К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2010
Автор: Витвицкая О. С.
In this article we intend to
take a quick look at some problems that exist in the field of transferring
culture through translation and share some findings that might prove useful.
People used to see translation
as a process of substituting source language items with analogous target
language items and it was believed that every word had an equivalent in another
language. As time went by, people began to notice there were some words that do
not have equivalents, mostly because the things they named did not exist in
other cultures. They became the “cruxes” of translation and were often referred
to as being “culture-specific”. In other
words, the concern up to the recent times has been with realias. That is, translators try to
deal with culture elements at the word-level. Over time some techniques have been
developed in an
attempt to find both universal and language-specific ways of dealing with this
stratum of lexis. Let us review these strategies as given in works of two authors.
Isabel Negro Alousque provides
an overview of some translation procedures and illustrates them through French.
1) Cultural equivalent. The
source language (SL) cultural word is translated by a target language (TL)
cultural word: les sans-abri ➞ the homeless, logement social ➞
2) Functional equivalent. The
SL cultural word is translated by a TL culture-free word: baccalauréat ➞
school leaving exam;
3) Descriptive equivalent. The
SL cultural word is replaced by a description of the word in the TL: civet ➞
4) Domestication. The SL
cultural word is adapted to the target culture: pause-café ➞
The SL cultural word keeps its graphic or morphological form to make it closer
to the source culture: punch (drink) .
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 previously recognized translation of the SL word in the
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 change in the point of view.
13. Literal translation - if a SL word or
phrase, as a translation unit, is translated into a TL word or phrase, without
breaking the TL syntactic rules .
The above mentioned techniques prove
useful under the condition that the translator possesses good knowledge of
realia of both cultures.
But if we look closer, culture
is not always ‘word-bound’. There is a stratum of information, and we tend to
think this stratum is a great deal larger that the word-stratum, that is
transferred through meaning rather than word form. Thereto, the same words that
seem to have the same meaning in both SL and TL in fact might not do so. Let us
take the case of ‘house’. Those who grew up in a middle-class American family,
when meeting the word in a text, will most likely think of a cottage with, probably,
a small garden, or, at least a lawn in the front. For the post-soviet union
generation, a house is an apartment house, block of flats. Hence, there is a distinction both between the
objects referred to by cultural words and between the function and value of
these objects in their cultural context (Bassnett 1991: 19 as cited in ).
Sometimes it is not even about
the direct meaning of a word. Some notions, or more often connotations, do not
have a separate word for themselves, but they go along with others. These are
called “associative realia” and reflect themselves in some notional components
of a word (Виноградов). For example, the title of a
novel by a Panamanian writer Joaquín Beleño “Luna Verde” in many
cultures may evoke only false associations and mixed feelings. But for people
of Panama or Chile this is a symbol of hope, an image of something new, because
green is associated with youth and beauty, and the moon represents the spirit
of a man, his destiny.
Thus the realization grew that not only
were particular items culture-specific but indeed the whole language was
specific to the particular culture it belonged or came from, to some degree or
the other. Edward Sapir maintains that language is the symbolic guide to
culture. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, to the effect that a language defined and
delimited the particular world-view of its speakers, in the sense that what
they could not say in their language was what they could not even conceive of,
seemed to support the view that the specificity of a culture was coextensive
with the specificity of its language .
A wide-know example says that the Eskimos
have around 20 words to name snow and that it is determined by their way of
life. Other languages do not have as many snow-words because they do not deal
with it to the same extent. But this fact does not mean that other nations “are
incapable of perceiving the items which are described with such specific
vocabulary elsewhere” . They can identify snow using phrases, and we are
sure such translation can be made with most languages.
Some approaches have been
developed to transfer cultural meaning of a text. Venuti suggests the
domestication and foreignization. “Domestication ‘leaves the reader in peace, as much as
possible, and moves the author towards him’. Foreignization, on the other hand,
‘leaves the writer alone, as much as possible and moves the reader towards the
Newmark speaks of transference and
componential analysis. Transference gives "local colour," keeping
cultural names and concepts. He describes componential analysis as being
"the most accurate translation procedure, which excludes the culture and
highlights the message" . Nida's definitions of formal and dynamic
equivalence (as cited in ) may also be seen to apply. According to Nida, a
"gloss translation" mostly typifies formal equivalence where form and
content are reproduced as faithfully as possible and the TL reader is able to
"understand as much as he can of the customs, manner of thought, and means
of expression" of the SL context. Contrasting with this idea, dynamic
equivalence "tries to relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant
within the context of his own culture" without insisting that he
"understand the cultural patterns of the source-language context"
From these we see that there are two main
directions: the first one puts the TL culture above the SL culture, the second
one does the opposite. Let us quickly take a look at the advantages and
disadvantages of the two.
If we take the first approach, then, as
translators of a text, we will have to re-write the text, to modify it to the
extent the reader does not even ‘notice’ the text originated in another
culture. This means, however, that some themes, styles, inferences, etc. will inevitably
be lost in translation, and, thus, never perceived by the reader. The text
might fail to evoke the reaction in readers the author intended to.
The second approach, although it looks
absolutely different, will lead us to the same results – the presence of items
the reader does not understand will stop him from perceiving the message of the
text, it will make that message vague to the reader.
What we have discussed so far mostly
deals with translation of a written text, but how about interpreting? How is it
affected by cultural difference of the two parties?
There is no doubt that lexical concerns
of an interpreter are the same as those of a translator, but there is also the
part of communication that goes beyond words and is culture-specific too –
nonverbal communication. According to Wikipedia, nonverbal communication is
usually understood as the process of communication through sending and
receiving wordless messages. i.e., language is not the only source of
communication, there are other means also. Nonverbal communication can be
communicated through gestures and touch (Haptic communication), by body language
or posture, by facial expression and eye contact. Nonverbal communication can
be communicated through object communication such as clothing, hairstyles or
even architecture, symbols and infographics. Speech contains nonverbal elements
known as paralanguage, including voice quality, emotion and speaking style, as
well as prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation and stress. Thus, an interpreter
deals with several dimensions of culture at the same time. There are no
universal rules of how to manage this side of translation, but we believe that,
when interpreting, one should comment on nonverbal communication to make the
process of communication between the parties as clear as possible. For example,
we know that the Japanese avoid saying no by all means, but if the second party
is not familiar with the Japanese culture, they might fail to understand their
offer has been turned down. In this case, we believe the interpreter should
clarify the situation by explaining the peculiarity to their client.
When they want to emphasize something,
the Korean people prolong some sounds in a word, so, for example, when
expressing their thanks for, say, a meal, rather than adding a word like
“very”, they would say something that would sound like “thaaank yooou” (meaning
“thank you very much”).
There are several types of Non-verbal
communication the interpreter has to be aware of: Kinesics, Proxemics,
Chronemics, Oculesics, Haptics .
Kinesics – bodily movements (head, arms,
legs, etc.). For example, the gesture that in America means “OK” (B), in the Mediterranean means “zero”, in
Japan means “money”, in Tunisia means “I’ll kill you.”
Proxemics - the use of space between the
sender and the receiver of a message. For example Greeks and South Americans
find it comfortable to stand, sit or talk to people at a distance which seems
to North Americans and some Europeans intolerably close and causes them to have
the feelings of hostility, discomfort and even intimidation. On the other hand,
if Americans back away to their distance of comfort they'll be perceived as
cold, unfriendly and distrustful.
Chronemics - the timing of verbal exchanges
during conversation. Americans expect their partner to respond to their
statement immediately. But, for example in eastern cultures, in Japan or China, they leave silence between each statement. For Americans this silence is unsettling
and the person might seem shy, inattentive or nervous. In intercultural
situation, it might be best for the visitor to tolerate the silence and wait
for a response.
Oculesics is the use of the eyes in a
communication setting. Eye contact is very important in communication. People
In the US, Canada and eastern Europe are used to direct eye contact preferably
for 2 seconds. If you look longer into someone's eye, this will be considered
as staring which is rude. Avoiding eye contact can be considered as insecure, untrustworthy,
etc. In Japan, the gaze has to be below the chin. Lowering the eyes in China and Indonesia is a sign of respect. They prefer indirect eye contact. Prolonged eye contact is
seen as a sign of bad manners. In the middle east the people are used to long
eye contact, but long eye contact with women is considered inappropriate and a
sign of no respect. In the US, France and Italy staring at women is considered
a sign of interest and may even be interpreted as sexually suggestive. Minimal
eye contact can be seen as a lack of interest or understanding, fear.
Haptics - is the tactile form of communication.
Where, how and how often people can touch each other while having a conversation
are culturally defined patterns. Some cultures are very comfortable with bodily
contact, and others avoid it. The US touching has a lot to do with hierarchy.
The general rule is that people who are older or of higher status may touch
those who are younger or of lower status, but not vice versa. Equals may touch
each other. Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal are touch-oriented cultures, as
well as Latin American countries. In the Middle East the behavior is quite
similar, but you better avoid touching the person with the left hand as the
left hand is considered unclean and is reserved for personal hygiene. The
location of touching is also very important. In Thailand, it is offensive to
touch the head, as this part of the body is considered sacred. In fact, it
would be better to avoid touching all Asians on the head, including small
children. Even placing a hand on the back of an Asian worker's chair is considered
inappropriate. Tactile behavior is highly cultural; knowing when and how to
touch in various cultures is important to conducting business globally.
This is only a short overview of nonverbal
communication aspects, but they may be of crucial importance in some communication
settings, and the interpreter, as a bridge between two cultures, has to provide
In conclusion, it can be pointed out that
translation now is viewed as something far more complex, than before, when
people thought of translation as mere substitution of correspondent words. A
good translator has to consider culture in all its manifestations – words,
connotations, nonverbal and others. This aspect has to be considered when
training future professionals of translation and interpretation.
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retrieved from http://accurapid.com/journal/
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The Indian Perspective”, retrieved from http://accurapid.com/
3. Douglas Robinson “Becoming a Translator, An Accelerated
Course” Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005.
4. Forogh Karimipur Davaninezhad “Cross-Cultural
Communication and Translation”, retrieved from http://accurapid.com/
5. Georgios Floros “Cultural Constellations and
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6. Harish Trivedi “Translating Culture vs. Cultural
Translation” retrieved from iwp.uiowa.edu/
7. Huiping Xian “Lost in translation? Language, culture and
the roles of translator in cross-cultural management research” Cultural
Implications for Translation www.emeraldinsight.com/
8. Isabel Negro Alousque “Cultural Domains: Translation
Problems”// Revista de Linguistica y Lenguas Aplicadas, vol.4, 2009.
9. Joseph A. DeVito “The Elements of Public Speaking” (6th edition) Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 1997.
10. Kate James “Cultural Implications for Translation”
retrieved from http://accurapid.com/
11. No author, no name, retrieved from
http://users.telenet.be/ February 2, 2010.
12. Peter Newmark. Approaches to Translation
London: Prentice Hall, 1988.
13. Sugeng Hariyanto. “The Implication of
Culture on Translation Theory and Practice” retrieved from http://www.translationdirectory.com/
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2010