Cultural translation

Cultural translation as an opposite against linguistic translation can be traced back along way; How ever, the main cultural translation theories and theorists came on scene during 1990 and this decade. Hopefully, it is very critical for nuances and small differences among languages which can be drawn by linguistic theories.

The more a translator is aware of complexities of differences between cultures, the better a translator s/he will be. It is probably right to say that there has never been a time when the community of translators was unaware of cultural differences and their significance for translation.

Translation theorists have been cognizant of the problems attendant upon cultural knowledge and cultural differences at least since ancient Rome. Cultural knowledge and cultural differences have been a major focus of translator training and translation theory for as long as either has been in existence. Planning a culture is an instance of deliberate creation of new options for social and individual life. The generally accepted view is that such options somehow emerge and develop through the anonymous contributions of untold masses.

These contributions are normally described as “spontaneous”, i.e., as products, or by-products, of the very occurrence of human interaction. Items emerging under conditions of spontaneity are believed to be random. Moreover, the way by which the items accumulate, get organized and develop into accepted repertoires is supposed to be the result of free negotiations between market forces.

The complex mechanism through which, out of the free negotiation between these forces, certain groups adopt or reject specific repertoires is the chief question on the agenda of all the human and social sciences. However, this view needs several modifications; not by eliminating the ideas of spontaneity and market negotiations, but by recognizing that these very negotiations may unavoidably lead to acts of planning. This happens because negotiations inherently result in selection – choosing between alternatives.

Thus, once any body, either an individual or a group, in whatever capacity, starts to act for the promotion of certain elements and for the suppression of other elements, “spontaneity” and “deliberate acts” are no longer unrelated types of activities. Any deliberate intervention to establish priorities in an extant set of possibilities (often discussed out-of-context as “codification”, “standardization”, or “legislation”) must therefore be recognized as a basic instance of “planning”. If, in addition to acting in favor of priorities, a given individual or a group not only supports but is actively engaged in devising new options, then planning is unmistakably at work.

Why certain individuals or groups become engaged in culture planning, what they expect to achieve by it, and what practices they use, are among the questions I intend to deal with in the following. The conspicuous interest in culture planning expressed by rulers of those entities is clear evidence of their awareness of the insufficiency of sheer physical force for successful domination.

The emergence of centralized religious institutions and practices (in contradistinction, perhaps, to local cults), we are told by historians, can best be explained in terms of imparting social cohesion via cognitive allegiance through persuasion. Clearly, by adhering to the same codified set of cults and beliefs (anachronistically called religions), people were told what reality was, and which options of what repertoires are available to them, or indispensable for them.

The application of planning provides socio-cultural cohesion The implementation of planning provides cohesion to either a factual or a potential entity. This is achieved by creating a spirit of allegiance among those who adhere to the repertoire thus introduced. By “socio-cultural cohesion” I mean a state where a wide-spread sense of solidarity, or togetherness, exists among a group of people, which consequently does not require conduct enforced by power. I think the key concept for such cohesion is the mental disposition that propels people to act in many ways that otherwise would have been contrary to their “natural inclinations” and vital interests. Going to war prepared to be killed would be the ultimate case, amply repeated throughout human history.

To create shared readiness on a fair number of issues is something that, although vital for any society, cannot be taken for granted. For example, no government can take for granted that people will obey “laws,” whether written or not, unless people are successfully persuaded to do so. Obedience achieved by force or intimidation, applied by the military or the police, can be effective for a certain span of time. However, sooner or later such obedience will collapse, partly be-cause few societies can afford to keep a large enough corps of law-enforcement agents. Classical sociological thinking has recognized the powerful role of what they called “persuasion” for the “successful control” of a dominated population.

It is not easy to assess the level of cohesion in any society. However, it seems worthwhile to develop some clear categories for such assessments. These categories make it clear what we may mean by a “high level” – which in its turn can be re-translated to “success” from the point of view of planning – or a “low level,” which in its turn can be re-translated to “failure.” When, for example, territories are subjected to the domination of external powers, and the local population sticks to the repertoire with which it had crystallized as an entity, we may speak of a high level of cohesion. Socio-cultural cohesion may become a necessary condition for creating a new entity, and/or for the survival of an existing entity.

The large entities discussed here are social units such as “community”, “tribe”, “clan”, and “people”. Or “nation”; they are not “natural” objects. They are formed by the acts of individuals, or small groups of people, who take initiatives and are successful in mobilizing the resources needed for the task. The most vital element among those resources is a cultural repertoire that makes it possible for the endeavoring group to provide justification, contents to the separate and distinct existence of the entity. Various methods can be observed for the creation of large entities, especially those known as “nations”, where we witness a search for a repertoire suitable to support the existence of the entity and secure its perpetuation.

The most conspicuous seem to be the following:

(1) 1)A group takes control of some territory by force and dominates its inhabitants. If the enterprise is to hold, there is a chance that the members of the controlling group will eventually realize that for the maintenance and survival of the entity, they had better do something to achieve cohesion.

2) A group of individuals organize themselves and become engaged in a power struggle to rid themselves of control they wish to reject. Once they succeed, they may find themselves at sea vis-à-vis the entity they created which, now that the struggle is over, may disintegrate for lack of cohesion.

(3) An individual or a group engages in devising a repertoire to justify the establishment of an entity over a certain territory that does not necessarily overlap with their home territory. This is often connected with the successful so-called unification of different territories. The same method, however, can work in the opposite way, i.e. it can make it possible for a certain territory to secede fully or partly from a larger entity (Hechter 1992). Different perspective about cultural translation The notion of culture is essential to considering the implications for translation and, despite the differences in opinion as to whether language is part of culture or not, the two notions of culture and language appear to be inseparable.

In 1964, Nida discussed the problems of correspondence in translation, conferred equal importance to bothlinguistic and cultural differences between the SL and the TL and concluded that differences between cultures may cause more severe complications for the translator than do differences in language structure. It is further explained that parallels in culture often provide a common understanding despite significant formal shifts in the translation.

According to him cultural implications for translation are thus of significant importance as well as lexical concerns. In 1984, Reiss and Vermeer in their book with the title of ‘Groundwork for a General Theory of Translation’ concentrated on the basic underlying ‘rules’ of this theory which involve: 1- A translatum (or TT) is determined by its skopos, 2- A TT is an offer of information in a target culture and TL considering an offer of information in a source culture and SL. This relates the ST and TT to their function in their respective linguistic and cultural context. The translator is once again the key player in the process of intercultural communication and production of the translatum because of the purpose of the translation.

In 1988 Newmark defined culture as “the way of life and its manifestations that are peculiar to a community that uses a particular language as its means of expression”, thus acknowledging that each language group has its own culturally specific features. He also introduced ‘Cultural word’ which the readership is unlikely to understand and the translation strategies for this kind of concept depend on the particular text-type, requirements of the readership and client and importance of the cultural word in the text. Peter Newmark also categorized the cultural words as follows:

1) Ecology: flora, fauna, hills, winds, plains

2) Material Culture: food, clothes, houses and towns, transport

3) Social Culture: work and leisure

4) Organizations Customs, Activities, Procedures, Concepts: • Political and administrative • Religious • artistic

5) Gestures and Habits He introduced contextual factors for translation process which include: 1-the purpose of text 2- Motivation and cultural, technical and linguistic level of readership 3- Importance of referent in SL text 4- Setting (does recognized translation exist?) 5- Recency of word/referent 6- Future or refrent.

In 1992, Mona Baker stated that S.L word may express a concept which is totally unknown in the target culture. It can be abstract or concrete. It maybe a religious belief, a social custom or even a type of food. In her book, In Other Words, she argued about the common non-equivalents to which a translator come across while translating from SL into TL, while both languages have their distinguished specific culture. She put them in the following order:

a) Culture specific concepts

b) The SL concept which is not lexicalized in TL

c) The SL word which is semantically complex

d) The source and target languages make different distinction in meaning

e) The TL lacks a super ordinate

f) The TL lacks a specific term (hyponym)

g) Differences in physical or interpersonal perspective h) Differences in expressive meaning

i) Differences in form

j) Differences in frequency and purpose of using specific forms

k) The use of loan words in the source text.

Coulthard stated that once the ideal ST readership has been determined, considerations must be made concerning the TT. He said that the translator’s first and major difficulty is the construction of a new ideal reader who, even if he has the same academic, professional and intellectual level as the original reader, will have significantly different textual expectations and cultural knowledge. In the case of the extract translated here, it is debatable whether the ideal TT reader has “significantly different textual expectations,” however his cultural knowledge will almost certainly vary considerably. Applied to the criteria used to determine the ideal ST reader it may be noted that few conditions are successfully met by the potential ideal TT reader.

Indeed, the historical and cultural facts are unlikely to be known in detail along with the specific cultural situations described. Furthermore, despite considering the level of linguistic competence to be roughly equal for the ST and TT reader, certain differences may possibly be noted in response to the use of culturally specific lexis which must be considered when translating.

According to ke Ping “Cultural presupposition,” refers to underlying assumptions, beliefs, and ideas that are culturally rooted, widespread. • According to him anthropologists agree on the following features of culture:

(1) Culture is socially acquired instead of biologically transmitted;

(2) Culture is shared among the members of a community rather than being unique to an individual;

(3) Culture is symbolic. Symbolizing means assigning to entities and events meanings which are external to them and which cannot be grasped alone. Language is the most typical symbolic system within culture;

(4) Culture is integrated. Each aspect of culture is tied in with all other aspects. Procedures of translating culture-specific concepts (CSCs) Defining culture-bound terms (CBTs) as the terms which “refer to concepts, institutions and personnel which are specific to the SL culture” (p.2), Harvey (2000:2-6) puts forward the following four major techniques for translating CBTs: 1. Functional Equivalence: It means using a referent in the TL culture whose function is similar to that of the source language (SL) referent.

As Harvey (2000:2) writes, authors are divided over the merits of this technique: Weston (1991:23) describes it as “the ideal method of translation,” while Sarcevic (1985:131) asserts that it is “misleading and should be avoided.” 2. Formal Equivalence or ‘linguistic equivalence’: It means a ‘word-for-word’ translation. 3. Transcription or ‘borrowing’ (i.e. reproducing or, where necessary, transliterating the original term): It stands at the far end of SL-oriented strategies. If the term is formally transparent or is explained in the context, it may be used alone.

In other cases, particularly where no knowledge of the SL by the reader is presumed, transcription is accompanied by an explanation or a translator’s note. 4. Descriptive or self-explanatory translation: It uses generic terms (not CBTs) to convey the meaning. It is appropriate in a wide variety of contexts where formal equivalence is considered insufficiently clear. In a text aimed at a specialized reader, it can be helpful to add the original SL term to avoid ambiguity.

The following are the different translation procedures that Newmark (1988b) proposes: • Transference: it is the process of transferring an SL word to a TL text. It includes transliteration and is the same as what Harvey (2000:5) named “transcription.” • Naturalization: it adapts the SL word first to the normal pronunciation, then to the normal morphology of the TL. (Newmark, 1988b:82)

• Cultural equivalent: it means replacing a cultural word in the SL with a TL one. however, “they are not accurate” (Newmark, 1988b:83) • Functional equivalent: it requires the use of a culture-neutral word. (Newmark, 1988b:83) • Descriptive equivalent: in this procedure the meaning of the CBT is explained in several words. (Newmark, 1988b:83)

• Componential analysis: it means “comparing an SL word with a TL word which has a similar meaning but is not an obvious one-to-one equivalent, by demonstrating first their common and then their differing sense components.” (Newmark, 1988b:114) • Synonymy: it is a “near TL equivalent.” Here economy trumps accuracy. (Newmark, 1988b:84)

• Through-translation: it is the literal translation of common collocations, names of organizations and components of compounds. It can also be called: calque or loan translation. (Newmark, 1988b:84)

• Shifts or transpositions: it involves a change in the grammar from SL to TL, for instance, (i) change from singular to plural, (ii) the change required when a specific SL structure does not exist in the TL, (iii) change of an SL verb to a TL word, change of an SL noun group to a TL noun and so forth. (Newmark, 1988b:86) • Modulation: it occurs when the translator reproduces the message of the original text in the TL text in conformity with the current norms of the TL, since the SL and the TL may appear dissimilar in terms of perspective. (Newmark, 1988b:88)

• Recognized translation: it occurs when the translator “normally uses the official or the generally accepted translation of any institutional term.” (Newmark, 1988b:89) • Compensation: it occurs when loss of meaning in one part of a sentence is compensated in another part. (Newmark, 1988b:90)

• Paraphrase: in this procedure the meaning of the CBT is explained. Here the explanation is much more detailed than that of descriptive equivalent. (Newmark, 1988b:91)

• Couplets: it occurs when the translator combines two different procedures. (Newmark, 1988b:91)

• Notes: notes are additional information in a translation. (Newmark, 1988).

Graedler (2000:3) puts forth some procedures of translating CSCs:

1. Making up a new word.

2. Explaining the meaning of the SL expression in lieu of translating it.

3. Preserving the SL term intact.

4. Opting for a word in the TL which seems similar to or has the same “relevance” as the SL term. Notes can appear in the form of ‘footnotes.’ Although some stylists consider a translation sprinkled with footnotes terrible with regard to appearance, nonetheless, their use can assist the TT readers to make better judgments of the ST contents.

Nida (1964:237-39) advocates the use of footnotes to fulfill at least the two following functions:

(i) to provide supplementary information, and (ii) to call attention to the original’s discrepancies. The Importance of Culture in Translation 1. The definition of “culture” as given in the Concise Oxford Dictionary varies from descriptions of the “Arts” to plant and bacteria cultivation and includes a wide range of intermediary aspects. More specifically concerned with language and translation.

Newmark defines culture as “the way of life and its manifestations that are peculiar to a community that uses a particular language as its means of expression” (1988:94), thus acknowledging that each language group has its own culturally specific features. He further clearly states that operationally he does “not regard language as a component or feature of culture” (Newmark 1988:95) in direct opposition to the view taken by Vermeer who states that “language is part of a culture” (1989:222).

According to Newmark, Vermeer’s stance would imply the impossibility to translate whereas for the latter, translating the source language (SL) into a suitable form of TL is part of the translator’s role in transcultural communication. The notion of culture is essential to considering the implications for translation and, despite the differences in opinion as to whether language is part of culture or not, the two notions appear to be inseparable. Discussing the problems of correspondence in translation, Nida confers equal importance to both linguistic and cultural differences between the SL and the TL and concludes that “differences between cultures may cause more severe complications for the translator than do differences in language structure” (Nida, 1964:130). It is further explained that parallels in culture often provide a common understanding despite significant formal shifts in the translation.

The cultural implications for translation are thus of significant importance as well as lexical concerns. Lotman’s theory states that “no language can exist unless it is steeped in the context of culture; and no culture can exist which does not have at its centre, the structure of natural language” (Lotman, 1978:211-32). Bassnett (1980: 13-14) underlines the importance of this double consideration when translating by stating that language is “the heart within the body of culture,” the survival of both aspects being interdependent. Linguistic notions of transferring meaning are seen as being only part of the translation process; “a whole set of extra-linguistic criteria” must also be considered. As Bassnett further points out, “the translator must tackle the SL text in such a way that the TL version will correspond to the SL version… To attempt to impose the value system of the SL culture onto the TL culture is dangerous ground” (Bassnett, 1980:23). Thus, when translating, it is important to consider not only the lexical impact on the TL reader, but also the manner in which cultural aspects may be perceived and make translating decisions accordingly.

General cultural implications for translation Language and culture may thus be seen as being closely related and both aspects must be considered for translation. When considering the translation of cultural words and notions, Newmark proposes two opposing methods: transference and componential analysis (Newmark, 1988:96). As Newmark mentions, transference gives “local colour,” keeping cultural names and concepts. Although placing the emphasis on culture, meaningful to initiated readers, he claims this method may cause problems for the general readership and limit the comprehension of certain aspects.

The importance of the translation process in communication leads Newmark to propose componential analysis which he describes as being “the most accurate translation procedure, which excludes the culture and highlights the message” (Newmark, 1988:96). Nida’s definitions of formal and dynamic equivalence (see Nida, 1964:129) may also be seen to apply when considering cultural implications for translation.

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 (Nida, 1964:129). Contrasting with this idea, dynamic equivalence “tries to relate the receptor to modes of behaviour relevant within the context of his own culture” without insisting that he “understand the cultural patterns of the source-language context” (idem).

Conclusion

A variety of different approaches have been examined in relation to the cultural implications for translation. It is necessary to examine these approaches bearing in mind the inevitability of translation loss when the text is, as here, culture bound. Considering the nature of the text and the similarities between the ideal ST and TT reader, an important aspect is to determine how much missing background information should be provided by the translator using these methods.

It has been recognized that in order to preserve specific cultural references certain additions need to be brought to the TT. This implies that formal equivalence should not be sought as this is not justified when considering the expectations of the ideal TT reader. At the other end of Nida’s scale, complete dynamic equivalence does not seem totally desirable either as cultural elements have been kept in order to preserve the original aim of the text, namely to present one aspect of life in France.

Thus the cultural implications for translation of this kind of ST do not justify using either of these two extremes and tend to correspond to the definition of communicative translation, attempting to ensure that content and language present in the SL context is fully acceptable and comprehensible to the TL readership. (Newmark,1988).

REFERENCES

Bassnett, S. 1991. Translation Studies. London: Routledge

Coulthard, M. 1992. “Linguistic Constraints on Translation.” In Studies in Translation / Estudos da Traducao,

Ilha do Desterro, 28. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, pp. 9-23. Hervey, S.,

Higgins, I. 1992. Thinking Translation. London: Routledge. Lotman, J., Uspensky, B. 1978. “On the Semiotic Mechanism of Culture,” New Literary History, pp. 211-32.

Mounin, G. 1963. Les problèmes théoriques de la traduction. Paris: Gallimard.

Newmark, P. 1988. A Textbook of Translation. New York: Prentice Hall Nida, E. 1964. “Principles of Correspondence.” In Venuti, L. The Translation Studies Reader. London: Routledge.

Sapir, E. 1956. Culture, Language and Personality. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Toury, G. 1978, revised 1995. “The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation.” In Venuti, L. The Translation Studies Reader. London: Routledge.

Vermeer, H. 1989. “Skopos and Commission in Translational Activity.” In Venuti, L. The Translation Studies Reader. London: Routledge.

Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/languages-articles/cultural-translation-1085989.html

 

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