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Aspects Of A Good Translation English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2672 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Culture and its meaning in translations. Culture may be defined in many ways. When the study of translation is taken into account, it must be defined with an understanding of the correlation involving language, culture and religion. In view of the fact that culture is a useful device while dealing with problems of translation, numerous translation theorists make efforts to identify the expression “Culture”. A good illustration of this is the work Primitive Culture and Religion in Primitive Culture by Sir Edward Burnett Tylor.

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Tylor’s work is divided into two volumes. In his first work, Primitive Culture (1871) forms well-known definition concerning the basis of modern understanding of the term “culture” in which he states that:”Culture… taken in its widest ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. In second volume, Religion in Primitive Culture, Taylor deals largely with his analysis of animism.

Animism is…( I tried to think of something and connect it but I’ll have to leave it for now, maybe later on I’ll use it)

Others researchers who perceive translation through culture are Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952:167) for whom “culture is a product; is historical; includes ideas, patterns, and values; is selective; is learned; is based upon symbols; and is an abstraction from behaviour and objects of behavior”; Lee McKay (2002:86) adds that culture is said to be embedded in the semantics of a language; while Danial Bates and Fred Plog (1990:7) consider culture to be a system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artefacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation…. Danial Bates and Fred Plog as a stepping-stone to language acquisition consider artifacts of culture such as cinema and television programming, these two types are viewed as the windows into the target culture along with target language.

It is tempting to suggest that the means of communication that passes on any culture is inevitably language.

In the view of Karamanian (IS3), three different aspects of human activity are expressed by the term culture and these are: the personal, the collective, and the expressive.

First aspect implies that individuals think and function as such; the collective describe the social context in which people function, the expressive in which society expresses itself.

We need to bear in mind that the process of translating cultural factor is a very demanding task as it covers concepts like history, religion, tradition, social life or everyday customs. It is widely acknowledged that these aspects are the main components of the translator’s work which leads to the flawless translation. A good translator need to have an excellent comprehension of the real nature of the original message being brought over to the target language receptors. A good understanding of a hidden message in a given text is crucial in the process of translation and depends on the background knowledge of the translator whose main aim is to convert it into target language. Conveying the original message meaning in the given source culture is the true aim of the good translator.

Cultural differences between languages and the ways of dealing with them.

Traditional translation theories focus on verbal comparison between the source texts and their translations. As Mary Snell-Hornby puts it:

The text cannot be considered as a static specimen of language (an idea still dominant in practical translation classes), but essentially as the verbalized expression of an author’s intention as understood by the translator as reader, who then recreates this whole for another readership in another culture.

(Mary Snell-Hornby 1988: 1-2)

Cultural Gaps.

It is widely acknowledged that specific cultural references and elements can cause problems a for the translators. When two cultures differ immensely, there is high probability that numerous concepts and words which may occur in one culture and in the language may not be found in the other. This will lead to the cultural gaps between the source and the target texts, which can only be solved to a certain point.

Dagut (1978: 49) says that cultural gaps are caused by ‘community-specific’ referents in one community and their absence in the other culture. Cultural objects, beliefs, customs and institutions are determined by the cultural history and traditions of the specific language community. A language community creates “designators” to symbolise referents which do not occur in the other language community. The resulting gaps are then (a) more, (b) more language specific, and (c) “more translation-resistant than the environmental type” (Dagut 1981: 52).

Type of the translation

Another aspect of a good translation is the type of translation. In regard to the formal boundaries of poetry, there is lesser focus on form than in mangas, however that does not denote the role of the content as an more important aspect. In fact, conveying the most subtle shades of meaning such as form and content in translation is a extremely difficult task. Generally, there is a tendency while translating mangas, to sacrifice the form for the sake of the content.

According to Gutt there is a problem of how far can translators progress with the interpretation of the source text and how vivid the description should be. Gutt states that translation should be „clear and natural in expression in the sense that it should not be unnecessarily difficult to understand” (Gutt 1991: 188)

Newmark (1988) compiles some guiding principles how to cope with different types of translation, which apply to the principle of relevance concerning audience with particular kinds of interests. These are:

„A technical translator has no right to create neologisms… whilst an advertiser or propaganda writer can use any linguistic resources he requires. Conventional metaphors and sayings… should always be conventionally translated… but unusual metaphors and comparisons should be reduced to their sense if the text has a mainly informative function… The appropriate equivalents for keywords… should be scrupulously repeated throughout a text in a philosophical text… In a non-literary text, there is a case for transcribing as well as translating any key-word of linguistic significance…”

(Newmark 1988: 15)

Chapter 2 Principles of translation.

2.1. Linguistic versus Cultural aspects in translation.

According to Savory different guidelines sometimes may deny each other in terms of rules and exceptions. This leaded Savory to create his own pair-wise contradictory principles of translation:

A translation must give the words of the original.

A translation must give the ideas of the original.

A translation should read like an original work.

A translation should read like a translation.

A translation should reflect the style of the original.

A translation should possess the style of the translator.

A translation should read as contemporary of te original.

A translation should read as a contemporary of the translator.

A translation may add to or omit from the original.

A translation may never add to or omit from the original.

A translation of verse should be in prose.

A translation of verse should be in verse.

(Savory 1968: 54)

Savoy claims that these paradoxes can be resolved through „reader-analysis”, Different things are considered to be relevant for different readers.

On the other hand Victor Khairullin (1992: 155) implies that linguistic aspects are not the only one that are involved in the process of translation but also is culture. Victor Khairullin (1992: 155) states that:

„The process of translation is a creative kind of activity, based on both linguistic and culturological rules. Every language is unique. The language pattern of the world is accounted for by culturological peculiarities, i.e. peculiarities of ethnic, [and] social, norms and economic achievements of a nation in a certain stage of development. Culturology in a language pattern is essential, so some specialists tend to believe that in effect one does not translate language, one translates cultures.”

(Khairullin 1992: 155)

Stylistic preferences.

The next aspect on the list is the time in which given work has been created.

This statement leads to the assumption that the constant changes that languages undergo call for continuous modifications in stylistic preferences.

“No two languages are identical, either in the meanings given to corresponding symbols or in the ways in which such symbols are arranged…”

(Nida 1964: 156).

Hence, a translation from one epoch can be rather objectionable at a present time. The matter of how accurate a translation should be to the original was and always will be arguable.

Ernst-August Gutt (1991) tries to give an answer to that problem by using the concept of optimal resemblance in interpretive translation. In his theory of relevance, he maintains his opinion that translation ought to express the significance of the source language in a manner that is „clear and natural in expression” to the target culture, but avoids „unnecessary processing effort” (Gutt 1991: 188). Therefore, the interpretation of the original text should give resemblance to guarantee sufficiently appropriate context to the audience. The way it is presented should not involve any further processing effort from the recipients.

When we think of translation in terms of making it as accurate to the source text as possible, we have to ask ourselves is it possible to preserve all the features of the original if not what qualities are consequential.

Levy (1969:103) states that if this kind of situation occurs „the translator has to decide which qualities of the original are the most important and which ones one could miss out.”. As far as poetry is concerned, preservation of both the form and the content may be very difficult task, depending on the extent of similarities of translated languages. This situation may take place if the target language has ways of expressing the same denotations of words and of rhyming, but may not have words or expressions that carry out both conditions. Therefore, the decision is to be made by the translator, which properties to preserve.

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These major aspects of a culture are crucial for translators. The good translation depends not only on the knowledge about the target culture but also on the translator’s understanding of religious background of translated item. Translators should identify the translation throughout culture. They ought to realize that each language contains elements which are originated in its culture. Moreover, every text is anchored in a specific culture, and that it has its own proprieties of production and reception which may vary from culture to culture. Finding appropriate equivalence of a text while translating manga may depend on deep understanding/ knowledge of target culture. Translator who attempts to translate an original text from Japanese into English may not be able to satisfy the target audience. It is tempting to suggest that finding proper word is the key to achieve good translation. However if the translation from Japanese into English is taken into account it must be mentioned that some problems may occur due to cultural ambiguities.


Aimai – Ambiguities in Japanese Culture are of the greatest importance, because they may lead to mistranslation. Further reflections shows that Japanese are generally ambiguous, shockingly vague in their works such as mangas. The word aimai can be translated as: ambiguous, murky, vague, double-edged or foggy. The other meanings are: questionable, doubtful, shady or non-committal. It may look like Japanese may have some problems with expressing their feelings even in comics as it can be seen in many mangas, but on the other hand it can convey more than one idea which will only make it more attractive to the reader. When two similar terms such as ambiguity and vagueness appear we should distinct them according to their usage. Ambiguity is different from vagueness, which arises when the boundaries of meaning are indistinct. Ambiguity is context-dependent: the same linguistic item (be it a word, phrase, or sentence) may be ambiguous in one context and unambiguous in another context. For a word, ambiguity typically refers to an unclear choice between different definitions as may be found in a dictionary. The use of ambiguities happen that one would offer totally different idea.

1.5. Religion and its influence in mangas.

Religion is the second aspect leading to mistranslations.

The main dilemma in this field is the fact that translators often do not have any certainty of source text producer knowledge or intentions. Therefore, anything to do with biblical translations involve interpretation processes based on receivers’ assumptions, rather than simple translation. What is more, dealing with religion aspects often involves rendering through old anonymous documents.

Moreover, it is important to consider the functions of both the source text and target text or reason for their creation. A useful tool at this point is Reiss and Vermeer Skopos Theory from 1984. Its main focus is aimed at the translation purpose which determines the translation methods and strategies. Because of the cultural aspect of religion, one cannot ignore target culture customs or knowledge connected with translation topics that incorporate religious elements – especially due to its delicate character which means that any translation may easily offend the audience by means of incompetence or ignorance. The main advantage of this theory is the possibility of translating one text in different ways, depending on the need (Reiss and Vermeer, 1984).

All in all, encountering any religious elements in the aspect of translation involves a deep insight in th culture environment of the subject so as to eliminate the possibility of misunderstanding. Furthermore, it is necessary to state the purpose of translation in order to fulfill requirements of source translation receivers.

To conclude what is essential for the translator is not learning the literal meaning of the words, how to put them together but their meaning in the cultural context. Understanding of the cultural and religious norms is needed, that is why native translators are better than foreigner ones. If we take into consideration capabilities and the knowledge of cultural context while translating from Japanese to English Japanese translators are more suitable. A foreign person may learn almost every aspect of a given language but still it will not be the same as in the case of being born as a native. This statement can be easily illustrated by the quotation of Janet Holmes. As Holmes points out in her book titled: An introduction to sociolinguistics:

“Learning another language usually involves a great deal more than learning the literal meaning of the words, how to put them together, how to pronounce them. We need to know what they mean in the cultural context in which they are normally used. And that involves some understanding of the cultural and social norms of their users (Holmes 2001: 275).”


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