Translation Services Require Cultural Sensitivity And Understanding
When translating a text, it is important to consider the cultural context of the targeted language since each language comes with its own metaphors, colloquial expressions, idioms, symbols, folklores and urban myths that cannot be directly translated. These subtleties require cultural interpretation, as they refer to the specific traditions and customs of the native speakers who created them. Unlike automatic translation, the Better Language Company (BLC) employs professional translators who are qualified and equipped to translate culturally sensitive texts sufficiently. If you’re considering why cultural nuances are an important aspect of translation, then read this article to learn more about the interplay between language and culture and why it is important that the translator is aware of any culturally sensitive aspects that may need to be incorporated into the translation of the text.
Word-For-Word Automated Translation Lacks Nuance And Depth
Translation services require deep cultural understanding. When translating foreign languages, one cannot assume that words can be exchanged one-for-one. Direct or linear translations fail to create cohesive, flowing sentences that are understandable and relevant to people from different cultures. In order for a sentence to be adequately translated to any foreign language, translators must use words or phrases with the same practical, referential and semantic implications and need to have a comprehensive understanding of both the content and context.
Deciphering the logical and lexical meaning of a phrase can be exceptionally difficult, especially when it comes to translating slang, figurative expressions, allegories and other phrases that are specific to one particular society or nation. If you were to start studying French, it would be impossible to simply sit down with an English to French dictionary and master the language.
The conjugations, grammatical technicalities and cultural foundations of the language cannot be explained properly by the word-for-word translations available in a dictionary or with common services such as Google Translate. If anything, you’ll likely end up butchering the language and offending someone with an incorrectly translated text or phrase. Read the list below to see some examples of French phrases that cannot be translated word for word.
Five French Expressions That Cannot Be Translated Directly
Je ne sais quoi
English speakers often use this word when describing opulent, sensational moments or objects. However, in French, it literally means “I do not know what.” This figurative expression refers to something as being indescribable, but English speakers can appear quite pompous when using this in their sentences. Translators have to use their discretion when searching for an English equivalent to the phrase.
In French, this term describes someone who wanders around aimlessly through a space, walking around deep in thought. To describe a ‘Flâner’ as a drifter or a wanderer might incorrectly convey the true cultural sense of the word, so the original word is often used as it is in English texts. This word is very closely associated with the renowned French poet Charles Baudelaire.
This term refers to the momentum leading up to an event. It is associated with confidence, grace and elegance. While this word describes the impetus and anticipation of a spectacle in a singular word, there is no individual English word that can be used in its place.
Passer du coq à l’âne
This phrase is generally interpreted to mean “To change the subject”. However, when translated directly, this term means “To pass from the rooster to the donkey”. This is a colloquial phrase with medieval origins, but it remains common in French conversation today.
Avoir la pêche
This endearing idiomatic expression is used when French speakers want to compliment your mood or spirit. Translated literally, it means “To have a peach”. Interpreters might use colloquial English alternatives such as, “You’re radiant”.
The Interplay Between Cultural Knowledge And Translation
Translation services are inherently linked to cultural studies, so much so that these services can be more accurately described as a form of cross-cultural communication. More than understanding the linguistic differences between two languages, translators have to take account of the cultural diversity of readers and the etymological meanings and connotations of foreign words. Linguistic differences develop as a result of cultural advancements and social movements.
Moreover, there is rarely one word that can adequately convey another word absolutely. There are hundreds of options, and each option comes with its own unique associations and inferences. Mood, formality and tone are all determined by a translator’s choice of words.
For example, in the French language, ‘Tu’ and ‘Vous’ both mean ‘You’, however ‘Vous’ is considered to be more formal and is , therefore, more useful in professional contexts. This is why it is necessary that your chosen translator is familiar with both the original language and the language you are needing the text to be translated to.
Colloquial Language Is A Development of Cultural and Social Movements
Furthermore, colloquial language often changes the meaning of standardised words and phrases to generate a new meaning specific to the generation of native speakers. Thus, it is important for translators to be clued into the linguistic trends and phrases of speakers today. Otherwise, they risk speaking in a manner that is out of date or unrelatable. When it comes to translation, it is incredibly easy to use a faux pas if you’re unaware of the political, social and economic context of the native speakers that you’re targeting.
Many terms and phrases are culturally specific, making them difficult to verbalise in other languages where its native speakers did not experience the same social conditions. For example, the phrase ‘hippies’ is highly specific to Western culture due to the cultural movements of the 1960s, such as the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and the sexual revolution. While most English speakers can quickly determine the meaning of the phrase and associate it with Western ideals of progressive liberalism, people in China have no equivalent for such a word and thus struggle to translate it.
Because people in China did not experience the same cultural shifts as Americans did in the 1960s, no word has been developed to describe these cultural by-products. Even if there was a word to describe this persona, it cannot be guaranteed that it would hold the same sort of connotations, since contrasting social values and traditions change the meaning from country to country. Translators are tasked with finding similarities between cultures as well as universal references that can similarly describe the same meaning as in the original language. However, there are not always similarities to draw from the two cultures.
Direct Translation Services Versus Interpretative Translation Services
This brings us to consider different styles of translation services. People services can either use direct translation or interpretive translation services. With direct translation, it is very likely that readers from the targeted language will become somewhat confused by the cultural references.
It is also likely that the sentence structure will not flow cohesively, making it disjointed and jumbled, potentially even illegible. Direct translation is also known as a ‘foreignizing method’ of translation. Foreignizing a translation aims to induce cultural exchanges whereby the targeted community can be introduced to another culture.
In this case, the translator might directly translate expressions and idioms as a means to preserve the original cultural and historical references. Alternatively, translators can also use free or interpretative translation methods that domesticate texts by using familiar cultural phrases, expressions and formats relevant to the targeted audience and community. This will prevent the readers from feeling any confusion or culture shock, as the language will be more relevant to their everyday lives and norms.
Politeness And Translation
Etiquette is a very important part of translation services. In certain languages, there will be a different way to address specific genders and ages. If your text is addressed to one specific person, it is important to assure that it uses the correct pronouns and gendered terminology. This is particularly important when it comes to business etiquette, as it can appear offensive if a professional does not make the effort to address the client in a respectful and appropriate manner.
Translation Services For International Law and Corporate Business
Translation can also be very difficult within the realm of contractual agreements and legal practices. Most countries practice different styles of law – for example, South Africa abides by 17th and 18th-century Roman-Dutch common law practices while France and Germany use civil law. For international cases at the International Criminal Court, for instance, it would be pertinent to hire translation services that are able to accommodate the unique cultural and socio-political objectives, terms and conditions of each country, its language, and its legal jargon.
Professionals in advertising, marketing and brand management need to be particularly careful of faulty, automated translation services. In order to generate popularity and gain traction, advertisements or brand campaigns need to resonate as bold and familiar. If your business is looking to market a product in multiple countries, it will need to translate its slogan with consideration for the targeted audience’s colloquial tone. A word-for-word translation of the tagline will not be effective, as it will not have the same cultural meaning.
Business propositions, negotiations and campaigns need to be translated with a sensitivity for the moral and spiritual values of the targeted native speakers. Cultural diversity means that most nations uphold different moral, spiritual and political value systems based on their historical backgrounds. In order to avoid offending a business associate, colleague or reader, it is vital to consider their social histories.
Avoid Cultural Insensitivity with The Better Language Company’s Translation Services
Automatic translation does not take account of culturally specific linguistic trends. For example, automatic translation will use direct translations that would quickly show your readers that you have not bothered to consider their dialect. Figurative speech and idiomatic expressions will be lost in translation, and your text will hastily lose its credibility amongst targeted audiences.
The Better Language Company offers professional translation services where you can hire professional translators who have studied the cultural implications and ideals of each language system in order to effectively interpret the meaning behind certain words and phrases. This makes it easier for these translators to use effective and appropriate language when interpreting your texts into your targeted languages. This kind of considerate intercultural communication shows deeper respect for a group of people, making it easier to connect with those from different nations.
The Better Language Company offers translation services that take account of cultural nuances. If you need your contracts, academic works, stories or any other mediums translated to a foreign language, you can contact the Better Language Company today for a free quote. Rest assured that professional translation services at BLC are efficient, affordable and politically appropriate for all of your linguistic needs.