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Culturally-loaded Words of Translation时间:2008-01-05 07:41作者:陈宸

Culturally-loaded Words of Translation

    Among the factors of a language, it is the vocabulary that carries the most culture information and reflects human life thoroughly. As an international language, English is also called “Cosmopolitan

    Vocabulary”. With its long history of development, English has absorbed many foreign words and added its own cultural connotations. That’s why you can not always find equivalent words in Chinese. Since each country has its own culture, we can not transfer our own culture to another when we translate the literature works of another country. Otherwise, it will be a big barrier for culture communication. In this paper,the main purpose makes some comparisons and contrasts between different cultural connotations of words in English and Chinese. As far as the translation of these cultural connotations is concerned, some ways will be suggested. First, analyze the following cases which are often found in translation: non-equivalence; conceptual grouping; cultural background, and semantics-association. Then some translation skills are put forward, such as retaining the original cultural flavor; transference; word; replacing the cultural expressions of the source text with those of the target language; explanation; translating the implied meaning of foreign cultural expressions.As either literal translation or cultural translation is associated with two cultural contexts in which their cultural content is undoubtedly conveyed in two different languages. We all know that “信”, “达”, “雅” are the criterion of all kinds of translation

    proposed by Yan Fu. To be faithful to the original is “信”. To make the translation text acceptable

    and understandable is “达”. To make the translated text as its own cultural flavor is “雅”. One

    of the basic principles of translation is to be faithful to the original. According to this principle, translation should first be faithful to the content of the original, with literal translation conveying the original cultural connotation in a precise way.

Culturally-Loaded Words of Translation

    Fristly, language is the symbolic representation of a person, and it contains their historical and cultural backgrounds as well as the way of their living and thinking. Language and its cultural influence are exemplified in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis1, which in essence states that language is a guide to “ social reality”. This hypothesis implies that language is not simply a means of reporting experience, but more important, it is a way of defining experience. I provide an example of the Sapir-Whorf concept in practice: the word “ brother-in-law ” is often used in our daily life,

    and it can be applied to someone’s sister’s husband, someone’s husband’s brothers, and someone’s husband’s sisters’ husbands, which perceive all of these relatives in a similar way. And also the

    word "wife" has many translations in Chinese. It depends on the situations. It may be translated into “妻子”、“妾内”、“太太”、“夫人”、“老婆”、“爱人”、“爱妻”、“婆娘”and so forth.


    Secondly, Terms that almost have the same primary meaning, may have secondary or additional meanings that differ remarkably from each other.

    Some color expressions are good examples to show this. We sometimes cannot directly translate color from one language to another without introducing subtle changes in meaning. The English phrase red-blooded does not mean 红血的”, rather, it is another way of saying that

    someone or their behavior is confident and strong. And the English phrase red-eyed just means

    someone has red eyes for lack of sleep. The Chinese equivalent 红眼 means at least two

    things: having red eyes, and interesting enough, green” with envy.

    Thirdly,We have mentioned in the previous paragraphs that the words used by people refer to common experience.0 They express facts, ideas or events that are communicable because they refer to all kinds of knowledge about the world, which is shared by other people too. Words also reflect their attitude and beliefs, their points of view. In both cases, language expresses cultural reality.

    When you are communicating with someone from your own culture, the process of using words to express your experiences is much easier because within a culture people share many similar experiences. But when communication is between people from different cultures, the process is more troublesome.

    Then intercultural awareness becomes especially important. Lack of cultural knowledge affects his comprehension negatively. However, intercultural awareness cannot grow naturally. It has to be trained. It is known that in native language learning, a child’s acquisition of the linguistic competence (learning the language forms) goes hand in hand with the acquisition of “ culture competence” ( Wallace 1988 ), which mutually support each other . For example, when a child grown up in the American cultural world learns the word “ dog”, he will normally learn the

    cultural meaning of the word: the dog is “ man’s best friend”, while a child brought up in the Chinese cultural world will be taught that the dog is a dirty and dangerous animal. People who are naturally associated the culture with their mother tongue are naturally inclined to interpret things with their own cultural references. This natural inclination is called “ intuitive competence” (Brown 1990).

    In linguistic translation, it is important to be familiar with cultural background of the words. When creating an artistic image, a writer not only takes the description and portray of the image as the basis, but also encloses his own thoughts and feelings into the image, if not, the laymen will not understand very well.

Lets look at one example in Hugh Kenner. In this famous poetry, there is such phrase”故

    人西辞黄鹤楼”,Pound translated it in this way: Ko-jin goes west from Ko-kaku-ro. If we translate it into Chinese, it is “可金东辞可卡苦罗”. Namely, there are just seven words in the

    source text, which are divided into three groups. And all of the three groups are wrongly translated because of the limited cultural background. The translation “可卡苦罗” for “黄鹤楼”showed

    Pound was influenced by his Japanese teacher. In this way, they have completely lost their association, let alone connect the picture of god ride crane flying away. Goes west" means

    leaving east for west, while in the original phrase”西辞" does not mean this. Even “古人”

    becomes "可金”, the Chinese flavor for old acquaintance is lost. So to be a successful translator,

you should pay more attention to cultural background.

Three Points of Translation Practice

    As above mentioned, On the basis of his own translation practice Wang Zuo liang stresses that in translating literature, one should emphasize the following three points: (1) to translate the concept and convey the complete feeling of the original rather than just one word; (2) to use different styles with different genres; and (3) to pay more attention to the reader. (Wang 1989:35) That is, a translator should attach greater importance to cultural equivalence than to any other aspects. Obviously, equivalence can be achieved, but not always on the same level. We can choose suitable translation method from the following seven procedures of establishing cultural equivalence. Take this sentence for example:

    When he dined with his sister that evening, Madeline helped herself to a cigarette from his pack on the table, and lit and smoked it inexpertly. Her defiant, self-satisfied, somewhat pathetic air made Warren laugh. When the cats away, hey? he said. 他跟他妹妹那天一起吃晚饭的

    时候,梅德琳从桌上他的烟盒里取了支香烟, 点了火,不太在行地抽了起来。她那种倔强

    的,自满的,有点惹人怜爱的神气引得华伦哈哈大笑。“ 猫不在了, 嘿!” 他说。

Here when the cats away is the abbreviation of the idiom when the cats away, the mice

    will play. The target language “猫不在了”keeps the abbreviation form of the original text, for

    the readers can understand the meaning according to the context: Warren and Madeline are sisters, when saying when the cats away, Warren just made a fun of his sister that she smoked

    furtively when the father is away. Other idioms such as “打草惊蛇”( to stir up the grass and

    alert the snake, 雪中送炭”( to send charcoal in snowy weather, “画蛇添足”( to draw

    a snake and add feet to ithave the same result.

    One of the goals of translation is to convey the meaning and style of the original language. A good translator needs special, highly developed skills. He must be able to translate a message so that readers can clearly understand. This means that the translator must be skilled in many other aspects besides vocabulary. He must also know the word’s emotive aspects, as well as the culture’s thinking processes. As a good translator, one should have all kinds of competence; first he should be modest and prudent, also serious. He should not take any hasty action and shouldn’t take the

    words too literally. Second, a good translator should improve their native language level and foreign language level. Good understanding of the original text and professionally translate with one’s native language is the basis of a good translation. Third, a good translator should keep on absorbing and enriching all kinds of basic knowledge such as history, geography, politics, military, foreign affairs, economy, culture, custom, science etc.


    In this article, we just probe into the cultural differences of words connotation and its translation. And as far as the cultural value of language is concerned, this article only touches upon part of it. Culture-related problems about words connotation are complicated and difficult, and besides the issues that we have mentioned in this article, there are still lots of culture-related problems and

methods of translation, which leave us much to learn.


    Deng Yanchang liuRunqing ed. 1989 Language and culture. BeiJing:Foreign Language Teaching and Researching Press

    Guo Jiangzhong ed. 2000 Culture and translation. BeiJing:Translation Publishing Company

    Jin Di ed. 1998 Translation exploration. BeiJing: translation publishing company

    Larry A. Samovar. 2000 Intercultural communication. BeiJing:Foreign Language Teaching and Researching Press

    Stuart C. Poole. 2000 Intercultural communication. BeiJing:Foreign Language Teaching and Researching Press

Zhang Peiji ed. 2000 English Chinese Chinese Ehglish . ShangHai: ShangHai Foreign

    Language Press

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