What is culture?
Our common understanding of the word culture seems to be limited to the definition (a way or a style of life), but in fact, it is has a much deeper meaning; Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, and arts.
What is the relation between culture and translation?
Since culture gave birth to language, translation and culture are intimately connected. Language is one important part of the culture, the tool that expresses the identity of the culture, and one of the elements that connect the cultural group and brings them together with other than the spiritual and metaphysical elements such as religion and beliefs.
We as humans who are social animals by nature as Aristotle said, humans like to expand and grow our social circle as much as we can, and it is still the case since the dawn of history until this day. However, this process of expanding can face some obstacles like for instance, the inability to communicate with the other groups who hold and adopt different languages and cultures. The results of this inability of constructing a communication channel between the parties can be disastrous, where if such a channel had been constructed it can be very beneficial in all aspects. What other than a translation can be the constructor of such channels?
How important is culture in translation?
The translation process is not limited to transferring linguistic vocabulary from the source language to another language, because this does not lead to an accurate translation, as any language cannot express the true meaning of another language if attention is focused on translating linguistic vocabulary only.
There are differences between the meanings inherent in one language and the meanings that have to be caught and translated into the other language. Hence, the translator faces many difficulties and obstacles during the translation process, which forces a translator working in a company in Toronto (Canada) or in New York to think differently by paying attention to the various aspects of the environment in which he works. Also, translation cannot be considered just a process in which linguistic vocabulary in a particular language is replaced by the vocabulary of the same meaning in another language, because accurate translation requires giving importance to the culture of the target language, as the linguistic aspects are the guarantees to convey the meaning perfectly, as well as to avoid any misunderstanding Possible.
The translator must search and investigate the lexical content as well the grammatical structures of the target language as well as the various ideologies, value systems, and traditions that characterize the pre-translation culture. Such a matter should help translators to identify the audience of the two languages as well as the different elements of the target language. For example, there is a great difference in how the French language is spoken in European countries and in Canada; the same applies to the English language. A translator who works in Toronto, Montreal, or any European city must consider such differences.
The difference between the literal and contextual translation in cultural translation
For every translated sentence, the translator must be able to decide on the importance of its cultural context, what the phrase means, not necessarily what it means, and convey that meaning in a way, which makes sense not only in the target language but also in the context of the target culture. Many institutions and practices exist in one culture and do not exist in other cultures. Deeply held belief systems, even commitments to truth vary from culture to culture. Each of these unique culturally-based psychological entities is associated with words that have meaning in one language that is distinct to that language and not duplicated in other languages. How would those unique features of culture be translated? Only someone steeped in the cultures of both source language and target language can hope to interpret.
General cultural effects of translation
Language and culture have a strict relation, and both of them are subject to conditioning. When translating words, there are two opposing approaches: transference and formative analysis.
How can cultural translation errors be avoided?
To clear up misunderstandings, the translator must look for the content of the vocabulary when undertaking the translation. For example, the name of the company or product can have a negative impact on its success. When we talk about marketing a product or a brand campaign, it is important to check what the name of the product is in a foreign language
Humor can be an issue here as the target audience may not appreciate or understand the product. Images, colors, and symbolism are all essential cultural factors as well. Some images, shapes, symbols, and colors can have a negative effect in some countries. Among the pictures, even maps can make a cultural impression.
Substantive culture is expressed in food, for example, and is always a true reflection of the national culture. The approach to translating foodstuffs can be done in many ways, and sometimes translation can lose its true meaning.
Customs, gestures, traditions, as well as cultural references, must be known by the translator to properly transmit the equivalent cultural text into the target language.
Taboos and values differ from country to country
The taboos rooted in one culture may be completely neutral in another. The translation must be sensitive to the interdependence of moral and spiritual values of words and symbols in the language to find equivalent meaning.
The values dimension is where some of the most serious translation confusion occurs. When President Carter went to Poland in 1977, the State Department hired a Russian translator who was not accustomed to translating into Polish. With this translation, Carter finally said something in Polish like "when I abandoned the United States" instead of "when I left the United States"; Saying "Your lust for the future" instead of "Your desires for the future". The mistakes became a major embarrassment for the president in the media.
When Nikita Khrushchev said at the United Nations, “We will bury you,” this was a culturally insensitive mistranslation from Russian. It means, "We will outlast you". Translation errors have been widely interpreted as a threat of attack, for example, many examples are illustrating the necessity of cultural sensitivity in translation. Mistakes caused expensive products to be relabeled, the inventory process faltered, and a horn was seen on Moses' head.
Culture gives language different contexts. The same words that pass from one culture to another acquire slightly or radically different meanings. Sometimes these differences in meaning represent slight or serious differences in values that may be crucial to translation.