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How does culture affect the quality of translation?
Home Reference & Education Language
By: Henry Ogwang Email Article
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Culture is the way of life of the particular society. Since culture gives birth to language, its clear that translation and culture go hand in hand. This means that culture affects both target and source languages. The word can be easily translated in one language for a certain meaning and same word is likely to bring the different meaning in different language. This is because cultures of the two languages may not be the compatible. Therefore, it’s better to critically understand the culture of the people to avoid translation blunders.

Quality translation is always in line with the culture of the people. Its advisable for the translator to deeply understand the culture of the people. This will enable him/her to clearly understand the cultural context of every statement before translating. The translator must also seriously understand the idle meaning, he/she must scrutinize whether the translation conveys the intended meaning in the way it makes clear sense in the target language and in the context of the target culture. Otherwise failure to pay serious attention to the cultural context of the translation greatly affects the quality of the translation. This possibly leads to rejection of the translation, loss of popularity and very huge losses.

Is culture important in translation?

Yes, culture should not be underestimated in translation. A moment one tries to under look culture in translation, the negative results are always overwhelming. Since every culture has its own words that are perhaps direct opposite from other cultures, one has to first understand culture when translating. Mentioning certain words in certain cultures might be acceptable which might be a taboo in other languages. So, when extending your translation without greatly scrutinizing the culture of the people, its possible that your efforts will just be futile.

Use of words

Different cultural settings use different terminologies. Also, various cultures have various offensive words. A word can be used with ease in different culture and perhaps opposed in other cultures. Correct use of such words requires proper cultural experience. So, its better to take culture as a matter of urgency in translation. Otherwise, it may lead to frustrations and embarrassments.

Eliminates translation Blunders

Whenever you’re thinking of opening any business in any location in the world, please consider the culture of the intended market. Ensure that you translate all your business names, logos and all marketing materials using native linguists with thorough knowledge of the culture. Otherwise your first impression to the market may lead to negative reception. Case in point, in 1960s Pepsi took their famous slogan to China "Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation’’ which was translated in Chinese as "Pepsi brings your dead relatives back’’ This message was not warmly welcomed by the Chinese. Also, when KFC launched their business in China, their famous slogan "Finger-Lickin’good’’ was translated in Chinese as ‘’Eat your fingers off". This brought a lot of doubts to the products of KFC till the translation was withdrawn. All these mistakes came because cultural context was not considered. Such blunders cost the organizations millions of money, popularity and pride. So, its better for translators to translate the cultural context to minimize such blunders.

All in all, carrying out a translation with out considering the culture of the people is like digging the grave to your organization or business. So, its better to first consider the culture of the people before effecting the translation. Also, native translators should deeply understand the cultural context of the words when translating. Such ideas will bring a lot of joy to the organization.

Henry Ogwang is an Account Manger at Global Gate Translations. Our company provides various translation services like Document Translation, Interpreting services, Transcription, Localization among others. We offer all our services using well trained native linguists with thorough knowledge of their cultures.

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