Translation does not stop at identifying the target language. Translation and culture are very much connected, especially in business translation. A simple phrase that can appear easy to translate can become difficult because it may contain cultural subtleties that if not accounted for can bring the opposite meaning of what was initially intended and this can be very dangerous. Several linguistics experts agree that cultural differences could prove to be a more complicated challenge for translators than innate differences in language structure.
Culture is powerful and important and this is the reason why international communication should take into consideration existing cultural incompatibilities. Therefore, translators must keep cultural practices in mind when they translate even a slogan of a few words. Translation mistakes can cause a great deal of damage to a company or person’s credibility. Though there are those who do not entirely agree, language is and should be considered an integral part of culture. Therefore, translations must be understood in a cultural context.
Mistakes in translation create bad associations with a product. There are times when one wrong word is used, which often happens when specialized terms are involved and the only translation help that was sought was a general dictionary. It becomes more complicated when the language concerned has several regional variations and dialects.
Idioms can be considered as a part of everyday language. They are the essence of any language and the most problematic part to handle with. Not all idioms have direct equivalents in another language, because they are linguistic expressions which are typical for a language and specific to a single culture. It is impossible to define any unique approach in the translating process since so many idioms are culturally specific and thus the pragmatic meaning must be much more prized than the literal meaning. If they are to be translated literally or word for word, they lead to extreme confusion.
Literal translation is almost always not enough, and in certain cases inappropriate. Literal translations also fail in conveying the emotions and feelings that the original message manages to do so effectively. Big multi-national companies that have years of experience with cross-cultural transactions and advertising have learned through the years how to translate to the target language such that the message is conveyed with the same impact and effectiveness as the original language.
When translating any text, it is important to consider that language and culture are intimately intertwined. Translation is not about the words, it’s about the meaning behind them.
-Lizzette Michel, Translation Manager