Culture is the background of every human communication. Cultural embedding as a feature of texts in general is also valid in technical and scientific texts. As translation by humans is based on understanding, the translator needs knowledge in order to detect cultural aspects. This is possible by putting down implicit cultural references to certain structures on the text level. Cultural elements appear in the text on all levels – from the concept and form of words, to the sentence and text structure, to pragmatics. Examples for the various appearances are presented in the first part of the paper. The second part discusses translation as a writing process. Here the categories of attention governing the translator's approach are presented. Taking a holistic view of the text, the translator may consider the relevant cultural context, discourse field, conceptual world and predicative mode to promote his or her understanding. The target language formulation will then observe the medium, stylistics, coherence and function of the text. Dealing with cultural elements may be motivated in view of the aforementioned categories of attention. Introduction
Technical translation or research in language for specific purposes (LSP) has long been considered as a field of the exact sciences, and the idea of a cultural embedding of technical and scientific texts was dismissed from the theoretical analysis: As a 'higher-level' discipline, building upon the insights of contrastive linguistics and sharing with it the notion of 'tertium comparationis', TS [sc. Translation Studies] seeks optimally inclusive rules of ST/TT coordination (Wilss 1996: 10). It is questionable, though, whether the notion of a tertium comparationis – valid for standardised technical terminology – can be transferred to the task of translating in general. Translating technical texts in the professional environment or in scientific communication is more than handling terminology. Texts, as the means of oral and written communication among persons, are carriers of messages. And any message within a technical or scientific discourse field includes both subject-relevant information and some implicit references to the cultural background of the person speaking. There is no sterile sphere of 'optimal text coordination' in the real world. Culture as the background of every human communication is a dynamic phenomenon based on historical tradition including the individuals' personal development. Cultural issues in translation are connected with the problem of understanding the texts to be translated, because in many cases the translator is not necessarily a member of the same culture. The translator therefore will have to be aware of his or her own hermeneutic approach. Understanding is never a matter of fact but requires interpretation as the process of searching for meaningfulness. Hermeneutics sees comprehension as a cognitive revelation of meaning to the interested receptive reader (Stolze 2003: 81); it is not an active construction of sense, and it may also fail. The foreign reality is always seen phenomenologically from a particular individual perspective. This individual perspective is the "hermeneutic circle" as every human disposes of different experiences and knowledge. You can only understand something when a bridge of knowledge already exists. But this is no fixed restriction, as the circle may easily be extended by learning. However, without any cultural or factual pre-knowledge I will not understand a piece of information, even if it is presented to me in the most logical way. Hermeneutics calls for a critical self-awareness regarding this problem: one must always ask oneself whether sufficient knowledge is given for understanding, translating and entering into a debate, or whether some learning strategies are still needed. When we accept that texts function within cultures, there must also be some cultural features discernable in those texts. Cognitive text...
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