Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Translating Cultural References

Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Translating Cultural References

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Every text subject to translation is a cultural signifier. Terminological perspective will allow us to establish several instances where the translation rules (formally established or traditionally and informally operating) orient the translator confronting official complex texts. Whether it is about types of fishing boats, animal or plants names, new technologies, organization of national legal systems, classification of objects in general classes for clearance, in all cases the translator faced with the decision to give a name for an object that may not exist or is not even known in the culture in whose language he translates. Such situations are frequently encountered in translating the acquis communautaire in the EU official languages. Other times, names for abstractions, current in other languages or newly created, are causing problems and highlight the gaps in terminology, which cannot always be filled by circumlocutions.

Keywords: legal texts; national legal systems; cultural references; terminology gaps; political science

1. Introduction

Those situations encountered and solved during a special legal or scientific text translation, where the names of social or political practices are designed in a particular way within the source language, and must be equated with as suggestive and specific names in the target language, are ranked as the translator's component entities skills. Besides these, even relatively minor issues, such the use of capitalization, for instance, are differently standardized in each language. In this paper, we will refer to some examples that will spread a revealing light on cultural diversity and hence on the need for cultural competence. The cases discussed are significant for the current Romanian language and highlight the dynamics of terminologies.

It is well known that the translator must acquire those cultural skills that complement the component of language proficiency, in both languages involved in translation. How to form the cultural competence of the translator? First, it is possible through various readings in both languages and through the knowledge of databases which he/she should use. Secondly, it is desirable by cultivating curiosity and the gentle sense of the well-found word, in other words, by developing terminology research.

What do we mean by the term cultural references? To clarify its meaning, we have first to define cultural identity: it is the sum of traits that characterize a social group, according to several parameters, and among these, language has an important place. The other accepted parameters are customs, social practices, values, and worldview.

In this approach, cultural references are distinctive marks of a group culture towards the culture of other groups. Language being a fundamental parameter, it is clear that certain language features (i.e. lexicalization, classification and hyperonymy, patterns for institutions names) are such landmarks. Translating identity markers that are visible at the text surface as marks of a cultural system is a challenge in itself. The very phrase from the title of the present paper has various forms of equivalence, i.e.: définisseurs culturels, landmarks of cultural identity. As a cultural activity, translation operates with transfers of meanings from source culture to target culture, which must find appropriate containers, linguistic forms accepted in the target language.

However, although it is well known and accepted that any language is the expression of a culture, translation is not an issue addressed by anthropological studies. They deal with culture, language and languages in a broad perspective, along with other communication modes, but they do not yet grant a special place to translation. Thus, even a renowned book, considered as a classic in the field (Haviland, 2002) which deals with topics such as language and gender, the national character of culture, sex and marriage, kinship, ages, political systems, the supernatural, story and other components of cultural heritage, cultural change and modernization, cultural rights etc. …

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