13 in English because he could render it in isiZulu. It could be argued, therefore, that the tendency to add more information is a personal trait distinguishing Mtuze from Ntuli.

Table 5 draws attention to sentences with deletions or contractions.

TABLE 5: Showing examples of contraction.

It is interesting to note that in their attempt to facilitate understanding, Mtuze and Ntuli applied different approaches. Mtuze seems to prefer elaborate phraseology while Ntuli opts for condensing the text. For instance, Ntuli in example 1 translated the source text in six words while Mtuze did so in 12 words, by omitting certain words or phrases which he thought were not important because they were not contributing to the meaning of the text. For example, the description of katkop (example 4) which is provided in brackets in the English and isiXhosa texts is omitted from the isiZulu text. Example 6 is another instance where Ntuli used a metaphor ‘ngaphakathi kopha kakhulu’ (inside I bled profusely) to shorten a longer expression. The choice of metaphor expressed the emotion more strongly than the source text.


As may be observed from the discussion above, translator style involves decision-making during the translation process. The translator displays her or his personal touch through the words he selects from his or her lexicon or ‘idiolect’. The most important aspect in our adapted definition of style is the recurrence or patterning of certain features. It has also been shown that style can be investigated from different angles, such as use of grammatical aspects, explicitation or, as in the case of this study, translation strategies. The literature furthermore revealed that style can be identified by comparing translated texts with other translations or with non-translated texts. In this study, we compared isiXhosa and isiZulu translations of Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. The investigation of the use of loan words in general suggests that Mtuze is closer to the source text than Ntuli. The frequent use of target equivalents alongside the English expressions not only facilitates understanding but also teaches translation students about translation strategies. Although the use of italics cannot be said to be a unique feature attributable to Mtuze, when compared with Ntuli’s work, it cannot be ignored. In the same vein, by not italicising foreign words in the isiZulu text, Ntuli made evident his thought processes, which differentiates him from Mtuze. By avoiding foreign words as much as possible and adopting the paraphrasing technique, Ntuli was moving the text closer to the reader.

As proposed by Mikhailov and Villikka (2001), expansion and contraction are other features which clearly distinguish the two translators. Mtuze displayed tendencies towards expansion while Ntuli was inclined to contraction. Although contraction and deletion could be disadvantageous to the target reader, in that crucial information could be lost, such a strategy simplifies the text and eases the tension whilst reading; sometimes too-long sentences hamper the reading process. Although sentence construction was not the focus of this study, sentence by sentence alignment suggests that Ntuli prefers to break up longer sentences. This finding is not conclusive but is an area that could be explored further. The analysis presented here illustrates that the function of the translation and the target reader were always at the back of the translators’ minds. It also suggests that Mtuze and Ntuli have different translating styles and have subsequently left indelible fingerprints on their respective translations of Long Walk to Freedom. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the two translators exemplified Venuti’s (1986) advocacy for visibility. This is evident in their translation of this autobiography. Doing so did not deter them from displaying their personal imprints as creative writers. As Pekkanen (2010) has indicated that translator style can be investigated in various ways, more features could be examined in future to reveal the style of the two translators or of others. It is hoped that this article will pave the way for further research into comparative translation studies as regards the indigenous languages of South Africa.


Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

A.N. was the project leader and was responsible for data collection. K.M. was responsible for theoretical framework on corpus design. Analysis was done by both authors.


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