TRANSLATION – THE CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION

Translation is not only a linguistic act. Every translation activity has one or more specific purposes and whichever they may be, the main aim of translation is to serve as a cross-cultural bi/multilingual communication vehicle among people. This is what makes of translation one of the most demanding and intellectually difficult tasks.

In the words of Nida and Taber (1974):

 

“Translating consists of reproducing, in the target language, the nearest equivalent to the message in the source language, in the first place in the semantic aspect and, in the second place, in the stylistic aspect.”

 

International trade, increased migration, globalization, and the expansion of the mass media and technology are some of the main factors for the speedy development of this activity. Consequently, the translator assumes a critical part as a bilingual or multi-lingual culturally diverse transmitter of culture and truths by endeavoring to translate ideas, concepts, and information in an assortment of writings as faithfully and accurately as possible. To a great extent, the quality of translation will depend on the quality of the translator.  It is connected with translation either as an action or as a result of an action. It is an action of transferring meaning from one language to another taking into account a number of crucial factors. These should include, but not limited to words, context, grammar rules, culture, writing conventions and words or utterances difficult to translate, such as idioms. From here, it is important to highlight that a translator is not only a bilingual individual but also bi-cultural one. Simply because language and culture cannot be separated. The translator not only has to transfer a text from one culture to another, but also to a cultural condition.

In order for that, a good professional translator is required to have strong translation skills, not just the linguistic knowledge. It is not just a matter of word – to – word translation. There comes a time when direct translation would not work because language pairs might be structurally impossible, or the target language does not have a corresponding expression. Thus, the generated text would have a different meaning or sense, a foreign structure or no meaning at all. This is when the translator has to use oblique translation techniques which imply modulation, adaptation, concretization or differentiation, paraphrasing, logical derivation, borrowing, calque, transposition, and equivalence because different languages may use different linguistic forms based on history, social structure, religion, traditional customs and everyday usage.  Remember that culture communicates its peculiarities in a way that is ‘culture-bound’: social/cultural words, proverbs and obviously informal idiomatic expressions, whose origin and use are per se a remarkably bound to the culture concerned. As translators, we are called upon to do a cross-cultural translation whose success will rely on our understanding of the culture we are working with.

Sugeng Hariyanto in his article called ‘The Implication of Culture on Translation Theory and Practice’, basing on existing translations gives the following overview of translation procedures to translate culturally-bound words or phrases.

  1. Transference – the SL word is brought into the target language text.
  2. Naturalization – the SL word is brought into the target language text and the writing is adjusted to the target language text writing system.
  3. Using cultural equivalent – the SL word is replaced with the TL cultural word.
  4. Using synonym – the SL word is translated into neutral TL word.
  5. Using descriptive equivalent – the translator explains the description and/or function of the idea embodied in the SL word. Usually, it results in long wording.
  6. Using recognized translation – the SL word is replaced with the previously recognized translation of the SL word in the TL.
  7. Using componential analysis – SL word is replaced with a more general TL word plus one or more TL sense components to complete the meaning which is not embodied within the first TL word. At a glance, it is like descriptive equivalent, but much shorter and does not involve the function of the idea of the SL word.
  8. Reduction – SL word or phrase, as a translation unit, is replaced with a TL word or phrase which does not embrace part of the SL word meaning.
  9. Expansion – SL word or phrase as a translation unit, is replaced with a TL word or phrase which covers the SL word meaning plus something else.
  10. Addition and note – an addition or note is added after the translation of the TL word or phrase. This addition is clearly not a part of the translation.
  11. Deletion – SL word or phrase, as a translation unit, is dropped in the TLT.
  12. Modulation – the SL word or phrase, as a translation unit, is translated into a TL word or phrase; and this involves a change in the point of view.
  13. Literal translation – if an SL word or phrase, as a translation unit, is translated into a TL word or phrase, without breaking the TL syntactic rules 2

We can then conclude that a text will convey its cultural components from one language (source -SL) to another (target – TL). A good translator has to consider culture in all its manifestations – words, connotations, nonverbal and others. The more similar the systems and cultures of the two languages, the more efficient the translation in cross-cultural communication will be.

 

 

References

1 Nida, E. y Taber Ch. 1974. The Theory and Practice of Translating. Brill, Leiden.

2 Sugeng Hariyanto. “The Implication of Culture on Translation Theory and Practice” retrieved from http://www.translationdirectory.com/

Claudia Ramirez
Claudia Ramirez
Born in El Salvador, Claudia Ramírez is a Lawyer, proofreader, and translator with over twelve years of experience including translation of literary texts. Member of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI), European Association of Translation Studies (EST), and Asociación Latinoamericana de Estudios de Traducción e Interpretación (ALAETI). Claudia translates from and into Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian) and French.

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