Cultural Change and Cultural Mediation in the Translation of Culture-Specific Lexis

Cultural Change and Cultural Mediation in the Translation of Culture-Specific Lexis

Vivian Lee (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2832-6.ch006
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Abstract

This chapter looks at the cultural mediator role of translation trainees dealing with culture-specific lexis. Translators need to be able to make connections between and across the cultures they are dealing with, and to negotiate and overcome any differences, conveying the message of the source text to the target readers with optimum effect. Five translation classes which placed emphasis on optimal relevance in translation were provided to 10 undergraduate students learning translation in Seoul, South Korea. The chapter highlights the significant role translation of culture-specific lexis can play in forming and developing learners' identities as mediators between source and target text cultures, no doubt an important role in light of cultural change in an era of globalization which calls for culture or cultures to be viewed from a multifaceted and diverse perspective.
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Introduction

Today’s world calls for translators who are mediators between languages and cultures. This paper looks at the cultural mediator role of translation trainees in the translation of texts involving culture-specific lexis (henceforth CSL). Translators require the ability to make connections between and across the cultures they are dealing with, i.e. the source and target text cultures, and to negotiate and overcome any differences, conveying the message of the source text (henceforth ST) to the target readers with optimum effect. The translator is a mediator (Hatim & Mason, 1997) and it is the translator’s role to identify differences in things which may have significance or value in one culture but not in another.

In the 1990s, translation studies went through a cultural turn (Lefevere & Bassnett, 1990). It is argued that translation as an activity is always doubly contextualised in both the target culture and the source culture as the text has a place and a history in two cultures (1990, p. 11). Foreign text and translation are both derivative, for they consist of diverse linguistic and cultural materials that neither the foreign writer nor the translator originates. According to Venuti (2008), a foreign text is the site of many different semantic possibilities that are fixed “only provisionally in any one translation”, and may vary according to cultural assumptions and interpretive choices, in specific social situations and in different historical periods. Meaning in translation is “plural and contingent” (p. 13).

Advancements in translation studies in relation to the cultural turn has meant that culture is no longer viewed as static and limited to national boundaries but as multi-faceted and flexible. In this context, members of a social group may have access and exposure to the same culture-derived concepts. Translation of culturally-specific concepts and lexis requires such members to be aware of, and evaluate, the ways members of their group view the world, and to communicate within two cultures effectively to another social group. Culture is embedded in text, and as such the translator has to mediate between cultures, taking the messages embedded in the source culture text and communicating these effectively to the target culture. As mediators between cultures, translators require the ability to make connections between and across the cultures they are dealing with, and to negotiate and overcome any differences, conveying the message of the ST to the target readers with optimum effect.

The translation of CSL warrants the making of such connections. The translation of words which are specific to culture is a challenge for all translators, and requires knowledge of any connotations the words may contain. Then, the translator will need the ability to communicate such words and connotations into the target text (henceforth TT). In communicative translation, translators need to render the exact contextual meaning of the original in such a way that both content and language are readily acceptable and comprehensible to the readership (Newmark, 1988, p. 41). The relationship between translation and culture, and the way of transferring signs of the source culture into the TT, is viewed as an integrative process which comprises two aspects: the recognition of the aim of using cultural references and the way of responding to that aim in translation (Savic & Cutura, 2011).

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