<font color=blue><center>Cultural Translation: Option or Sin?</center></font>

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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Interpreting  »  
Cultural Translation: Option or Sin?

Cultural Translation: Option or Sin?

By Marcia Pinheiro | Published  03/11/2014 | Interpreting | Recommendation:
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Quicklink: http://arm.proz.com/doc/3994
Marcia Pinheiro
անգլերենից պորտուգալերեն translator
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A person from a Country where the official language is not English, upon seeing the expression close the account, may think that a bank account will be terminated.

Account in Portuguese is conta, and conta is the name Brazilians give to both the restaurant bill, and the bank account.

An interpreter is serving a person who is opening an account with a certain electricity company.

The employee of the company, and let’s call them X to simplify, says: since you want direct debit, sir, can you please give me the details of your account?

The interpreter says, Uma vez que o senhor quer ter débito automático, pode me passar os detalhes da sua conta por favor?

The details are provided.

X then says, To start your account with us, sir, you need to say yes.

If this sentence is interpreted in a literal way, we get: Para começar a sua conta conosco, senhor, o senhor tem que dizer sim.

The client may think that they are starting a bank account with the electricity company, since this is the usual for Brazil, where they are from.

If the interpreter thinks of the cultural contexts involved, they may say, Para se tornar o nosso cliente, senhor, o senhor tem que dizer sim.

The purists may not like this choice, since their recommendation seems to be never omitting, adding, or changing the discourse.

Notwithstanding, if we do things in a literal way (the logical way could be literal, but could also include logical adaptations), then we get confusion.

Another example would be overdue.

When this sigmatoid is seen in the English language, the intended meaning is that the person has not paid the bill in due time or up to the due date.

To convey this meaning in the Portuguese language is challenging because there is a gap: in English, it is Your bill is now overdue, but, in Portuguese, it is Você está inadimplente.

The subject (bill becomes you) of the sentence changes...

Translating this sentence in a literal way is impossible because of the gap problem.

Translating this sentence in a logical way implies using too many words: A sua conta está aqui sem pagamento por muito tempo agora or A sua conta é devida agora por muito tempo.

From 5 words, we got 11 or 9.

Some sigmatoids were added to explain the world reference that does not exist in the Portuguese language (overdue).

This is not following the recommendation of the purists.

The cultural match, Você está inadimplente, meant changing 5 into 3 sigmatoids.

Inadimplente is a sigmatoid that Brazilians are used to: it makes them understand the situation in an immediate manner.

My system is playing up with me

is another case.

Literal interpretation: Meu sistema está me irritando or Meu sistema está imprevisível.

Logical: O sistema está brincando comigo or O sistema está tirando sarro com a minha cara.

Cultural: O computador está me deixando na mão.

If the last message were the one intended by the speaker, they would have said, The computer is letting me down instead.

Notwithstanding, any of the other choices makes the speaker sound unprofessional in the Brazilian culture.

In the Australian culture, My system is playing up does not imply absence of professionalism.

It may be that separating things in groups be an impossible task, and the blurred regions be never-ending, but it may also be that succeeding is a possibility.

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