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Cultural References in Translation - Essay Example

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Cultural References in Translation

What makes people a group are not only the affinities of its members, but rather the diversity its members have towards what stands outside of it: the action of culture is similar to the two faces of a wall, which both encloses and, on the other side, protects from what is unknown and obscure, from what is foreign. And the language is the most important (and most efficient) wall a group have to protect its society, its structures and its culture.
As the language is the main vehicle (and product itself) of a culture, it is almost impossible to translate the same cultural reference in a different language: the final result will always be lacking something in the power of the form or in its deep meaning. Obviously, this problem is minimum in translations between two similar languages, such as Slovenian and Russian are, or between two societies which have several believes in common, but the problem still remains, because it is impossible to transpose both the meaning and its form, even if we consider the French and British societies, quite different for many aspects, such as independent linguistic origins, but extremely similar for history and development.
It is a nonsense to think of a word as a simple 'label' of just one concept3, because a single concept, especially the ideas expressing historical or traditional objects, has different meanings, according to the culture or society it refers to. It is enough to consider the different values that the word Renaissance has: although it points to a defined period of British history, the Italian word Rinascimento refers to a definitely different historical period (1385/1492) and, moreover, to a completely separate sets of values. This is nothing but an insignificant example, but it portrays the misunderstanding a cultural reference could generate: a word achieves a meaning depending on the environment it surrounds it, and in this case it would consist in a wrong interpretation of history. Transposing a meaning is sometimes even impossible: if we consider the fact that English Language has neuter form, while French has not, or if we consider the fact that adjectives have feminine forms in French and English have not (Mon cher/ Ma chre vs. My dear), it is easy to understand how difficult is for the translator to transmit both meaning and form from a language into the other. Even mere objects, such as houses, cars and so on, achieve (or miss) some original features of theirs when translated. The word bois describes a wood and evocates the features a wood has in France, describes the species of trees this wood is made of, recollects the sounds of the animals peopling it: it creates an image which has nothing to deal with a wood situated in New Zealand. Obviously this problem is avoided in movies, illustrated books, or children books, as the features of the objects are defined and the words are not requested to portray what has already been constructed by the image, but it remains in literature, especially when a word ...Show more

Summary

Culture is a heterogeneous term including several aspects of society: any 'product' which has a defined meaning inside a group of people -as a society is- could be considered as a cultural product. Under the light of the modern definition given by anthropologic studies1, culture is a symbolic system which allows people to understand what surrounds them: it consists in a "set of meanings"2 which puts the men forming a group in the condition to be able to comprehend correctly the message…
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Cultural References in Translation essay example
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