Challenges in translating culturally loaded words and phrases

Year: 2009

Author: Dehghani, Yavar

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Language and culture are inseparable. There are words and phrases in one language or another which are closely connected with cultural contexts. Translating them into another language is mostly difficult and challenging as there is no cultural equivalence in the destination language. To make the translation possible, the translator needs to be fully familiar with the cultural load of those words and phrases to be able to find the closest possible equivalent for them. The most commonly culturally loaded words and phrases come under the following categories: a) greeting terms, b) politeness terms, c) relationship terms.

Not being familiar with the cultural background of these terms will lead to the danger of literal translation, which in turn will result in a meaningless or misleading translated version.

In this paper, these culturally loaded terms are discussed and the danger of literal translation is highlighted.

The languages which are used to illustrate the culturally loaded words and phrases are Persian and Azeri. Persian is an Indo European language which is mainly spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan and Azeri is a Turkic language which is mostly spoken in North East Iran and in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

In conclusion, it is suggested to solve the problem of translating culturally bond words and phrases, it is better to explain them in the destination language rather than find a single equivalent for them, which does not carry all the intended meaning. Using footnotes is also another solution, which is discussed in this paper.

Key Phrase: English Education, Literacy and Languages (including TESOL, LOTE and ESL)