Understanding Cultural Nuances In A Translation

Most of us are quite content with knowing the linguistic nuances of our own language in our own country’s context. We get used to using the word ‘biscuits’ in England whilst in America they are called ‘cookies.’ No problem at all until someone leaves England to visit America and wants to buy a packet of biscuits. Similarly, ‘chips’ are used in England to mean fried potato that goes with fish’ while in New Zealand or Australia the same word is used to mean what an English person calls ‘crisps’.

Cultural Nuances in Translation

Additionally the word ‘sweets’ is used in England for a sugary snack but in Australasia they are called ‘lollies’ and America ‘candy.’ In fact, the list of linguistic nuances, even within the same language can be quite long. It’s difficult enough explaining them cross culturally let alone across different languages.

When it comes to translating a product like a new type of sweet to the global market the company will need to hire a human translator who will know what the appropriate words are to use in the targeted language. Translation is not just about exchanging words between languages but there are idioms, metaphors, colloquialisms, symbols and cultural nuances to consider as well.

The Understanding of Cultural Nuances

When a text is translated into a different language it’s important for the translator to be aware what words and phrases should be used in the targeted language. Most texts are unacceptable if they are translated word for word into the new language. A knowledgeable translator will choose words and phrases that suit the culture of the audience.

Sometimes,word for word translations can offend if the inappropriate language is used in the translation. Take for example the phrase ‘I love you.’ In Hindi, the phrase used is different depending, whether it’s been directed at a man or a woman.: From male to female “Main tumse pyar kartha hoon” but “main tumse pyar karthee hoon” is used from female to male. There are some similarities in the words used but they are not exactly the same but if used incorrectly could cause offence.

If you are translating a legal document you are unlikely to be talking about love but the example shows how there are rules of etiquette in a language and a translator needs to know them to ensure the translation doesn’t offend.

The Japanese language doesn’t include much innuendo or sarcasm. A translator needs to be familiar with this aspect of Japanese culture and language so that any hidden and subtle meanings used in English are adapted to the Japanese audience.

Overall, the use of linguistic nuances and cultural nuances are all part of a language but they differ markedly in every language. It’s important for a translator to be fully aware of this, otherwise the translation may be conveying the wrong message.

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