Building Bridges through Translation

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Introduction

Today’s world is characterized by globalization, which apart from bringing markets together is gradually consolidating a new political, economic, and social world order. Today there is debate about the existence of one multicultural world society, and because of this, translations and interpreters are being viewed as much more than simply those who can communicate in more than one language (changing writings and/or speeches from one language to the another). Today it is argued that translators/interpreters are in fact mediators between different cultures. Furthermore, it is argued that they build bridges between these cultures, thus greatly contributing to the creation of the multicultural society that globalization gradually establishes.

Body

Translation and interpretation are more than simply changing words from one language into another. This is the precisely case because language is more than just words and rules of grammar. With language comes culture, and the same applies to humans. Translators and interpreters are members of a given society and it is inevitable that they are conditioned by the social, political, economic, and cultural codes surrounding them. Due to this, it is accurate to state that translators and interpeters build bridges between cultures, as they aim to guarantee correspondence between both languages (orthographically and grammatically), but also with both cultures. However, it would be inaccurate to state that these “bridge builders” inhabit an abstract “space between” cultures. Translators and interpreters are inevitably conditioned by the medium in which they are located. They are not located in a “space between” cultures, but are actually active part within a specific culture, and the challenge they face is being able to build bridges between their own culture and the other cultures they are familiar with without sacrificing the meaning and implications of that which they are translating.

When people think about translation and interpretation they generally think about learned individuals who are knowledgeable in different languages and can easily take words, phrases, and entire paragraphs, and translate them from one language to the other. For the most part, this is a short-sighted conception of translation/interpretation, because the truth of the matter is that translation involves interpretation at the core. If a paragraph in English were talking and translated literally, word for word, into French, German, or even Spanish, the end result would probably be an extended grouping of words with no real meaning. The reason for this is that each language has a different set of conventions and rules. Furthermore, it is always important to remember that each culture has different beliefs, behavioral traits, stereotypes, and overall mannerisms. All of this will ultimately condition the kind of language (language understood as more than simply spoken language) that each society speaks.

With language comes culture. In fact, it can be said that language is a product of culture, or better yet, one its most significant manifestations. Thus, every word, idea, or sentiment that is expressed through language is a cultural manifestation; “the network in which a culture is fashioned does appear as a texture of signs linked by endless connotations and denotations, a meaning system of inextricable complexity that is reflected, developed, and recorded in the multifarious act of writing” (Carbonell, n.d., p. 83). In light of this, no discussion about translation and language in the more general sense can take place if it fails to take culture into account. Besides, societies around the world are all different, and when making comparisons between societies one of the most evident differences among them, even more so than physical appearance and mannerisms, is language, both written and spoken.

In analyzing the process of cultural translation it becomes necessary to gain a better understanding of how the structures of representation work and how they ultimately condition, not only languages, but also translators (through what are known as CSIs). First, it is important to consider “ the description of the processes by which the original cultural text (any cultural element coming from the source culture) is reinterpreted, manipulated, and even subverted when incorporated into the target culture” (Carbonell, n.d., p. 82). These processes will ultimately determine the end product of the translation, and as it is proposed throughout this paper, they will be conditioned by the translator’s own inerpretation and surrounding environment. Not only the original context in which the text was written important, but also the target environment, since in order to preserve the text’s meaning the translator will have to interpret both. In other words, it is the translator’s job to study “the possibility of a methodology in which meaning could be conveyed without usurping its original signifying function” (Carbonell, n.d., p. 82).

Conclusion

Today’s world is characterized by market and social integration. Furthermore, today the world is closer than ever to finally consolidating a multicultural society. In such a world translators and interpreters have become important, as they have the capacity of enhancing communication channels between people who speak different languages and have different social, economic, political, and overall cultural backgrounds. These individuals can truly be viewed as cultural bridges that unite different societies with different language systems. Notwithstanding this, it is impossible to propose that they are “in between” language systems and are therefore void of a language and cultural system of their own. Interaction with other cultures and languages do not strip translators of their identities, of their languages and cultures. If anything, this interaction enhances their knowledge and skill, making it possible for them to deliver the accuracy, reliability, and validity that is required in translations in order to facilitate sociocultural, political, and economic integration at the world level.

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