We Translate On Time

Foreignization vs Domestication

June 14th, 2019

The act of translation has been in use for millennia; however, it was not until the twentieth century that it became a well-studied discipline and the idea of translation strategies became more prevalent. In the nineteenth century, just before major interest in translation studies began, Schleiermacher made an indication to a pair of translation strategies, that were later coined as “Foreignization” and “Domestication”. Domestication and foreignization are strategies in translation, regarding the degree to which translators make a text conform to the target culture. Domestication brings the writer to the reader, but Foreignization takes the reader to the writer. Therefore, is one strategy better than the other? Or can they be used in parallel?

Whether a text should be domesticated or foreignized largely depends on the purpose of the text. Domestication removes any challenges or violated conventions and does not remind the reader that they are reading a translation. In lieu of forcing the reader to deal with unfamiliar conventions and concepts, the text is made more fluent and familiar for the reader. By foreignizing a text, the reader is forced into a new environment that challenges the literary tradition.

Foreignization and Domestication should not be viewed as a dichotomy by rather as a continuum. The benefit of domesticating is that changing an object to a more familiar object, could aid the reader in understanding the text and increase how they are affected. For example, instead of characters playing “Xiangqi” which is a Chinese strategy game, they could play Chess which is also a strategy game but is more familiar to western audiences. If a reader cannot identify with any of the features in a text, they could feel isolated. While, Domestication aides the reader is understanding the meaning of the original text, the target text’s fidelity could come under scrutiny.

Foreignizing can cause a lot of affect but it has a higher chance of creating negative affect, and it is less likely to leave the reader completely unaffected. It could be used as a shock stratagem. By using foreign conventions, the reader is forced outside of their comfort zone and it could be used to reinforce the idea that they are reading a translated text. For example, a foreign language could be introduced into a paragraph with the purpose of confusing the audience.

Through the combined use of Foreignization and Domestication which can be used in parallel and complement each other, a comprehensible text can be achieved. Foreignization maybe the most empowering for a translator as it allows them to permeate the target text most thoroughly; however, Domestication often has more effect on the reader and the translator facilitates the process towards fluency and naturalness.


Susan Bernofsky (1997) Schleiermacher’s Translation Theory and Varieties of Foreignization, The Translator, 3:2, 175-192

by Joshua Binfor