PERCEPTIONS OF CULTURAL COMPETENCE:
THE TRAINEES’ PERSPECTIVE
University of the West, Timişoara
Abstract: An important element of what is generally referred to as translation competence is represented by the translator’s ability to offer an appropriate treatment of the culturallyembedded words, phrases and structures presented by the source text. What are the most effective means by which the translator trainer can help his/her students develop cultural competence? What are the translation trainees’ needs with regard to cultural training, and what kind of difficulties do they most frequently encounter from this point of view? The paper will discuss these aspects, taking into account both theoretical and research data. Keywords: translation competence, cultural embedding, translator training, cultural problems, pragmatic texts 1. Introduction
It is widely admitted now that translation competence involves much more than a very good knowledge of two language codes, since the correct transfer from the source text to the target one must also take into account aspects related to the differences imposed by the actual language use in the two cultures in contact. More specifically, a competent translator is supposed to identify the culture-specific features of the source text and, then, to decide on the best manner of rendering those features into the target language. Just like any other type of competence, the development of cultural competence needs training and this is an aspect that both translator trainers and translation students should have in mind. Moreover, both future translators and their teachers should also be aware that cultural competence is not at all restricted to literary matters, as the general opinion still stands. Various translation theorists (e.g. Kastberg 2007, Stolze 2009) have started to highlight the fact that translating pragmatic texts involves much more than handling terminology, because, in addition to subject-relevant information, such texts also include some implicit references to the text producer’s cultural background. Unfortunately, many translation students simply do not realize that pragmatic texts present a certain degree of cultural embedding and, consequently, the work they produce, although correct from a strictly linguistic point of view, often lacks the adequacy that makes a text functional in the target culture. My paper starts from the problems that translation students might have with identifying and rendering the cultural implications generally presented by pragmatic texts, and also suggests ways in which translator trainers can help them in this respect. PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 68 STUDIES, 5 (1-2) / 2012 2. Cultural problems in pragmatic texts: research evidence
My decision to examine the problems encountered by the trainee translators with regard to the cultural embedding of source texts is based on a series of observations that I have made during the last few years: evaluating the work producedby my translation students, I have noticed that it frequently contained various errors that could be generally labelled as “cultural”. As I wanted to go deeper into the manifestations of this phenomenon with a view to identifying solutions meant to help my students, I conducted a mini-research study based on the translations performed by my students in the Translation MA programme at our University. More specifically, I analyzed the translated variants of several types of pragmatic texts – from laws and other types of official documents to instruction leaflets and magazine articles – as they were handed in by my students during the last academic year, and I considered the treatment offered by them to the various cultural features present in the source texts. I would like to mention that the translations making up my corpus were produced at different points of the academic year as part of the process of formative evaluation, and the student translators had...
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