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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  
Localisms versus Accuracy

Localisms versus Accuracy

By Marcia Pinheiro | Published  12/25/2013 | Art of Translation and Interpreting | Recommendation:
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Quicklink: http://arm.proz.com/doc/3955
Marcia Pinheiro
անգլերենից պորտուգալերեն translator
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Finding an equivalent in another language is the same as entering Tom Cruise’s character's body in a movie from the series Mission Impossible.

Finding perfect, or close-to-perfect, matches is something so difficult that maybe only linguists who have lived in the Country of their target language should dare.

Knowing the culture of both target, and source countries might not be enough: linguists must also know the culture of the specific location that they target to do a good job (previous article, PROz: cacetinho and pão privado).

English is English everywhere. The problem is the corruption of the language in the target location then: England's English is at least sometimes different from the Australian English.

Longman says that a Registry Office is a local government building in Britain where we get married, and where births, marriages, and deaths are officially recorded (Pearson Education, 2005).

In Australia, that is the Office of Births, Deaths, and Marriages instead.

In Brazil, there are places where people get married, and record their signatures for posterior certification.

These places are called cartórios,, and they charge fees to certify documents.

Nobody else certifies documents.

In Portugal, all public officers, and solicitors can certify documents, and there is a fee ((7Graus, 2011-2013), and (Ordem dos notarios, 2007)).

Still in Portugal, people marry in a conservatória (7Graus, 2011-2013b).

In Australia, certifying is free, and any judge of peace (JP) does that (Attorney-General’s, 2013).

Becoming a judge of peace is relatively easy (Attorney-General’s, 2013), so that people can find them in several places, including banks, and libraries.

In England, documents are certified for free, but sometimes also for a fee (BritishExpats.com, 1999-2010).

Converting from one language to another implies possessing detailed knowledge of the standard systems of all these countries.

Adding cartório to the lexicon might be easy even if the writer has to include an entry for each Country where they speak English or Portuguese.

For expressions like bowel movements, only deep understanding, and knowledge of both cultures can do the trick.

Bowel movements can be found in a few lexicons.

Longman states that bowel movements is the act of getting rid of solid waste from your body.

Excrement is as solid as mucus sometimes.

If secretions are different from waste, consider vomit, since vomit sometimes contains solid elements, and body waste is one of its linguistic equivalents (Collins, 2002).

For a person from another culture to think of the solid waste from our intestine after reading Longman’s definition of bowel movements, they may have to check the definitions of bowel, and movements.

Still to the side of criticizing the definition of bowel movements of the Longman Dictionary is the following remark: excrement is not necessarily solid (diarrhea).

The just-mentioned expression becomes movimentos do intestino by means of literal interpretation.

This is understood at the other end only after a few repetitions.

IIdeally, the local expression for such a thing, that is, what a doctor from Brazil says in place of bowel movements, would be easy to find.

The interpreter says digestão.

Purists could argue that this choice is incorrect because English has the word digestion, and that is not what was actually said.

Notwithstanding, interpreters do have to know the local culture, and the difference between interpreting, and translating very well.

In Brazil, the amount of people that acknowledge a movement of the bowel is probably something around the five percent mark.

They may understand a question of the sort how are your bowel movements going?, but that is improbable.

People in Australia must be superior in all: to the point of worrying about monitoring, on a frequent basis, the movements of their own intestines.

They may answer such a question with oh, yesterday I accompanied the movements of my bowel, and the contractions were exactly the same, in pattern, that I saw it making when I was five.

In Brazil, the best return would be: yes, I am going to the toilet as usual.

There is no point in agreeing with the purists, and saying bowel movements in Portuguese (movimentos do intestino) when interpreting: detailing should be sacrificed in the name of information, and communication.

If the doctor really mean it, and that is rarely the case, they will reword the question in a way to facilitate communication.

In Translation, the advice is using movimentos do intestino,, and making a note on the cultural differences involved (NT).

Interpreters should not use movimentos peristálticos: peristaltic exists in the English language, and this word does not appear in the original expression.

The work of the linguist is, most of the time, happening inside the upper levels of the Bloom’s scale (Overbaugh, 2011), that is, inside Evaluation, Synthesis, and Analysis.

Only rarely does it happen inside the lower levels (Application, Comprehension, and Knowledge).

A good linguist must have an inquisitive mind, since remaining in the lowest levels of the scale leads to a large probability of hindering communication.


Pearson Education Limited. (2005). LONGMAN Dictionary of Contemporary English. ISBN: 1-405806737

7Graus. (2011-2013). Onde Autenticar Documentos? Retrieved July 13 2013 from http://www.online24.pt/onde-autenticar-documentos/

Ordem dos notarios. (2007). Termos de autenticacao. Retrieved July 13 2013 from http://www.notarios.pt/OrdemNotarios/PT/PrecisoNotario/TermosAutenticacao/

7Graus. (2011-2013b). Casamento pelo Registo Civil em Portugal. Retrieved July 13 2013 from http://www.online24.pt/casamento-pelo-registo-civil-em-portugal/

Attorney-General’s Department of Australia. (2013). How to become a Justice of the Peace. Retrieved July 13 2013 from http://www.agd.sa.gov.au/government/about-us/department/justice-peace-services/how-become-justice-peace

BritishExpats.com. (1999-2010). Certified Documents. Retrieved July 13 2013 from http://britishexpats.com/forum/showthread.php?t=296012

Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. (1995, 2002). Vomit. Retrieved December 25 2013 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/vomit

Overbaugh, R. C. (2011). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved July 13 2013 from http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

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