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Translation: Communication of Two Cultures Essay

We found it is feasible to start talking about the theoretical part of our paper by casting some definitions to important aspects. Language, cul There are many definitions of culture in relation to the process of translation. One of the oldest and widely-accepted definitions of culture was formulated by the English anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor in 1871. Burnett defines culture as” that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Used by the Encyclopedia Britannica (1983, vol.4:657).

This definition reveals a significant statement as one has to know that the term ‘culture’ refers to values, tradition, beliefs and social life which always determine man’s whole life and obviously influence much of their behavior. The aim of the above discussion is to show that since all of these social aspects have to be reflected in any language, a translator will certainly be exposed to some of these elements when translating different texts.

Thus, translating a text actually means transferring the cultural parallels in the target language. There are a lot of studies and arguments that have tackled this idea; scholars have been trying to show that culture and translation go hand in hand. In his article, “The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation”, Gideon Toury emphasizes on presenting the remarkable relationship between translation and culture; he says, “Translation is a kind of activity which inevitably involves at least two languages and two cultural traditions” (Toury 1978:200).

By stating such a definition, one has to realize that translation is not only word-to-word process (as some claim), but also a culture-to-culture process; translation is inseparable from culture. In fact, understanding the differences between the two cultures is usually more important than being familiar of the linguistic elements- including grammar and vocabulary- of these languages. This is obviously one of the major roles of the translator. The translator must convey these special cultural aspects clearly from the source language to the target language.

It’s inevitably the translator’s responsibility to be familiar with one’s own culture and be aware of the source-language culture before being involved in the process of translation. Hence, the translator plays a crucial role in the success or failure of the process of translating. In certain cultures and due to the geographical, social, social and economical elements, various items, words, idioms and expressions may arise and lead to difficulties in translating. In the Arabic culture, for example, Compliment responses are one type of speech acts that differs considerably from Arabic to English.

Native speakers of English might consider the way Arabic speakers respond to compliments offending, because they understand only the words without the cultural rules that govern them and vice versa. For example, in English and unlike Arabic, the expression “I’m ashamed” would be more appropriate when an offence is committed, rather than to show gratitude and appreciation. since it is literally translated from the widely used Arabic expression akhjaltom tawaado’na, This complexity lies in the fact that what is considered culturally acceptable to one group of people can be regarded as totally strange and mysterious to another.

Again, this is one of the main duties of the translator. The translator has to overcome this problem by understanding theses cultural expressions that are related to one culture and then to try to find some equivalents in the other culture. This requires the translator to read and to search about this specific topic in order to see how both cultures treat this subject; this is the most important step to have a correct translation and not to have misunderstanding between the two parts.

This is important since translation has been considered as a means of communication in which the cultural parallels that are embedded in texts are looked for and applied in order to suit the audience or the reader. The American translator, E. A Nida holds: “translation is the communication of two cultures. ” This great statement reveals how translation can be seen as an instrument that builds bridges between nations.

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