Friday, July 30, 2010

Cultural Translation - Not an Easy Bid

In Australia's professional LSP sector, the standard (and of course lazily comfortable) response to the question "Can translators be cultural advisers?" is "No". Too much responsibility is attached to trying to explain cultural issues A to a member of culture B, especially if B is a much more powerful and sort of mainstream culture, and A is a minority, often refugee (economic or otherwise) sub-culture. It is so much easier just interpreting words, usually making the discourse of the dominant language into something utterly alien and alienating in the receiving language.

I don't agree with this stance. A language is a vital vehicle of culture, it does not exist in a vacuum. Whether interpreting or translating, some things need to be "footnoted", explanations need to be added. It enriches both parties. But I agree it is hard.

I have been following this guy for a while now, and I am full of admiration for what he does. And today I came across another bunch of "lingovists" (language activists) from India - Video Volunteers. Their main issue, of course, is that India is a subcontinent of many cultures and many languages. And it is a subcontinent of many voiceless people.

How do you give a voiceless community a voice? You interpret and translate what they say into the language of the dominant discourse! Bravo..

Are we creating our own 'voiceless' communities by refusing to be cultural brokers?? Listen to Ted talking about what translation is REALLY for:

No comments: