Translation and Crossing Cultural Bridges

Translation and Crossing Cultural Bridges

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To create a good translation, as well as being linguistically skilled in both languages, a translator must also have a good understanding of both cultures. On some occasions, the knowledge of the culture may even be more important than mastery of the language.

Inexperienced translators may think that linguistics is more important than pragmatics. Pragmatics is the purpose of language or who the translation is for and culture plays a vital role in this respect. It is crucial that the translator understands both the source and target cultures so they are able to build a bridge across any cultural differences and allow the text to have the same impact on the reader in both languages.

Of course, this depends on the aim of the text. In legal translation, a translator should not adapt the text and must make sure it is loyal to its original meaning and so the linguistics plays a more significant role. However, in literary and audio-visual translation a translator has more freedom, particularly in AV translation where the image must also be considered.

In some cases, especially in films, the images may also have to be adapted to the target culture. We can find some interesting examples of cultural adaptations in the movie Inside Out. For instance, the Japanese version of the film swapped broccoli for green pepper. It seems that green pepper must be the vegetable that Japanese kids hate the most. This change will therefore allow Japanese children to identify more with Riley who doesn’t find the green pepper appetising at all.

Cultural adaptations can also be seen between more similar cultures. Although the American and British versions share a language, they have still been adapted for their respective target audiences. In one scene, the dad is daydreaming and not listening to his family. In the American version he is thinking about a hockey match while in the British version, he is thinking about football.

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