Article Title: Is it possible to translate "Culture"?
Date Created: 01/21/2010
Date Updated: 01/21/2010
TranslatorPub.Com Rank: 14
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I read an old story about an UN interpreter who once managed to make the target language speakers laugh at a joke that was told during one of the meetings. When he was asked how had he managed to translate the joke so swiftly he responded "I did not. I just told my audience that the speaker had told a joke and that it would be polite to laugh in response" Jokes are just one example of the many difficult tasks translators are presented. It is not just about finding the correct meaning in the target language. It also involves an extensive knowledge of the source language, culture and even local customs. Even in the translator takes all these subjects into account, they are almost immediately challenged by the task of putting the result in a concise way that allows them to translate the meaning and intention but without diverting from the main thread of the subject. Think about how would you translate the myriad of terms, insider jokes, common places and punch lines used in, say, United States television shows, into a few sentences that are going to be read by people from countries that might not have access to those shows. The answer is all in the context, of course, but creating context sometimes can take extensive and valuable phrasing that is not always available. The second option is to avoid it altogether and stick to the plain, simple and meaningful portion of the job. But this can render a beautiful article into a dull document that might not be fun or interesting to read. Does it sound baffling enough? Well, the correct balance is somewhere in the middle, but not necessarily halfway. If you are ever presented with this challenge I suggest that the easiest way to solve the riddle is to keep a close and constant contact with the author of the document. He would be the best person to guide you in the right direction. Only he can make the decision on whether meaning and context should be favored over extension or if length should prevail while culture can be spared. But what happens if the author is not available? Well that might be the source of another article. Meanwhile try to come up with a few clever phrases that will someday help you, should you ever face such a predicament.