Cultural and Linguistic Untranslatability – Hindrances to Obtaining Accurate Translation

Oct 28 07:55 2011 Charlene Lacandazo Print This Article

Not all languages are created equal. In particular, the distance, cultural and linguistic, between two languages can be very different. The greater that distance is, the more genuinely untranslatable terms and concepts can become.

Translation means to convey messages and meaning from one language to another,Guest Posting and that involves cross-cultural communication as well. It is necessary to know that through the translation process, the culture of a language is being introduced to another, however, there are cultural and language barriers that are impossible to translate, which results in untranslatabilities of certain texts. When it comes to language translation, untranslatability is a property of a text, or any utterance in a particular language, which has no equivalent text or utterance in another language. The bigger the difference between the culture of the source language and the target language, the more factors should be taken into account when translating.Broadly speaking, there are two main factors that significantly affect a language to be untranslatable into another language; linguistic untranslatability and cultural untranslatability. In this connection, is it possible to translate a culture of the source language with no equivalent cultural background in the target language?Despite the fact that there are a lot of similarities among languages, it is still important to know the main differences between languages that must not be ignored. Languages are completely attached to the distinctive cultural features of a society; therefore, the cultural background of the society reflects the image and tradition of the country. How do we know if cultural untranslatability appears in the translation process? Cultural untranslatability is one of the complicated factors in translation. When the target language and its culture lack relevant situational features for symbols of the source text, a translator will find it to difficult or impossible to translate the language into another culture.Through the benefits of translation, the language barrier and gap are bridged with communication and understanding. In dealing with the problems and difficulties concerning language untranslatability, the cultural background of languages should be taken into account in order to know if language translation is possible or impossible.  Linguists and translators mostly believe that everything is translatable. Every variety of words and meanings in a source language text can be translated either directly or indirectly in the target language and thus, everything that has meanings is translatable.Some theories state that in principle nothing can ever be translated. All language is bound up with a specific culture in society, and thus culture and language translation may be impossible. However, there are several effective translation processes that professional translators use in translating languages and cultures such as adaptation; borrowing of words and expression from the source text, through calque or translating literally the language into the target language; compensation or adding elements to the translated text; paraphrase; translator’s footnotes or using an explanation of the translator for breaking the flow of the text by an annotation that compensates for the untranslatability.Translation is complex work and thus, it needs a lot of knowledge and professionalism. Professional translators may have difficulties in interpreting untranslatable languages; however, it is an assurance that they can always provide the most accurate translation and a high quality end product.

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Charlene Lacandazo
Charlene Lacandazo

Charlene Lacandazo works for Rosetta Translation, a leading translation office in London, specialising in Greek translation services.

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