Powered by
Share this page on
Article provided by Wikipedia

Cultural translation represents the practice of "translation, which involves cultural differences. Cultural translation can be also defined as a "practice whose aim is to present another culture via "translation. This kind of "translation solves some issues linked to culture, such as "dialects, food or architecture.

The main issue that cultural translation must solve consists in translating a text as showing cultural differences of this text, in respecting the source culture.


Translation of cultures[edit]

Cultural translation is a term which must be also studied through cultural "anthropology, a field of "anthropology focused on cultural issues among humans. This discipline questions translation through cultural differences. Indeed, "translation studies are not only based on language issues, but also on cultural contexts between peoples.

An "anthropological "translator of cultures needs to deal with the issues between the source and the target language, that is to say he must respect at the same time the cultural source of point of view and the target culture. "Wilhelm von Humboldt shared this opinion of "translation in a letter addressed to A.W.Schlegel, dated July 23, 1796: “All translation seems to me simply an attempt to solve an impossible task. Every translator is doomed to be done in by one of two stumbling blocks: he will either stay too close to the original, at the cost of taste and the language of his nation, or he will adhere too closely to the characteristics peculiar to his nation, at the cost of the original. The medium between the two is not only difficult, but downright impossible”.[1]

Skepticism towards translation of cultures[edit]

Some "anthropologists raise objections to "translation of cultures. According to these "researchers, culture seeks a certain coherence that can be found in people’s thinking and "practices. In this case, a "cultural "translator must have a much more widespread "knowledge than the text actually provides.

Besides, "translation of cultures cannot be as equal as it should be, as some cultures and societies remain dominant compared to others, therefore power is a limit to "translation of cultures. Indeed, within a translation of cultures, the target language may dominate the source culture in order to make the text comprehensible in a sense of culture for the readers. The meaning of culture is quite difficult to understand, therefore "translation of cultures is certainly limited, all the more so "borders exist between cultures, which must be thus distinguished. This limit of "translation of cultures was also explained in the "theory of "Edward Sapir, an American "linguist and "anthropologist : “The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached”.[2] “Each linguistic community has its own perception of the world, which differs from that of other linguistic communities, implies the existence of different worlds determined by language”.

Some "linguists assume that "untranslatability doesn’t only come from "linguistic limits but also from cultural barriers within "translation. According to some "linguists, such as C.L. Wren, differences of point of view between peoples relatively impose narrow limits to cultural translatability. The "theory of universal "translatability is therefore disapproved by some "researchers, like "André Martinet, who is convinced that "human experience cannot be well communicated because it is unique. "Catford rationalised this "theory in his book "Linguistic Theory of Translation" : "Cultural untranslatability arises when a situational feature, functionally relevant for the source language text, is completely absent from the culture of which the TL is a part". For instance, the names of some institutions, clothes, foods and abstract concepts, amongst others."[3]

"Anton Popovič also assumes that there is a difference between "linguistic and cultural untranslatability, an idea that he defends in “A Dictionary for the Analysis of Literary Translation” : “A situation in which the linguistic elements of the original cannot be replaced adequately in structural, linear, functional or semantic terms in consequence of a lack of denotation or connotation”.

Dominance of some cultures is consequently obvious within the "World History, for instance during the time when "colonialism represented a main ideology among many different countries. Indeed, some cultures were represented as pure and as the essence of the world’s functioning. One should say that "translation of cultures may reflect an inequality between cultures and peoples. Furthermore, "translation of cultures provides other issues, such as conflicts between cultures and historical changes.

A two-fold process[edit]

"Translation may be obviously linked to exchanges, "migration and "mobility, terms which are the essence of "globalization. Therefore, this "discipline presents a two-fold process, that is to say the "transnational (across borders) and translational (exchange of translations) "concepts. This two-fold process withdraws the separation between the source and the target language and enables to negotiate cultural differences.

These global 'negotiations of difference' [4] are especially crucial in "postcolonial settings and can be read as 'performative negotiations of cultural differences in a process of de- and recontextualization'.[5]

Culture and civilization[edit]

Cultural "translation obviously implies the notion of culture, which needs here to be defined, in order to understand well the term cultural "translation. Culture offers two different meanings: the first one defines culture as a "civilized society in a "developed country, whereas the second one considers culture as a whole set of "behaviors and ways of life that a people shares. As previously explained, culture gets an important role and meaning in "translation. According to Katan, culture is a shared "model of the world, a "hierarchical model of "beliefs, "values and strategies which can guide action and "interaction of people. Culture can be acquired through diverse ways, like education.

The term "civilization is defined as a "developed human society which managed to create its own culture through people. Through this concept, a "translator is able to "translate a "text by solving the issue of a culture’s development. In this case, "Newmark is convinced that "translation is culturally valued, that is to say "translation improves cultures’ development within the entire world. As "civilization lead to the creation of evident ways of communication, such "alphabet, "dictionaries and to a tremendous development of "languages and literatures, this process raised new questions in cultural "translation.

Culture has a huge influence on society and politics of a country, in terms of ideology. According to some "translation "researchers such as "Even-Zohar, "Susan Bassnett and "Trivedi, culture is also linked to the "will of "power and to the way people pretend to this power. In this sense, "translation deals with making "systems of ideologies comprehensible for the readers. "Translation of cultures is therefore linked to ethics and explains a new way of thinking. This kind of "translation must show the context and the personal way of thinking through translated texts.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Humboldt.  Missing or empty |title= ("help)
  2. ^ . Edward Sapir.  Missing or empty |title= ("help)
  3. ^ Catford. Linguistic Theory of Translation. 
  4. ^ Homi K. Bhabha The Location of Culture (2nd ed.), London, Routledge 2004
  5. ^ Italiano Rössner Translatio/n. Narration, Media and the Staging of Differences 2012
) ) WikipediaAudio is not affiliated with Wikipedia or the WikiMedia Foundation.